Having a career can be difficult, especially when you feel stuck with no upward mobility in your company. A great way to gain some movement is to increase the skills you have in your industry. You should never feel confident that what you learned in college will take you through your entire career. Your industry is likely going through changes all the time, especially if it's a growing industry. You don't want to get left behind. So, today we will talk about ten ways to improve your skills for work so you can get promotions and grow in your company.
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1. Get A Mentor At Work
One easy way to improve your skills for work is to get a mentor. Now, this relationship doesn't need to be set in stone. Don't go around asking a million seniors at your job “can you be my mentor?” Mentorship, unless you are going through a mentorship program at work, can be subtle. Have someone you look up to at work, ask for advice, and get to know on a deeper level.
Having a mentor at work will help you feel more connected to the culture at work. Also, mentors can be great at vouching for you when you are up for a promotion or sharing new opportunities with you when they arise.
Just get out of your comfort zone and connect with a few different people who are higher up in the company than you. Once you get to know a wide array of people, you will begin to see which people are open to a mentor/mentee relationship, and which people connect with you.
2. Read All The Books
Reading is such a fantastic way to get to know your industry. This past weekend, I bought a few human resources books so that I could know more about one of the sectors I write about. Reading is a great way to improve your skills at work because books are usually cheap and you can finish a chapter or so a day, take notes, and find ways to use what you've learned.
Buying a good book usually costs less than $20, depending on the length of the book, so every month you should make an investment in yourself and purchase a book. If books are bulky, get a Kindle or use the Kindle app on your tablet. I have a Kindle, but I mainly read Kindle books on my iPad through the Apple Kindle application.
Or Listen To The Audiobooks
If books aren't your speed, try listening to audiobooks. Audiobooks through services like Audible are easy to listen to, and they can make things like long commutes fun and informative. Audiobooks can be pretty pricey, but Audible has multiple plans to help make audiobooks more affordable for you.
Use Your Local Library
Local libraries often give you the ability to rent books, audiobooks, and videos for free using apps like Overdrive. This is usually free with the card you get from your local library. Check out your local library to see if they offer this service for you.
Share What You've Read
If you have a particularly exciting book in your industry that you have been loving, don't be afraid to share that with your boss or someone higher up in the company. You may be able to bond over a common book that you have both read, or you can introduce them to a new book in your industry. Bring it up casually if you are already in their office with a question or concern so that you can start a conversation about the book naturally. Maybe they want to read it, or they would be excited that you are taking the initiative to read it.
3. Learn A New Software
Many people who are higher up in companies, unless the company is started by a millennial, seem to be technology averse. Learning a new software is a great way to make yourself indispensable to your team. If you want to improve your skills for work, step up and promise to learn the new software that your team needs to learn. You may not even want to declare this, learn the software on your own, and then tell your boss about it later.
Technology is the way of the future. If you can find a new, improved, and easier way of doing something, you will be an important part of the team.
What are the frustration points at your job? Are your coworkers always complaining about how long it takes to do something? If so, consider ways that you can make it easier on them. What software can you learn that will help them do their jobs quicker? If you find that software, learn it, and present it to your boss. Come to them with information:
- How often had you heard complaints about doing this task?
- How much does this software cost?
- Why should the company switch to this method over doing it the old way?
- Will this save the company money? Time? Frustration?
Don't come to your boss with an idea, come with a more fully fleshed out plan. You don't have to have everything complete, but ideas aren't easy to execute.
4. Become A Podcast Queen
There are podcasts for EVERYTHING nowadays. Last week I shared some of my favorite podcasts for millennials, but those are not industry specific. Go to your favorite podcast app, and search for the industry you are interested in learning about. Chances are, there are tons of podcasts for that very industry with hundreds of episodes that you can listen to.
Podcasts, like audiobooks, are great for the morning commute or when you are working out. If you want to improve your skills for work, get on the podcast train, and learn from people who have tons of experience in your industry.
5. Keep Up With News In Your Industry
Your industry is continually changing, and you need to make it your mission to keep up with news in your industry as it arises. You don't need to know every single thing, but having a few stories each day you can discuss with higherups in your department never hurt. Knowing what's happening in your industry will help you improve your skills for work, and today I am going to share a couple of my favorite ways to keep up with industry news.
Google Alerts is a website I have been using for a while. It scans various news outlets for instances of the words that you set alerts for. For example, in the picture below, this is my “human resources” alert. It doesn't always give me the best information; I don't care about the first story of someone who happens to be the director of human resources at Capitol. I might be interested in seeing these other stories though about the cost of employee turnover and how to job-hunt at work without your boss finding out.
