Regardless of your position, a desire to develop your professional skill set will help you progress in your career. The ability to learn will help equip you to handle more complex future tasks, while a willingness to learn will signal your competence and desire for professional advancement.

Each job, industry, and sector is different. But as the ways that we work evolve, the most sought-after people will be those with a wide range of relevant skills and aptitudes. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the need for all of us to diversify our skill base. We need to be flexible and versatile in an ever-changing job market. 

So how can you develop your skillset within your day job? Let’s look at a few ways! 

DO MORE THAN YOUR JOB PROFILE AT WORK

It’s often simpler to stick to the duties described in your job profile. After all, that’s what your employer expects, right? Well, not necessarily. 

While focusing on your core duties is a good idea in the initial stages, it won’t cut it if you want to develop your skills. You need to go beyond your job profile at work to become indispensable to the company. Many employers value employees that can perform well in tasks outside their job description. You’ll be seen as a team player with a positive attitude who is always willing to pitch in and help. 

Promotions these days are often awarded to those that can manage heavy workloads with conflicting priorities. Employers want people who can work across multiple departments and have mastered work processes. In other words, companies are always looking for those who go above and beyond.

GET A MENTOR

A mentor is someone who works closely with a more junior or less experienced person to pass along methods, principles, and knowledge. According to Forbes, mentees are five times more likely to be promoted at the workplace!

Mentoring – Source

Finding a suitable mentor can be a great way to set yourself on track to get better at a skill. Your mentor should be someone whose professional development you want to emulate, but it doesn’t have to be.

Is there someone at the office that you admire? Why not ask them to mentor you or give you some advice? Ask them the steps they took to get where they are, the technical and soft skills they had to acquire and improve, and the decisions they were faced with while climbing the corporate ladder.

By modeling yourself after people who have previously excelled, you can get ahead of the game and get a leg-up on the learning curve. On the other side of things, mentoring someone yourself is also an effective way to learn something new. Professionals can reach a stage of diminishing returns at a certain point in their careers and end up feeling like they’re solving the same old set of problems over and over. 

Taking an up-and-comer under your wings and training them might just give you a new perspective on the job. Teaching is one of the most effective ways to learn or to see things differently. You get to compare your experiences with those of your mentee to discover how you can optimize performance.

In a recent National Mentoring Day survey, 67% of businesses reported an increase in productivity directly attributable to mentorship.

TAKE A NEW CHALLENGE AT WORK

It is tempting to fall into the repetitive humdrum of completing the same projects and finishing the same tasks at work every day. And that can work for a while. After all, you might ask, why should I do more than I’m expected to? 

However, employers and H.R managers say that enterprise and initiative are two traits they consider before promoting an employee or branding them as indispensable. In other words, if you want to get ahead, you need to keep challenging yourself. If you do, you’ll stand out in all the right ways. One thing managers can spot from a mile away is effort.

Statistically, companies with an engaged workforce are about 21% more profitable than those with high employee dissatisfaction rates. In essence, your willingness to give your best at work could favor your company’s bottom line. And that will only make you even more indispensable. 

Things like volunteering for more projects and offering to support new employee onboarding can pave the way for expedited career development.

NETWORK & COLLABORATE WITH OTHER DEPARTMENTS

Many people shelve their networking skills the moment they land a job. Networking should never stop. For a professional, it should continue until retirement.

Even if you’re not looking to change jobs, you can network with employees from other departments in your workplace. Networking with coworkers can serve a variety of purposes. First, it can help liven things up for you in the workplace. Roughly one in three working professionals cite boredom as the main reason why they would leave a job. Lethargy and lack of motivation are two of the key barriers to career development. Second, it allows you to grow your friend circle. Most importantly, though, networking in the workplace can be a shortcut towards gaining hands-on experience with a new skill.

At-work networks are some of the longest-lasting and most powerful professional relationships you can make. Networking should also lead to collaboration, and collaboration is one of the surefire ways to diversify your skillset.

By working closely with someone with different areas of expertise, you can work your way towards establishing a solid footing outside of your comfort zone. You should also explore networking outside the workplace. For example, online networking can help you develop in your professional career.

TAKE MAXIMUM BENEFIT FROM THE LEARNING FACILITIES AT YOUR WORKPLACE

Many offices and workplaces now offer employees a range of learning and personal development facilities. From company-wide mentorship programs to libraries, sponsored courses, and more, companies invest more than ever in their employees’ intellectual growth and professional development. 

Professionals are like tools that need to be repeatedly sharpened. And where better to do it than the workplace? Employees already spend more than a third of their lives at work, and therefore, placing learning amenities within reach at work is the smartest way to go. 

If you work for a company where you have access to learning facilities, endeavor to make the most of them. This will help you broaden your skills, enhance existing ones, and feel more challenged and satisfied at work. The valuable knowledge and experience you’ll gain will serve as future career assets.

Future career assets – Source

If you need more structure, consider completing and working with a career development plan. You can lay out your goals clearly and concisely and figure out the best steps to take next.

SIGNUP FOR A FREELANCE PROJECT AS A LEAD

Aside from being a viable career path by itself, freelancing can also serve as a great side activity alongside a day job. You’ll be able to develop your skills and earn some extra money – win-win! 

