How to build your professional skills


1) You should be constantly learning. Look for educational opportunities everywhere.

2) Forge professional relationships with skilled people.

3) Manage your energy, not just your time, to avoid burnout.

The way we work is in a constant state of flux. That is changing the course of many of our careers. As certain jobs are displaced by automation and new job opportunities are ushered in as a result of technological innovation, it is more important than ever to be able to learn and adapt quickly.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report, published in October, 94% of business leaders it surveyed expect employees to pick up new skills on the job, compared with 65% in 2018. The report projects that by 2025, “44% of the skills that employees will need to perform their roles effectively will change.”

It is never too late to arm yourself with new skills, whatever job you end up in.

Be a lifelong learner.

The first step to acquiring new skills is having an open mind and being ready to learn, says Michele A. Knox, Brooklyn Program Director at The HOPE Program, a New York-based job training program for adults in marginalized and underserved communities. The good news is that you aren’t the only one who stands to benefit from learning new skills—your employer does, too. It is in your employer’s financial interest to support you. Take advantage of this mutually beneficial opportunity by asking about and exploring the right course of action.

Three options you should consider:

1) Company resources. Your manager or human-resources representative will be able to point you in the direction of training opportunities for employees. You may also be invited to come up with your own proposal. Look for some conferences or training courses you think you would benefit from.

2) Skill shares. Ask around. Your colleagues may already have informal recurring meetings in which they share new skills with other team members. Consider proposing a skill-share if one doesn’t already exist.

3) Certifications. Consider signing up for training courses that provide you with a certificate upon completion. You can display these certificates on your LinkedIn profile or résumé to demonstrate that you are committed to learning relevant skills.

4) Self-instruction. Independent learning through methods such as researching on specific websites or on internet search engines like YouTube was the most popular way for employees to learn for their jobs or careers in 2018, according to a 2019 survey by skill development platform Degreed and Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning, an e-learning subsidiary of Harvard Business School.

All of these options can be helpful, but should be balanced against on-the-job learning and responsibilities. You should be careful to avoid the “slippery slope” of certifications, warns Ms. Knox. It can be easy to let other essential workplace skills and habits slide while getting caught up acquiring certifications that may not ultimately serve you in your career.

“People oftentimes equate certifications with marketability, and it’s not a one-to-one,” says Ms. Knox. “If you’re not getting to work on time or you aren’t the strongest interviewer, it won’t matter how many certifications you have.”

Forge professional relationships.

While there is plenty of merit to learning a new skill independently, you may also benefit from the knowledge and expertise of the people around you.

“There’s no need to reinvent the wheel,” says Ms. Knox. She recommends approaching a mentor or colleague with a job or skill you admire and asking something like: “‘What types of things did you do to deepen your knowledge?’”

More employees learn new job skills through their professional social circles than they do by using organizational resources, like HR training or other company learning systems, according to the Degreed and Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning report, entitled “How the Workforce Learns.”

The social connections people turn to when they need to learn something for their job.

Degreed and Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning surveyed 772 executives, managers and employees globally for their report. They found that respondents, when looking for guidance or recommendations to learn something for their jobs or careers during the prior year:

1) 62% of people surveyed consulted their professional networks.

2) 45% of respondents consulted their managers or mentors.

3) 44% of those surveyed consulted their teams or peers inside their companies.

4) 33% of respondents consulted their online social networks or communities, such as Twitter and LinkedIn.

“We are social creatures,” says performance psychologist Dr. Jim Loehr. “How we interact with others has a huge part to play in our sense that we are a valuable member of our tribe, of our society.”

You can learn skills from people at any level within your organization. Try looking up, down and around you for employees at various levels who have valuable talents they may be willing to share. Work around their schedules to find a time and method of skill-sharing that won’t inconvenience them.

Manage your energy, not just your time.

Assigning a dedicated amount of time in your calendar each day or week to learn a new skill is a good start, but time alone won’t facilitate a successful learning process. Establishing what you want to learn is the first step. Then comes the more difficult work of committing your focus and attention to learning.

Whether you are hoping to learn how to speak a language, master a new technology or lead a team meeting, you should be prepared to tune out distractions and make your new skill a priority.

“If you want it, you’ve got to invest your energy in it, and the more investment you give it with your energy, the more it will grow,” says Dr. Loehr.

When you are preparing to learn a new skill, turn off your cellphone, take a break from your emails, and focus 100% of your attention on the task, says Dr. Loehr.

Checking in on your mental and emotional health is key to managing your energy. If you feel yourself getting stressed or burned out, practice some of your favorite activities that keep your mind and body healthy.


Online skill programming: Websites such as Skillshare, LinkedIn Learning, Alison and Coursera offer classes taught by experts in a variety of fields. Courses last anywhere from hours to months. Some sites allow you to browse by programming that is offered free of charge.

Your employer: Ask your boss or HR department about what training programs may be available to you as an employee. You may also be eligible for tuition assistance or reimbursement.

World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report (2020): The section on emerging and declining skills offers insights into where the biggest expertise gaps lie in the global marketplace and what skills you should consider investing in.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text

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