For many of us, attaining a certain job or pay grade has been the one professional goal we have sought for years. However, sometimes when you do attain your goal, you find that it was perhaps not as satisfying as you thought it would be, or you want another challenge to propel you forward.
This is where upskilling comes in. Regardless of your sector, profession, or seniority, there are always new and different ways to upskill in your role. Below are some of the best ways to upskill, regardless of your profession, and how you can jump into improving your CV today.
Sometimes it feels like a victory to just make it through the work week, so you may be wondering what the purpose of upskilling is. One of the primary motivations most people will have for upskilling is monetary. If you have more skills to offer, you are more likely to be sought after by employers and offered a higher salary.
The global economy currently looks poised to tip into a recession, and we are about to enter the colder months of the year in the midst of an ongoing energy crisis, housing crisis, and climate crisis. Job stability is something that many of us want right now in this period of deep uncertainty, and honing your skills – or developing new ones relevant to your profession – is one way to increase your hireability.
Another reason why many people choose to upskill is that they enjoy a challenge and want to push themselves to see what they are capable of. Oftentimes, the daily grind of work and home life can become redundant, and we feel that we are acting in a rote manner. Taking the time to push yourself intellectually and gain new skills and accomplishments is one powerful way of motivating yourself and setting new goals. It also feels very satisfying and rewarding to set a goal, work towards it and then ultimately accomplish it.
Finally, if you have a particular career path in mind and you are not quite there yet or struggling to see the way forward, then upskilling is one way to give yourself a boost towards that goal. For some careers, it can be very difficult to determine the right path forward and to get your foot in the door. Taking the time to meet your goals and move forward in your professional development is one concrete way of moving towards your ultimate career goals.
If you are looking to change up your professional life, it can be tempting to throw yourself into a new course or jump at the chance to join a project team at work. While throwing yourself into things can sometimes work out, it can also lead to burnout. Burnout is what happens when you push yourself too hard and stretch yourself too far. Rather than having the intended effect of getting you ahead in your career, jumping into every project you see may have the opposite effect and could actually slow you down considerably.
Instead of stretching yourself too thin, you should try to plan your upskilling thoughtfully. What this means is that you first need to develop concrete career goals and decide where you would like your career to go. These goals are meant to shape and guide your upskilling decisions. They are not immutable, meaning you can change them as you gain more experience and exposure to your chosen career path.
Once you have decided on your career goals, you will have a better sense of what to invest your time in and what to avoid. If you want to pursue further education or learn a particular skill, you can choose the right course with care and consideration. You can also pass up on opportunities in your office or workplace that would not align to your interests or goals and would instead just add more to your plate.
By taking the time to thoughtfully consider what you are really interested in, you will essentially be able to save yourself time, energy, and burnout. Even if it takes a few months – or even years – to decide on your career goals, it will be worth it in the long run.
Further education – now more accessible than ever before
One of the best ways to upskill in a particular profession is through further education. Undertaking a post-graduate degree, gaining a new certification, or even just taking courses in your area of expertise are excellent ways to advance your career prospects while also learning something new. Going back to school is always a difficult decision and one that is made with careful consideration because it is challenging, expensive, and disruptive to your lifestyle.
That being said, the rise of online education has now made going back to school easier than ever for working professionals and individuals with family commitments. In years past, online education was not taken as seriously as traditional, in-person education taught in classroom settings. However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced all education to undergo a digital transition.
The successful transition of all education from kindergarten to the doctorate level proved to the world that online education delivered remotely is every bit as useful, informative, and comprehensive as in-person schooling. There are thousands of different online courses for students to choose from, and there are even more courses that are hybrid. Hybrid courses are programs that require some in-class time along with remote learning.
One of the primary benefits of online education becoming mainstream is that courses and degrees are much more accessible now than they were in the past. Previously, working professionals had to take weekend or night courses to obtain another degree, or even take time off work.
These days, it is much easier to pursue a course through online education because remote learning allows students to learn at their own pace and in their own way. Instead of following a strict schedule for classes, you can take courses when and where it is most convenient for you.
Regardless of your profession, there will always be ways to learn more and upskill through education. This is because there is generally so much to learn, and most fields are now changing rapidly because the pace of technological development is so fast. Learning new skills and gaining certificates or degrees related to your profession signals to both your employer and other employers how dedicated you are to your work and highlights your intelligence, work ethic, and diligence.