Approximately 34% of the United States’ working population will explore freelance work as part of their career development plan within the next five years. That number is sure to rise amid increased freelancer demand during and following the pandemic. 

Freelancing opportunities can pay handsomely. Freelancers can earn tens of thousands of dollars each year from their projects – or more! However, the earning potential shouldn’t be the main focus. Instead, you should hone in on the vast array of experience you can acquire by working for clients from all over the world. These people and organizations will probably have different standards, procedures, and expectations to the ones you’re used to. 

An increased capacity to handle varying professional scenarios and improved technical and soft skills, as a result of succeeding at these freelance projects, should positively impact your career.

It has never been easier to juggle freelance projects with full-time work. Platforms like Upwork allow you the flexibility to choose the tasks you want to work on, set your desired rates, pitch to potential clients and choose how many hours per week you plan on devoting to each project. 

Pro tip: invest in time clock software that will allow you to clock in, track your time, and invoice your clients for hours spent.

From a career development perspective, freelancing’s main draw is that it allows you to acquire new skills. Statistically, around 61% of freelancers specialize in two or three different skills. If you are willing to take constructive criticism and improve with each new project, you can easily translate the new skills from your side gigs to your day job.

Aside from teaching you multiple new skills, freelancing can also improve your time management and multitasking abilities. 70% of freelance workers report juggling two to four projects at a time. Proper time management is essential to building a high-growth career in any field.

JOIN WEBINARS & ONLINE CLASSES

Whether provided by your workplace or not, webinars and other career-oriented conferences and meetings are great ways to pick up new career skills. 

Webinars and online classes are usually hosted by individuals who have spent years building their skills to acquire a reputation in their chosen field. Whenever one of these individuals chooses to transfer their knowledge, it is wise to sign up and attend. Even better, webinars and online courses are often free or far more affordable than physical events. 

Many of the most in-demand skills and aptitudes can now be acquired or improved via online courses. Certified, reputable e-learning platforms like Udacity and Udemy offer world-class, practical-intensive courses that you can take advantage of. Certified professionals often teach these courses, most of whom have spent years in their chosen fields. 

After signing up, you get to benefit from video and textual resources, one-on-one tutoring, group learning sessions, and evaluatory tests. Best of all, upon completion, these courses come with certificates that are valued worldwide. In other words, you not only get to improve your skills, but you’ll receive proof that you have done so. That can give your career development efforts a boost. 

Think of attending webinars and online courses as a bit like mentorship from someone you don’t know personally. You can follow experienced individuals who possess the skills you want to acquire, attend their webinars and online classes, and benefit from the wealth of knowledge offered in their resources and materials. If you prefer a more informal environment, some of these people post Youtube videos and podcasts.

Not sure where to start? Go to a platform like Eventbrite, type in the name of your field or the skill you’d like to learn, and filter for online events. 

VOLUNTEER FOR NEW PROJECTS AS LEAD AT THE WORKPLACE

The attribute of self-initiative is one whose importance cannot be overstated. A person who shows initiative is someone self-motivated and driven to succeed without outside input or motivation. 

Volunteering is one of the key cornerstones of showing initiative. At work, you should always endeavor to go above and beyond what is expected of you. One of the ways to do this is to sign on to lead or participate in new projects.

A corporate workplace can be extremely competitive and, therefore, one of the best ways to stand out is by heading projects and excelling. If you can take on a new challenge and execute it splendidly, the higher-ups will notice and be inclined to trust you with similar projects in the future.

The continuous accumulation of trust and goodwill will undoubtedly propel your career with the company to new heights. You’ll also gain valuable experience and skills that you can put on your resume at a later date. 

Approach colleagues at your workplace that have led the type of project you’d like to work on. Ask if you can go for coffee with them and pick their brains on how best to go about it. What qualifications and experience did they need? What did they learn? Do they have any advice or words of wisdom for you? Then, once you feel ready, start volunteering for projects. 

If a new client is coming on board, volunteer to handle that account. If a new contract has just been closed, sign up to take point. And so on. The key is to keep your eyes open for opportunities and seize them when they appear. 

You can always learn new skills, but attributes like leadership, patience, and self-motivation can only be developed through consistent, purposeful action. Volunteering and putting yourself forward is how you develop them. 

BOTTOM LINE

Learning should never stop. Even if you are at a place in your career where you’re happy and satisfied, you must keep broadening your mental scope, developing your skills, and acquiring new ones. If you don’t, you’re likely to stagnate, become bored, or fall behind at work. 

Through upskilling and continual learning, you can acquire new skills and aptitudes to serve you well in the future. It can feel as though an eight-hour workday eats up most of the day’s productive hours. However, the workplace is one of the best places to find new development opportunities and take advantage of them. 

You might choose to watch videos or read instructional resources. If you prefer hands-on learning, collaborate with your colleagues at work, or pick an employee at your workplace that is more advanced than you are and ask if you can learn under their wing as a mentee. 

The trick is to choose the learning style that works for you and prioritize your development by making time and space in your day for it. If you do, you’re sure to impress your boss and reach your next career goal. 

About Author

Owen Jones is the Senior Content Marketer at ZoomShift, an online schedule maker app. He is an experienced SaaS marketer, specializing in content marketing, CRO, and FB advertising.

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