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How Upgrading Your Skills Improves Your Career Prospects

Thursday | November 9, 2017 | by Jodi Tingling

Professionals being mentored.

Learning new skills is one of the best ways to become more successful in your career. Whether you are looking for a new career opportunity or would like to move into a new role, upgrading your skills can increase your chances of reaching your career goals.

In most professions, upgrading your skills is highly valued and is seen as a requirement for many employers. Most jobs are dynamic, constantly changing, and adapting as the field grows. Therefore, employees must be adaptable and up-to-date with the trends and developments in their field.

The benefits of upgrading your skills include:

  • Increased self-confidence: Learning a new skill can help you take on new tasks at work, as well as increase your ability to articulate to employers how you can make a difference in the workforce. Employers look for candidates who are knowledgeable, competent, and proactive. An employee who is confident in their skills and who can actively demonstrate these skills will be viewed as an asset to their company.
  • Improved marketability and competitiveness: Upgrading your skills helps keep you up-to-date within your field and makes you a more competitive job applicant. When employers see that you have the skill set they need, you are more likely to get a call back on your application, as well as increase your chances of getting hired.
  • Greater resourcefulness: New skills can give you the ability to offer solutions to problems that may occur on the job. Employers value employees who are self-directed and able to anticipate and resolve issues as they occur. These skills can be demonstrated on the job, as well as during behavioral-based interviews, where job applicants provide examples of a solution they developed to a challenge that arose.
  • Better career opportunities: Upgrading your skills will open the door to new career opportunities that you may not have been able to consider before. For example, if you upgraded your Microsoft Excel skills, you may be able to apply for jobs that require you to analyze data, create spreadsheets, or even produce reports. As you gain new skill sets, you can consider job opportunities and roles that you once passed on.

The following sections provide a few strategies for upgrading your skills.

Conduct Research

To determine the skills you need to upgrade, you should first conduct research on the labour market to understand what employers are looking for. Research your field to find out the skills that are required, skills that are an asset, and those that would add value to organizations. A great place to start is to look at current job postings to assess the specific job tasks and qualifications that are required of the kind of jobs you want. Also, expand your search to include roles you may not yet be qualified for, but could pursue with additional training.

Another great source of information is government websites that publish local and regional labour market data. This kind of information can inform you of who is hiring, where they are hiring, and of any hiring trends within your industry. For more inside industry knowledge, consider conducting informational interviews with employers to get a better understanding of the field. Such interviews can provide you with detailed information about roles you may be qualified to apply for, answer your specific questions, and give you an opportunity to network with others in the same field.

Conducting research on your industry helps you to be informed about current trends, challenges, and gaps, so you can get a head start on how you can make a difference in your field.

Engage in a Self-Assessment

After you have conducted research to determine the skills employers are looking for, the next step is to assess your skills. Understanding where you have current gaps in your skills will help you to determine your next course of action. You can start by making a checklist once you have reviewed the skills employers require. Service Canada has a great self-assessment tool to help identify essential skills, strengths, and areas for improvement; tools like this can help you understand your skills. Make a list of the current skills you possess and the ones you need to acquire; this will help you determine the next steps in upgrading your skills.

Determine Next Steps

Once you understand the skills you need, the direction you take to upgrade your skills can include the following:

  • Courses: Whether you take a college or university course or pursue online education, courses can help you develop the theoretical and practical knowledge you need to upgrade your skills. Consider courses that have a practical component, so you can actively practice the newly acquired skill. This will help make the transition from your training to work easier.
  • Professional development training: This kind of training can range from short (a few hours or a couple of days) to longer training that may be ongoing. Professional development training can be specific to your industry or may focus on the development of soft skills, such as communication, leadership, or working with others. Depending on the nature of your training, you may receive a certificate or an acknowledgement of participation upon completion. Your training may also lead to other professional development opportunities. Make note of your accomplishments to be able to market it to employers once your training is completed.
  • Volunteering: You can find opportunities to use your new skills through volunteer activities. Volunteering for an organization provides a practical way to use and enhance your skills through hands-on experience. If you are currently employed, volunteer for new tasks that let you use your new skills. Employers appreciate their staff taking initiative and this will help them see you in a positive light.

Develop a Strategy to Articulate New Skills to Employers

Once you have upgraded your skills, being able to articulate them to employers can make a difference in reaching the next stage of your career. Using the terminology in the field, providing examples of your work, and contributing ideas on how to enhance productivity can all be ways to start telling employers how you can make a difference in their organization with your upgraded skills. Update your cover letter and résumé, and rewrite your elevator pitch to reflect your new skills.

Get a Mentor or Coach

Mentors and coaches are usually individuals who have some experience in their fields and can give advice to help you advance in your career. Mentors and coaches can offer unique perspectives and have often been through similar experiences that they can share to help push you closer towards your goals.Mentors or coaches can be within your networks; a former manager, teacher, or a coworker can all be people to consider to help mentor you. You can also focus on meeting new mentors and coaches through networking, asking for referrals, or using online platforms, such as LinkedIn or Meetup. Also consider organizations such as TRIEC Mentoring Partnership and MentorConnect, which connect immigrant professionals to mentors in their field.Upgrading your skills can be beneficial for your career. Following these strategies will give you the tools you need to boost your career.

Jodi Tingling

Jodi Tingling is a Program Manager at WES Global Talent Bridge Canada.