Technology is rapidly changing the way we work and what skills employers are searching for. To keep up with the market and your competition, upskilling is a game changer. But we know it’s hard to find the time and resources to do this on top of your job or job hunt! Our top tips on how to upskill yourself will help you level up your skills and career in a manageable way so you can achieve your career goals.
Whether you aim to climb the career ladder, switch to a new field, or simply stay sharp in your current role, learning how to upskill yourself unlocks whole new levels in your career development. Upskilling is also a great way to stand out as a candidate both for promotion and in your next job interview. Here’s everything you need to know.
- What is upskilling?
- What is reskilling?
- How to upskill yourself: 9 steps to sustainable self-learning
- How to find the best digital upskilling course for you
- Free and paid upskilling options
- How to upskill yourself while working
Why now is the right time to upskill
Skill sets for jobs have changed by around 25% since 2015 according to LinkedIn data. By 2027 this number is expected to double.
Upskilling not only elevates your CV and credentials in a competitive job market, it also prepares you for future industry changes. The digital skills gap is a key issue businesses will continue to face as new technologies rapidly change the state of play in the marketplace. Technology isn’t slowing down any time soon, so the skills gap will always be on the horizon for employers.
Upskilling yourself with high value, trending skills in your industry is valuable. But demonstrating the ability to upskill yourself and learn continuously is invaluable! It shows your potential to grow and adapt in the future.
Benefits of upskilling yourself for your career:
- Valuable skills help you stand out as a job candidate.
- You’re prepared to meet your industry’s challenges and trends.
- You enjoy more job security with up-to-date, relevant skills.
- New skills mean new job opportunities and career paths.
- Additional skills help elevate your work and job satisfaction.
- Competitive skill sets increase your earning potential.
- Learning helps grow your self-confidence and productivity.
- Skills help you adapt to new strategies, tools and approaches.
- Learning can spark new perspectives on your current skills.
- Upskilling yourself helps position you for promotion.
What is upskilling?
Upskilling is the process of learning new and relevant skills that you need for your role or to advance your career.
With new tools and techniques emerging each year, it could be that you’re learning to use a new platform or approach. As your career develops, it might be learning to manage a team, develop a strategy or implement changes.
Unlike more traditional education at school or university, where students gain a broad knowledge base, upskilling is more focused. It targets specific skills that are in high demand in your industry or job role.
Examples of upskilling
- Digital literacy and technology skills:
Upskilling could involve learning to use new programmes or tools that would help you understand emerging technologies like artificial intelligence or cybersecurity better.
- Data analysis and interpretation:
Learning how to use analytic tools to interpret data is a valuable skill for making data-based decisions in the workplace that improve the performance of your work.
- Project management:
Project management approaches, like Agile or Scrum, help plan, execute and monitor the progress of tasks and assignments both individually, and at a team and organisation level, to achieve your goals.
- Programming and coding:
Proficiency in coding, whether you intend to code or work more closely with those who do, opens doors to a diverse range of career opportunities as these skills overlap with many roles, projects and industries that use websites, applications and platforms.
What is reskilling?
Reskilling involves learning a new set of skills for a completely different job or industry. This might be learning to transfer existing skills you have to use them in a new context – or learning a new skill for your new role.
Reskilling is different to upskilling. While upskilling enhances your existing skill set within your current field, reskilling prepares you for a new career altogether. If you’re pivoting and switching to a new career path, or going into an emerging industry area, reskilling might be on the cards! For example, a graphic designer learning website design is upskilling. However, if a graphic designer is training to become a data analyst, that’s reskilling.
Given the rapid development made in automation technologies such as artificial intelligence, many jobs and tasks will be adapted or even replaced . Recent studies suggest that over the next three years 1.4 billion people will need to reskill due to AI.
How to upskill yourself: 9 steps to sustainable self-learning
Upskilling is a dynamic and ongoing process. Everyone is different. We all learn differently and have different circumstances and environments to learn in. We also have different objectives!
These steps will help you shape your unique approach to upskilling to suit your brain, your life and your workload. As different as we all are, there are certain things that really help decide where to start, how to make time, keep motivated, and recall all your new knowledge and skills.
1. Assess your current skill set
- Reflect on your skills with a self-evaluation:
Begin by critically evaluating your existing skills. Reflect on your strengths and areas where you feel you need more confidence.
A great way to do this is with a traditional SWOT analysis:
- Strengths: What skills are you confident in? What achievements have you made?
- Weaknesses: What areas do you think you can improve in?
