In today’s economy, professionals need to keep their skills sharp. While employers are struggling with a skills shortage, this means that professionals who have the right skill sets will find many opportunities in the job market. However, the practice of actually keeping your skills up-to-date is often easier said than done. Between full-time work and personal responsibilities, many professionals wonder how one finds the time to continue working toward their next career goal. As a result, finding new ways to continue learning on the job is crucial to not just staying up-to-date with current industry trends, but also keeping yourself marketable for future opportunities. To continue working to develop your skills on the job, start with these 6 steps:
Think about your career goals
As you consider how you can expand your skill set at work, start by thinking about your career goals. What kind of position do you want to have in the long-term? Once you answer that question, you can better determine where your current skill set is lacking. To do so, start by searching for relevant jobs that match your career goals. Once you see a job description of a role that interests you, you can begin to piece together where you need to improve. For example, perhaps you would like to manage a team of your own in the future, but you lack the leadership experience. As a result, you would want to find opportunities to lead a project or initiative in your current role.
Find natural expansions of your role
Once you decide which skills you’d like to develop, think about how you can gain that experience by expanding your current role. For example, if you’re looking for more project management experience, you might propose a new project that isn’t too far outside the realm of your current responsibilities. You’ll want to be sure that your supervisor will see your request as a natural extension of your responsibilities, as well as something you can easily learn.
Look for more problems to solve
While it’s easy to get stuck in day-to-day operations, looking for ways to improve your (or your team’s) workflow or goals can give you more opportunities to learn new skills. This could mean that you identify and research how you can simplify a process, or help a colleague work through an issue. When you find a problem to solve, you could end up learning a new software or even a new technique that improves everyone’s performance.
Ask for more
In addition to finding new projects or expanded responsibilities on your own, it is important to ask your supervisor for assistance. Even if you’re unsure of how you can gain new skills, your supervisor may be able to guide you into learning new skills you didn’t even anticipate. When you keep an open mind in regards to building your skill set, your manager can often identify new areas that make sense for your career growth.
Find a mentor
One of the most effective—yet underutilized—strategies to continue to develop your skills on the job is consulting a professional mentor at work. When you’re aiming for a future career goal, there is no one better to ask than someone who has already done it successfully. Your mentor can help guide you in the right direction and suggest new and effective ways that you can approach your job to further your career goals.
Inquire about what else you want to learn
If you are interested in learning a specific skill and you’re unsure of how you can gain this experience on the job, consider consulting your manager or HR department about how they can help you gain this skill outside of the office. Many organizations will invest in keeping their employees’ skills up-to-date, so long as they see a clear benefit to the company as well. As a result, if you can find a way to make it worthwhile for the company, you may just get the assistance you need.