Upskilling, or the process of taking your skills to the next level at work, can be a great way to increase your value at your current company and help you negotiate a higher salary when you start looking for your next employment adventure. Even if your company isn’t willing to invest in continuing your education, using the concept of upskilling to increase your skills away from work may pay dividends in the future at a new company. Filling in any gaps you may be missing or working on areas that need improvement can be a great way to help you advance your career.
Listen to this week’s episode of the rich & REGULAR podcast to learn more about upskilling and keep reading for some ideas on how to do it for little to no cost.
Identify your blind spots.
Traditionally, upskilling is done on the job and is typically cheaper for a company than hiring a new employee. Although upskilling usually comes as a perk through your company, you can also take steps to educate yourself and fill in any holes in your skillset. Upskilling may involve technical skills, such as coding or app development, or working on your soft skills such as leadership, public speaking or personal interactions.
To discover the weak points in your skill repertoire, spend some time reflecting on your past performance evaluations, any feedback you’ve received or times when a project you were involved in didn’t go to plan. Although remembering past feedback may be challenging and emotional, try to honestly identify the problem and the skills that would have helped improve the situation. This list of blind spots is the first place to start when you upskill your life.
Create a plan for your continuing education.
As you identify problems from your past and the places you could have improved, keep a running list of the skills that would have helped. These may be subjects you’ve always been interested in but never had time for, or they may be traits you actively need to improve.
Pay particular attention to the skills needed in your current position or included in your dream job description. Develop your plan for skill acquisition around the job you hope to be doing one day so that when the opportunity arises, you’ve positioned yourself well.
Make the time.
After you’ve developed a plan to upskill yourself, determine the amount of time per day or week you’ll devote to your new skills, and pencil it into your calendar. One of the benefits of upskilling at work is learning new skills during company time. When you take skill development into your own hands, you may have to get creative with when and how you go about it.
Look for a place in your calendar where you can carve out an hour or two to get some work done, and then be disciplined about sticking to it. Don’t burn the candle at both ends, and remember that rest and fun have a place in your daily life. If it works for you, consider spending an hour in the morning on your new skills before the rest of your family gets up or use your lunch break to get in some studying. Take advantage of audiobooks or lectures you can listen to while going for a walk or cooking dinner.
If your family has dedicated homework time for the kids, explain that you also have homework now, and you’re going to sit down together as a family to get it done. This might not be possible with younger kids who need your help and attention, but get creative with your time and you might find 30 minutes to an hour that would work for studying.
Low cost or free skill upgrades
Although there are various ways to upgrade your skills, it can get expensive to upskill on your own dime. If money becomes an issue, consider the following free or low-cost ways to help you get started.
Investigate free courses at Ivy League Schools: Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Princeton, Brown and Columbia, among others, have made several of their classes in computer and data science, health and medicine, education, personal development and social sciences available to the public for free. Check out a place like Class Central to help you see what’s offered and how to access it.
Use LinkedIn Learning: If you’re already a LinkedIn Premium member, you can access all classes available through LinkedIn Learning for no additional cost. If you’re not a premium member, you can get a subscription for $29.99 a month, with a one month free trial period. Use your free month to look at various classes and see if it would be worth the cost of an ongoing subscription.
Open University: With various topics to choose from, Open University can be an excellent opportunity for upskilling in a given area or learning about a topic you’re interested in. Designed as a set your pace program, Open University has over 1000 free courses and can even help with some continuing education requirements.
Find a mentor: In addition to taking a class or self-study course, consider looking for a mentor to help answer your specific questions and provide insight and assistance in searching for a new position or switching fields.
Developing your skills, either at work or on your own, can benefit you throughout your career. Even if it doesn’t lead to an increase in salary or title at your current position, developing your skills can help you find a better job. It can also increase your brain power and help you become a lifelong learner. Investigate some of the options above and give upskilling a shot to help improve your career.