- Opportunities: What skills or areas do you not have that your industry or role values?
- Threats: What skills might be redundant in a few years? How do market changes and trends impact your skills?
- Ask others for feedback:
Seek constructive feedback from your peers, managers, or mentors. It’s hard to evaluate yourself fully, so this helps to give you an external perspective on your skills and areas for improvement. It might help to allow them to give feedback anonymously – either with an online survey or through a trusted third party like a colleague or your boss.
2. Identify industry demands
- Do the market research:
Investigate the current trends and future directions of your industry. Use resources like industry reports, online forums, and professional networks to uncover any areas where you may have an opportunity to grow.
- Look at job listings for roles you aspire to:
Note the skills frequently mentioned in the job specification for the roles you’d love to be in and make a list of ones you don’t have yet or aren’t confident with – these are perfect areas to focus on!
3. Set clear goals
- Define objectives:
Upskilling can be overwhelming. It helps to set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals for your upskilling journey, to help keep yourself focused on your goals.
- Establish realistic learning targets:
Small, consistent progress is key. Too ambitious a target can overload you, and impact your motivation and productivity. James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, recommends focusing on getting 1% better every day to keep habit building sustainable.
4. Create a learning plan
- Schedule regular time slots for learning:
Consistency is key to making progress. However motivated you are to upskill, it’s hard to decide when and where to dedicate some time, especially if you’re working. Book out a regular slot in your calendar – and swap that status to ‘Do not disturb’! Start out trialing a few slots and find what time works best for you: it could be morning, lunch, afternoon or even evening.
- Set weekly planning goals:
Learning a skill can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re completing a certification or extensive course. It can really help to break the learning up into small, achievable goals you set yourself for the week. It’s too easy to focus on all the things you still need to learn and lose sight of all your progress.
5. Practice and apply new skills
- Apply your new skills to your current job:
If there are no opportunities to do this in your current role, try to start personal projects to develop these outside of work. Real-world application solidifies your learning, and having practical experience and results to share is great in an interview or conversation with your manager about a promotion.
- Volunteer for opportunities:
Seek out opportunities or side projects that allow you to practise new skills in a low-pressure environment.
6. Seek mentorship and guidance
- Find mentors:
Connect with industry professionals who can provide guidance, advice, and feedback.
- Join communities:
Participate in online forums or local groups related to your field to stay informed and get support.
7. Embrace technology and digital tools
- Prioritise digital learning
These skills are increasingly important in most industries as 65% of hiring managers confirmed that they had reported difficulty in finding suitably qualified digital talent.
- Stay updated:
Keep up to date with technological advancements that are relevant to your field with courses and training, or by signing up for informative newsletters.
8. Measure progress and adjust
- Track your development:
Regularly assess your progress towards your upskilling goals by setting clear goals and milestones within a realistic timeframe.
- Be flexible and ready to change:
Enhance your adaptability by being ready to accommodate your learning plan based on new industry trends or changes in your career goals. You can achieve this by regularly assessing your progress, staying informed about industry developments and being proactive in incorporating these new skills into the plan.
9. Showcase your new skills
- Update your CV and LinkedIn profile:
Reflect on your new skills and any certifications on your CV and professional profiles. We offer a wealth of useful resources for the avid job hunter that includes expert advice on how to write a CV and create a standout LinkedIn profile.
- Seek out networking opportunities:
Share your learning journey and new skills with your network, which can open doors to new opportunities.
How to find the best digital upskilling course for you
Digital upskilling courses can cover everything from the basics for beginners to the nitty-gritty specialist insights for advanced and experienced learners. Whether you’re a digital newbie or looking to level up, there’s a course for everyone.
Find the best upskilling course for you in 5 key steps:
- Match the course with your goals:
Now you’ve reflected on what you need and want to upskill in, make sure to pick a course that’s lined up with what you actually want to learn.
- Know your level:
Choose a course that fits your current skill set – no point in jumping into deep waters without the context or understanding to really leverage what you’re learning.
- Check out the content and the facilitators:
Look at what the course offers and how the curriculum is structured to ensure it’s what you need.
- Read the reviews:
See what other learners say about the course – check Google or TrustPilot for reviews or just search the course in a social media platform like LinkedIn or Twitter to see what people post about it!
- Certification matters:
If you’re after accreditation, ensure the course you pick is properly endorsed by an official authority and internationally recognised.
