June 2019

Seven tips to ensure you’re always upskilling

  • By Nick Deligiannis, Managing Director, Hays Recruiting Experts

Constant upskilling is the new norm for professionals hoping to stay relevant in an increasingly digitised world

Hays has recently published a series of articles on staying relevant in the fourth industrial revolution, characterised by increased digitalisation and automation in workplaces. This article explores some ways to keep yourself at the growing edge of your professional career.

Our recent survey of 951 employers found 77 per cent are more likely to shortlist a qualified candidate who upskills regularly.

For their part, 96 per cent of the 1253 professionals we also spoke to regard upskilling as ‘very important’ or ‘important’, and 35 per cent were aware of the technology and digital trends relevant to their job or industry.

However, there’s still time to get the jump on your competition, as only 14 per cent of employees indicated that they upskill weekly, 18 per cent monthly and 20 per cent quarterly.

Don’t be part of the 24 per cent who upskill only once a year, the 20 per cent who do so even less often or, worse yet, the four per cent who never upskill.

Here are seven key ways to take charge of your own professional development to stay employable.

1. Ask for stretch opportunities at work

Taking on a project outside your usual remit is a great way to develop new competencies. If working on a project with people from other teams, you’ll also hone important collaboration and problem-solving skills.

Our survey revealed 75 per cent of professionals view on-the-job stretch opportunities as the most effective method of upskilling.

To find an opportunity, start a conversation with your boss. Often managers are the key to having your name put forward to be part of an internal project. Alternatively, be proactive and identify an area where your company could benefit from focused attention and what you could do to contribute.

Make sure you think through how working on a stretch project will impact your current workload before approaching your boss.

‘Taking on a project outside your usual remit is a great way to develop new competencies.’  

2. Stay plugged in

Make a point to follow industry leaders and thinkers via LinkedIn, TED Talks, YouTube, Twitter and other social media.

Of the professionals we surveyed, 52 per cent read articles or professional literature to keep up-to-date, while 49 per cent attend conferences, seminars or webinars. Thirty-three per cent indicated that they listen to relevant online content such as TED Talks and podcasts.

A further 25 per cent view content online shared by connections, while 23 per cent read books and seek coaching and mentorships. Sixteen per cent have joined a LinkedIn Group relevant to their sector.

Don’t forget to ask mentors and the colleagues you admire for recommendations on who to follow.

3. Join an industry or professional association

Membership of a professional association, such as AusIMM, can tick a lot of the boxes for skills and career building. 

Of our respondents, 22 per cent were members of a professional organisation at the time of our survey.

Before joining any association, ask about its continuous learning program as well as networking events and even mentorship programs. Many associations offer reduced fees for those just starting out in a profession or industry – so you don’t have to be an industry veteran to join. 

4. Relevant courses outside of the workplace

Formal courses are used to acquire knowledge and skills by 47 per cent of our respondents. But there is much to consider before you embark on any study.

According to research from consulting firm Deloitte, the half-life of learned skills is falling – so make sure you research any potential course for its relevancy to your industry before signing up.

Consider short courses such as specialised certificates that align closely to developing trends in your sector. There is also a plethora of online tutorials on how to use technology and software applications too.

Look into ‘Moocs’ – the nickname for mass open online courses. Moocs allow you to study for free with some of the leading education institutions around the world. Some of the top tech companies also offer courses. While you probably won’t end up with a formal qualification, you will acquire the latest information impacting your sector.

5. Learn at work

Make sure you sign up for any free self-learning modules offered by your employer. These courses generally reflect the skills an organisation wants its workforce to develop, so acquiring skills and knowledge this way is not only free but also could raise your standing at work.

Peer-to-peer learning is a hot trend too. Ask a colleague to teach you a skill you want to acquire, or set up a study group with colleagues. Peer-group learning sessions allow employees to learn from each other and explore relevant issues together, which can boost the learning process.

If you can generate enough interest amongst colleagues you could also suggest to your manager that a learning session be organised featuring a senior member of staff, or that an industry leader be invited in for a lunchtime talk.

6. Career mapping

Career mapping can help you develop a plan for your career and focus your upskilling dollars and effort.

Career mapping is a tool that helps you plan where you want to go over time by creating goals and what you need to do to achieve them. The tool is also used by many companies to develop their workforce with the skills they need into the future.

According to our survey, 65 per cent of professionals do not currently have a career map. The 35 per cent of those that do say it has helped them choose the right skill-building courses and activities.

Career mapping also makes it easier to pivot when necessary to align with changing trends in your industry.

7. Employer-supported external study

If you want your employer to pay for tertiary study or a specialist course, you must be able to explain how what you will learn will benefit your team or company. Bringing in new skills to your organisation and upskilling colleagues should be central to your pitch for support.

Like all upskilling, do your homework to find out where the trends are heading for your role. This will ensure the knowledge you acquire is likely to stay relevant for as long as possible.

Also, think about courses that will build on your current skills to boost your job role, or those that position you as a knowledge leader in your existing sector. 

A version of this article was originally published at www.hays.com.au. For more information on Professional Development offered by AusIMM, visit www.ausimm.com to see our range of conferences, webinars, branch events and publications.  

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