It’s no secret that the demands of the workplace are changing at an increasingly rapid pace. In fact, an Oxford University study found that the “half-life” of job skills has decreased from 30 years in 1984 to just five years in 2014, and the trend has only continued since. This is evidence that the most successful employees in the future won’t be the ones who’ve spent years honing a single skill. Instead, organizations will value the employees who are eager for constant learning throughout their careers.
Upskilling used to be mainly a company-driven effort, but today’s employees need to pick up the torch and take the initiative to improve their ability to deliver value to the organization. As technology contributes to rapid changes in the job market, learning new skills helps workers remain relevant and valued, and it prepares them for a future in which their current roles might even cease to exist.
In addition to future-proofing your worth at work, upskilling can help you discover new talents and passions that you never knew you had. Maybe you learn to code and discover that you enjoy making websites or developing applications, or perhaps you take a personal finance class and develop a mastery of spreadsheets that skyrockets your productivity at work. Not all upskilling opportunities have to seem relevant to your job at first; once you start learning, you’ll be surprised what you can take back to work.
Even if you’ve been in your current role for decades, it’s never too late to start learning something new. To prioritize upskilling, start with these four strategies to help you advance your career.
1. Train for your future role.
Turn to part-time training programs that allow you to maintain your primary job while boosting your skill set in a new area after hours. There are ample resources that cater to people with day jobs. LaunchCode, for instance, is a national nonprofit that trains motivated learners for free and then places them in paid apprenticeships once they have the skills necessary to succeed. In fact, 80 percent of the program’s coders start their career without a degree in computer science. Whether you’re interested in graphic design or social media analytics, you can find a training program for it, including online opportunities presented by local community colleges. With so many diverse offerings, something is sure to appeal to you.
2. Step outside your comfort zone and into a valuable volunteer role.
When hiring managers see volunteer experience on a résumé, they see that you’re a team player. Use volunteer opportunities to show that you’re willing to step outside your comfort zone and adapt to the demands of an unfamiliar environment, all while giving back to a cause you believe in. Volunteer with an organization that ignites your passions, whether you’re helping at a homeless shelter or tutoring at-risk youth. In addition to the benefit of helping others, you’ll broaden your skills and your network, which are both important components to advancing your career.
3. Take the initiative to start a side hustle.
Some people learn best by doing. If that describes you, starting a side hustle or project outside of work will give you the opportunity to pursue a passion or hone a new craft, all while training yourself in the art of being your own boss. Maybe you want to work on your writing skills by starting a blog (which you can monetize by accepting ads or affiliate links), or you’re cultivating your creative side by running an Etsy shop. If you want your venture to stay afloat, you’ll need to learn how to sell yourself and your services. Exploring a new craft and knowing how to market yourself are both crucial for your long-term career success.
4. Prioritize mentorship at work or elsewhere.
More and more employees are looking for mentors — indeed, it’s one of the biggest e-learning trends of 2018. Look for a mentor you trust who has both experience and enthusiasm. Finding a mentor at work can help you learn valuable on-the-job skills, while a mentor in a professional organization outside of work can help you broaden your skill set. Wherever you find it, mentorship is extremely valuable, and it can help you challenge yourself to grow. As positions shift over time, the things you’ve learned from your mentors can help you become more valuable to your current company or more attractive to another company.
Many employees stay in the same jobs year after year. While they might improve a few very specific skills, they’ll be completely unprepared if their role becomes outdated or automated. Make it a point to upskill whenever and however you can. A diverse skill set goes a long way, and it demonstrates to future employers that you’re motivated to learn new things — and that itself is a valuable trait for a job candidate in almost any position.