What we know influences how far we go. If you have your sights set on a promotion, launching a new product or entering a new profession in 2015, it’s time to start expanding your skills.
Making a point to continuously improve your skills is a must in today’s competitive job market. Leadership experts agree that people who constantly work on improving their skill-sets are the ones that gain the most competence and confidence. And for you, that translates into being more competitive in your industry, profession and company.
How to Decide Which Skills to Improve
Understanding the importance of a robust skill-set is the easy part. Deciding what skills to concentrate on can be a little more challenging. That’s where the Focusing Question comes into play. This is the ONE Thing that can make the biggest impact on improving your skills over the next year.
Ask yourself: “What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”The Focusing Question is a powerful tool for drilling down to the most important thing you need to get done in order to accomplish big goals. Not only that, it helps you avoid taking unnecessary steps and get right to the actions that will have the greatest impact on your success.
Another step in deciding what skills to focus on is to consider what people of influence in your industry value the most. In an annual survey conducted by The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) that is aimed at discovering the degrees and skills employers are looking for, employers cite the following skills as most important:
- Communication skills
- Critical thinking skills
- Problem solving skills
- Organization and prioritization skills
Not surprising, these are necessary skills for virtually any industry and job role. Other essential skills include proficiency with computer programs and technical knowledge within your particular field. If your goal is to move up the ladder, enhancing your leadership skills could also be beneficial. Another NACE survey on candidate skills that employers value most found that leadership was the number one attribute.
No matter which skill-set you choose, focusing on ONE Thing at a time is essential. Putting all your energy behind improving a specific skill significantly increases your chances of reaching your goal.
How to Start Honing Your Skills
How you’ll improve your skills over the next year depends on your resources, time and what you want to learn. Below are four of the most popular methods of stepping up your skill-sets.
Workplace Training Programs
Is your company invested in employee education and training? If so, everything you need to improve your skills might be right there in your office. More and more businesses are beginning to understand the value of giving their employees access to additional training. Furthermore, employers are more likely to promote employees that take advantage of it. That was certainly the case for Sun Microsystems after they implemented a company mentoring program. Both the mentees and the mentors gained valuable skills by participating and had a better chance at moving up the corporate ladder.
Skill Building Example: No matter the industry, all managers can benefit from additional leadership and communication skills training. For instance, consider focusing on ways you can improve your communication skills with Generation Y employees as more and more people from this generation enter the workforce.
Whether they’re on-location or online, formal classes are one of the most straightforward ways of improving your skills and enhancing your job opportunities.
Computer-related courses almost always have a high return on investment, and anything that is directly related to your job role is also a surefire skill enhancer. Business courses are another safe bet for almost any industry. The NACE study referenced above revealed that 68.8 percent of the employers surveyed were interested in new graduates with business degrees.
Skill Building Example: The field of nursing is a great example of how expanding one’s skill-set can directly affect job opportunities. While nurses can enter the job market at a variety of levels, whether it be after the completion of a diploma program, having earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing science, or participating in a master’s program, each level of education opens up more doors.
Professional Development Organizations
Virtually all cities have at least one professional organization. Professional organizations are established to provide people in various industries with access to networking and educational resources. It’s a great place to start looking for ways to improve your skills.
Skill Building Example: If you are one of the thousands of Americans who has started a small business, the Small Business Administration (SBA) was created to help you. It provides people with low-cost training, consulting, and resources for navigating entrepreneurship and gaining the skills needed to survive and thrive as a business owner.
Having the guidance of a mentor is ideal for anyone that wants to break into a new industry or transition into a new job role. This is particularly true for highly competitive industries or those that don’t have a clear-cut entry path. A mentor can help you better understand the skills you need for a career and also help you hone those skills.
Skill Building Example: Let’s say you are already in print advertising but believe there’s better opportunity for you in online video marketing. Though they both fall under the marketing department, the two mediums are worlds apart. A mentor who has experience within video production can help you identify the best-suited role as well as the technical and administrative skills needed to handle the job. They can help you gain exposure and find opportunities to get the necessary hands-on training that will allow you to transition into video.
What business skills do you want to improve in the new year?