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Three Ways to Develop Your Skills

A woman on a video call with a whiteboard full of equations behind her

Gone are the days when a person would work with one company for their entire career. Did you know that the average person will switch jobs 12 times in their lifetime according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics?

That means you’ll want to develop new skills over the course of your working life. Even if you are the rare person who stays in the same career, the ever-shortening cycles of automation will transform how your role is performed--requiring new skills and knowledge points.

Developing these competencies doesn’t mean you have to get a new college degree every two years. Development should become part of your routine at a cadence that is right for you--whether every day or once a year. It depends on the skills you’re trying to master.

Now let’s think about this in two categories: hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills are measurable and teachable competencies. You might learn them in a course or certifications program. Examples of hard skills would be baking, coding, or plumbing. Soft skills are natural talents and interpersonal skills that are developed in less quantifiable ways. Examples of soft skills would be empathy, networking, or leadership.

Think about your career goals and choose just 1-3 skills to work on at a time, better to focus than to become overwhelmed by taking off more than you can chew. It’s important to also consider your learning style and schedule. 

Once you understand your objectives and capacity, you are ready to pick one of these three paths to start your skill development journey...

  1. Online Courses

There are a plethora of online courses in almost every subject available online. These courses can range from a five-minute on-demand video to months-long interactive courses. These courses are a great alternative to sitting in a classroom for hours each week. And they are also, usually, more cost-effective. 

With online courses, you are not limited to courses offered in your area so you can be super strategic and pin-pointed about what you study. In addition, many of these will offer certification badges for your LinkedIn which is a great bonus.

Don’t know where to start? Check out Udemy or masterclass to get a feel for the types of courses out there!


  1. Volunteering

Volunteering is a great way to develop your skills and give back at the same time. When you think of volunteering many people think of serving in a soup kitchen or building houses, and while those are certainly options, there are many other ways to give back.

If you are a marketer looking to get experience in social media management why not see if there is a non-profit in your area that needs someone to manage their channels? If you are a store manager looking to get into events, see if your work will allow you to organize a food drive. The possibilities are infinite. 

Take stock of your of the skills you want to build and find where that intersects with a need in the community--that’s where you should be! Check out Sideprject an accelerator bringing people together to work on skill development for opportunities. 


  1. Mentorship

Mentorship works both ways: You can find a mentor to guide you or you can become a mentor to help someone else. The latter will actually be a great way to build your soft skills like leadership, communication, and empathy.

Going about finding a mentor or mentee takes time and patience. To start, see if there is someone at work you connect to or post on LinkedIn to let your network know you are open to and looking for a mentor/mentee. 

Before your first meeting with your new mentor/mentee try and define to yourself what you are hoping to get from this relationship and the nuts and bolts of how much time you can put into this and how often you want to meet. In your mind does this look more casual  (like coffee dates and chats) or more formal (resume reviews and coaching). Be sure to ask your mentee/mentor about their expectations as well.


Closing thoughts

Skill-building is about more than adding lines to your CV -- it’s about your confidence and growth as a person. As you add competencies to your toolbelt you will be ready for bigger and more rewarding challenges. In addition, by putting yourself out there to learn these skills you will grow your network, which is equally important to your career development. 


At the end of the day, you can’t buy a reputation. How people think of you depends on the little actions you take every day.  So make yourself known as someone who’s always up to learn something new starting today.


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