Upskill yourself for free or consider these paid options
There are lots of different ways to upskill – here are some paid and free options to consider:
- Use free learning platforms:
Explore free educational platforms like TedX, and YouTube for relevant courses and tutorials from experts and influencers. Udemy and Coursera also have free options, and LinkedIn Learning courses are free for the first 24 hours! These can support whatever course or practical learning you’re doing, and keep feeding your interest in the subject with new stories and perspectives.
- See what’s included free in the help centres for platforms:
Many platforms and tools offer free training courses and even certifications in their help centres. These likely skew towards their own approach, but if you’re wanting to add knowledge of a specific platform like HubSpot, Salesforce, or WordPress to your CV you could do this for free through their training content, while also learning more about the reasoning behind their way of doing things.
- Consider paid options:
Consider investing in specialised courses on platforms like Coursera and Udemy or LinkedIn Learning for more in-depth instruction and cutting-edge expertise, with no time pressure to finish quickly! If you’re able to pay for a course, or your employer has offered to pay, then you have more options to find the perfect course and teacher for you!
- Follow influencers and experts:
Many experts have their own courses and certifications they sell, or run webinars or events to teach skills and approaches they’re specialised in. Investigate the websites and profiles of people you admire in the industry to see if someone you’re already learning from online provides more formal training.
- Look up respected academies, providers or courses in your industry
There are dedicated course providers, universities (online and in person) and academies for different skills that support people upskilling both in or out of work. These will be an expense but will likely provide accreditation, structured learning sessions where you’re able to ask questions and receive feedback on coursework, and networking opportunities. Research training options in your industry.
How to upskill yourself while working: creating balance
Upskilling while you’re working full-time can be challenging, even if your employer is really supportive. We have a few tips and strategies to help you find that balance between work and learning without stress or burnout.
1. Communicate with your employer
Even if your ultimate goal is to leave your current role it’s worth sharing your goals and desire to upskill with your manager. Your skills benefit your team and your organisation, and training and development is an important employee benefit. Your workplace might have company training programmes to upskill employees or provide financial educational assistance like tuition reimbursement or subsidies.
Your manager might have course recommendations for you that will help you pick a learning route, and they can point you towards any additional resources or opportunities to practise your new skill too to help cement what you’re learning.
To ensure their support, it’s a great idea to:
- Show how your upskilling plans align with the company’s objectives.
- Proposing ways your new skills could integrate into existing projects or workstreams.
- Share any interest voiced by your team or colleagues in learning the same skill – you could share your learning internally to upskill others.
2. Use flexible online learning platforms
If you’re balancing a heavy workload on top of learning in your own time, it is a good idea to go for self-paced online courses that allow you to learn when you are able to. This means you can fit your study around work and other commitments without stress.
Microlearning platforms are also a great way to break down upskilling into easier, short, manageable sessions you can complete when you have the time.
3. Plan your time to balance work and learning
To have the time and the energy to dedicate to learning, your work tasks have to feel manageable. Your manager and team might be able to help with this, but these strategies can also help you order your diary to make time for both your work and course responsibilities.
- Use time planning to manage your resource:
Get clear on what routine tasks you’ll need to do each week, and book these into your calendar. Reserve time for priority tasks each day – and assign these to tasks on your list at the beginning of your week. Planning when you’ll work on something in your diary will help you see what you have time to take on and where you’ll need help to fit things in.
- Avoid burnout:
Be mindful of your workload and avoid over-committing – time planning should help you see when your calendar is getting impossibly full! Remember to take breaks at lunch and between meetings and tasks. You can even book these in too so they’re visible.
- Iterate to find what works:
It might take some time to find your feet balancing learning and work. Time management tools can be a great way to schedule and track what you do each week, and get ideas about what you can do to create more time and feel less stressed as you balance the course and your job.
- Productivity apps can give you a push:
There are some really great productivity apps to manage your time effectively and help you stay focused at work and during learning sessions. We love Forest, which helps you stay focused on the task at hand by planting a tree!
4. Ask for support if you need it
Your family, friends, colleagues and support network can only support your upskilling journey if you ask!. You don’t need to reach the finish line alone!
Good luck with your upskilling journey!
Upskilling enhances your professional capabilities but enriches your personal growth. It’s an empowering journey that opens new paths and perspectives. You might find the more you learn, the more you want to! Embracing the challenge of continuous learning sets you in great stead for promotions and job interviews, as well as just developing all that you do now to be the very best it can be.
So, why wait? Dive into online courses, join learning groups, and take those first steps towards developing yourself both personally and professionally. Remember, the future’s bright for those who are prepared.