Move Forward by Expanding Your Skill Set

In 2006, Facebook left its collegiate confines and Twitter hit the internet. The social-media-as-business-tool momentum would take a few more years to find its feet. The iPhone made its debut in 2007. In the decade since, tech has taken a bigger role in our personal and professional lives. How we interact, how we work, how we relax are all influenced or touched by technology and that tech evolves at an ever-increasing rate of speed. What does that mean for you? Unless you just entered the workforce, the world in which you began your career has changed.

The change may be subtle: You email attachments rather than fax. The change may be fairly pronounced: You’ve had to learn to market your business in 140 characters or less or how to use chatbots to boost your customer service. Either way, it boils down to one simple fact: To keep your career momentum moving forward you need to keep honing your skills. “That’s great Cheryl, but where do I find the time to do that?”  I’m glad you asked!

Schedule it

Let’s be clear. You cannot afford NOT to expand your skill set. When you’re making your list of priority tasks, educational opportunities must make the list. What form that takes – a full course, a workshop, a webinar, or other – is negotiable; scheduling some form of continuing education is not. We make time for what we deem a priority, so make learning one of your priorities.

Take a class

Signing up for an actual class seems like a no-brainer. Attending class, however, can take many different forms. Sign-up for a traditional classroom programs offered at area colleges and universities. You should also check the list of programs offered through your local VoTech school system, professional organizations, and other non-traditional educational outlets.

Go online

The internet has put a vast library of resources at our finger tips. You could Google your way to information, but don’t stop there! If you’ve got a specific topic you’d like to learn more about, search through Coursera’s catalog for individual courses, certificate programs and degrees. For free online courses (aka MOOC), look over the listings on edX. Taking classes online gives you flexibility to work your education into your busy schedule, on your terms.

Webinars, seminars, and workshops

Not every new skill you want to master requires a multi-week class. Shorter-term offerings like a workshop or a seminar/webinar can give you the skill boost you need, too. Professional associations are a good place to start your search for upcoming programs. And don’t forget to check the programs offered by your current or potential vendors and business/trade publications.

Volunteer

Got skills you want to hone or broaden? Consider volunteering for a nonprofit in a capacity that challenges you in those areas.

Find a mentor

Identify someone who is skilled in an area you wish to grow and ask them to mentor you. A good mentor isn’t going to be a tutor who offers you a step-by-step process of what to do. You’re looking for someone that you can get advice from and bounce ideas off.  You’re looking to learn from their example and be supported along your journey.

Read, read, read

Set aside time each day to read through the publications relevant to your field and the area in which you wish to grow. Sometimes expanding your area of expertise is simply a matter of keeping up with the latest information. Staying current with industry trends can also help you determine what skill sets you need to focus on developing.

Trial and error

Sometimes we learn best by taking the leap and doing. For example, if learning to build and maintain a web site is a skill you think you need to develop, read up on the basics and then try your hand at it. You can create a web site and test it within your browser without publishing it.

Know when to say when

There are some skills you must master and then other skill sets you just need to be able to hold an informed conversation about. You may not actually need to learn how to code a web site, but knowing the proper terminology, what can / cannot be done on a web site, and what your market is likely to respond best to, will help you delegate the task with the authority needed to get what you want and what you need.