How to Keep Your Job Skills Current
There are many factors involved in getting hired. Some are out of your control, but there are others that you can work on to enhance your hireability.
If you’re seeking a promotion at work or are looking to make a job change, taking the time to enhance your skills and your qualifications will make it much easier to take the next step up the career ladder.
Individuals who continually upgrade their skills to keep pace with developments in their field will have the best chance of doing well in their career, both with their current employer and when job searching.
10 Ways to Keep Your Job Skills Current
1. Check out the Most In-Demand Skills for Your Occupation
The first step in keeping your skills current is to identify the talents which employers value the most in your field. Review job titles for positions in your career field. Also review the top skills required by employers, both general and job-specific.
Search job sites like Indeed or Monster using phrases related to your job to find the job titles most appropriate for your current job and for any positions that you’d love to work at, if you could. Review job descriptions and make a list of the skills which employers are most often seeking in applicants.
2. Get the Scoop
Speak with human resources staff at your current employer to gain more insight into the most preferred skills for your profession. Analyze the background of standout performers at your employer or stars from your professional associations and identify any skills that have helped them to excel.
The descriptions within the LinkedIn profiles of high-level performers can provide insight, too. Note the skills which their reference writers mention in LinkedIn recommendations for these individuals. Review the agendas for conferences and online workshops for your field to gain insight regarding other areas of knowledge or skills which people in your field are eager to acquire.
3. Follow Industry Leaders on Social Media
Many corporate CEOs and industry leaders now post regularly on social media sites like LinkedIn in order to establish themselves as “thought leaders” or “influencers.” By following them on social media, you’ll be better able to identify new directions in your profession, learn about the skills employers most often seek in your field, and decide upon which skills would be the most important for you to focus upon.
4. Make a Professional Development Plan
Once you have identified your target skills, make a professional development plan to chart your career trajectory and then strengthen or gain the most in-demand skills for your occupation. Professional associations offer workshops at annual and regional conferences and throughout the year. Many organizations have online tutorials or workshops. Review agendas and speak with leaders of those organizations to identify opportunities.
5. Attend a Workshop
Technology workshops or online tutorials are often offered by software providers and third-party groups. For example, there are free or low-cost online programming classes available.
Speak with IT professionals at your organization to determine what your employer offers and to get recommendations about other reputable learning providers. Many professional organizations will have a technology committee, and the chair may also have some useful suggestions.
6. Go to School
In addition, check with local colleges and adult education programs since they will often offer courses or seminars to help employees upgrade their knowledge and skills. Check out certificate programs and online educational courses you can take to revamp your skill set quickly.
7. Attend Professional Networking Conferences and Other Events
Professional networking conferences are a great way to both build your professional conference list and to compare your skills to those of others in your career field. These conferences will also often have seminars or workshops dedicated to professional development, and thus provide a wonderful opportunity to swiftly learn about the job skills you should add to your career toolbelt.
8. Read Professional Journals
Professional journals and trade magazines are one of your best resources to keep abreast of technology developments in your industry and to track changes in best practices. By reading these regularly, you’ll be able to keep a running list of the rising areas where you might improve your knowledge.
Volunteer to take on projects at work or volunteer at organizations where you can develop and apply the skills you’re working on. Your ultimate goal should be to be able to document your key skills when you want to land a new job, gain a promotion, or justify a pay raise. Your volunteer work can be included on your resume just like paid work experience.
10. Develop Both Hard and Soft Skills
While it’s vital that you remain current on the hard skills of your profession (the job-specific skills you learned in college or in a training or certificate program), there is always room for improvement in interpersonal soft skills as well. Take a hard look at how well you communicate with others, organize your workflow or office space, or manage your time. If there are areas where you find yourself lacking, it may be time for you to focus on strengthening these soft skills.
Additional Tips on Updating Your Skills
Highlight Your Applicable Skills When Applying for Jobs: Be sure to reference your most relevant skills in your cover letters and resumes. It’s important that what you include in your job application materials is as close a match to the job as possible The closer a match you are, the better your chances of getting the job.
Start Over: Once you have done some or all of the above, start over. Keeping your skills current is an ongoing process. Technology is constantly changing, and your skills need to keep pace in order for you to be as marketable as possible.
If you plan on spending some time engaging in professional development on a regular basis, you'll be able to upgrade your skills without too much effort. It's easier to plan ahead than it is to scramble when you're job hunting and realize that you don't have the qualifications employers are seeking.