You can set alerts for almost anything. I have alerts for phrases like:
- Influencer marketing
- Social media
- The Happy Arkansan
Keep up with terms that matter to you, and Google will send you a nice roll-up of information each day those terms are in the news.
The next tool I love to keep up with industry news is Feedly. Feedly is a website and app for your phone. It is like a grownup version of Bloglovin'. Feedly has a few plan options: a free version, Pro which is $7 per month, or Teams which is $18 per month per user.
This site is a distraction-free environment to get your news from various sources. You can create all these feeds for multiple industries you are interested in. Within those feeds, you can add all sorts of blogs and websites that you want to get information from. When those sites update, you get their latest content right in your inbox. How cool is that?
I like that you can add notes and highlights, share the content you find on social media, and even sort content by popularity, so you are reading the best information. It's such a cool tool, even if it is pricier than a Bloglovin' that's free to use.
6. Go to A Free Webinar
Webinars are EVERYWHERE nowadays, and you better believe there is one in your industry coming up soon. It seems like no matter where you go on the internet; a free webinar is close behind you. Take advantage of this free information, and learn from someone in your industry who can teach you something important.
Webinars only work, when you take them seriously, though. If you want to improve your skills for work, you need to be open to what you can learn. Turn off your phone, and take out a notebook so you can take notes while you are watching the webinar.
7. Take An Online Course
Another great way to improve your skills for work is to take an online course. Depending on your job, you may even get your place of employment to pay for your class.
Like webinars, there are so many competent creators making courses through sites like Teachable, Thinkific, and even LinkedIn. Taking those courses will help your employer, and they likely aren't super expensive, and they usually come with lifetime access to the class, unlike college courses.
Go Through Your Local College
If you want to make things a bit more official, go through your local college. Your job may even offer scholarships for those who wish to advance their career through education.
If you can, try to avoid going into a ton of debt to pay for these courses. You want to get your employer on board quickly because ain't nobody got time to take out a student loan if they can help it. So many jobs offer scholarships and education assistance nowadays, you'd be a fool not to see what your employer has to offer you before you take a million courses.
The thing about going through your employer, though, is that you will likely have to prove how the course benefits them. No one wants to pay for your class if it just benefits you. Courses are expensive, so get to know how it will help them before you ask them to sponsor your college course.
8. Go On Coffee Dates With People In Your Company
One of the best ways to improve your skills for work is to learn more about what other people in your company are doing. If your company uses Slack, I encourage you to bring up the application Donut, which helps pair you with people from across the company so you can go on Donut Dates. Donut Dates are in-person or online dates with other people in your company. You can get a new Donut Date every 1-4 weeks, and in that time, you can go on a coffee date or do any number of fun activities with your partner. It's a great way to get to know someone from a new department in your company.
If Donut is not an option for your company, ask people across your company out to coffee. Has someone caught your eye in a meeting or you are just interested in how another part of your company operates? Let someone know! You don't have to have a huge reason to invite someone to your favorite local coffee shop.
9. Attend A Conference In Your Niche
Conferences are a fantastic way to improve your skills for work. You learn SO much in so little time, and you can connect with a ton of people in your niche. Bring a lot of business cards, your best outfits, and a smile. Connect, go to as many classes as possible, and bring a notebook or tablet to take notes.
It only takes a few moments of searching to find some conferences in your niche. Try to look for local conferences first, as you have a better chance of getting funding for those. If you can't find anything locally, look regionally, and then local nationally. I am confident you will be able to find something in your niche (or a close enough niche) that you can convince your boss you need to attend.
Like a college course, you have to be clear. What can you do with the information you will learn at this conference? How does your attendance help the company?
10. Join Facebook & LinkedIn Groups
Last, but not least, another great way to improve your skills for work is by joining Facebook and LinkedIn groups. Facebook and LinkedIn have a ton of groups filled with professionals in your niche. You can use those groups to learn from other people, get feedback, and improve your skills.
You are no longer confined to learning from people in your immediate vicinity. Use the online resources you have to reach out to new and exciting people who will take your skills to the next level.
Conclusion: You Are Ready To Improve Your Skills For Work
Likely, you won't be able to use all of these ideas. Maybe, you'll only be able to use one or two of them. I hope that I have given you enough ideas, so you have something to gravitate towards as you try to update your work skills. I am confident in your ability to learn and grow at work.
Which of these ideas will you use to improve your skills for work?
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