Learn a new language
One way to boost your CV and job prospects is to learn a language. Regardless of the profession you are in or where you live, it is always beneficial to learn a new language. Depending on your field, you may want to learn a commonly spoken language such as Spanish, French, or German, or you may want to seek out a more specialized language such as one of the Nordic languages.
Not only will speaking a new language open you up to different career prospects but it will also enhance your life by giving you a sense of a new culture. You will be able to enjoy all of the perks that come with speaking a different language, including access to much more cultural output, ease during travel, and new ways of expressing yourself.
While learning a new language takes time, there are now many different free or low-cost ways to learn. Apps such as Duolingo can help with the basics, and conversational courses or meetups will help to fill in the gaps.
Find a mentor
While having a mentor is not necessarily a way to upskill in and of itself, it can be incredibly beneficial to have a mentor during the upskilling process. A good mentor will be able to connect you with helpful organizations, resources, and networks and suggest new steps you can take to make your skillset stand out in a competitive marketplace.
Finding a mentor will be easier in some professions than others. Depending on the profession you are in, there may be local or regional mentor networks or networking events where you could connect with potential mentors. Many large organizations and corporations also allow for casual mentorship relationships to develop, and you may be able to connect with more senior professionals at your workplace who would be interested in helping you and providing career guidance.
Keep up with the tech
One of the easier ways to upskill is to stay up to date with the latest technology in your field and general tech applications. How often have you seen the jokes about older generations not understanding email, much less Office Suite?
Staying up to date with technology does not necessarily mean that you need to master every relevant piece of software, but having a general awareness of how things work and the tech changes in your field can come in handy when polishing your CV and interviewing for new roles.
Case study: nursing
In order to become a Registered Nurse, or RN, you must first complete a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) and pass board exams. Many nurses complete licensing requirements, begin working and spend their career as RNs. There is always demand for RNs, and nurses are able to specialize in particular fields through work experience.
However, there are also a number of ways in which RNs can upskill in order to advance their career. In the nursing profession, advancing your career means better job prospects, more responsibility, and higher salaries.
Learning on the job
One way for nurses to take their career to the next level is through job experience. RNs who want to learn a particular specialty or advance into leadership positions should take advantage of every on-the-job learning opportunity that is presented to them. Some of these opportunities will include taking on projects or additional roles, training new nurses, and shadowing more senior nurses.
Nurses may also want to look for mentors in their hospital who could give advice on career development and help them to progress on to the next stage in their career. This is especially valuable for nurses who are interested in a particular specialty or who want to take on leadership roles in their clinic.
Join a labor movement
Another progression tactic for nurses is to join a nurses’ union and get involved in collective labor efforts. There are nursing unions in nearly every country and even some regional unions as well. Joining a union and getting involved in labor movements gives nurses the opportunity to take on leadership positions in an environment and context that they otherwise may not have access to.
Not everyone wants to join a union, as some people avoid unions out of concerns over extended strikes, not wanting to pay union dues, or a feeling that unions prioritize nurses above patients. That being said, tens of thousands of nurses choose to join national and regional unions because unions advocate for better pay, investigate grievances and ensure due process of disciplinary measures, guarantee safe working conditions and provide standards for the hiring, promotion, and firing of nurses that are fair and consistent.
More nurses than ever before are becoming interested in collective labor movements after the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, working conditions for most nurses were incredibly difficult and as more and more nurses quit, the nurses who stayed started working extremely long hours. Strong labor movements help to protect workers, including healthcare professionals, from unfair working arrangements. And, as any nurse knows, it is impossible to provide a high level of care for patients if you are yourself burnt out.
Going back to school
Another option for nurses to advance their careers is returning to education. Going back to school can be a daunting prospect but, as we have already established, online education has made education much more accessible. There is a wide range of different certificates, post-graduate degrees, and specializations that nurses can obtain through education, which will open them up to other jobs and higher salaries.
One example of such a degree is the online Doctor of Nursing Practice program offered at Marymount University. This fully online program allows nurses with a Master’s of Science in Nursing to gain a Doctor of Nursing Practice, or DNP. The DNP degree equips nurses with the newest information about effective nurse leadership and trains students on how to advocate for healthcare policy change.
The DNP is ideal for nurses who want to make a change at the legislative level, guide public health decisions, and take on leadership roles in the nursing profession. There is also currently a great demand for highly trained nursing professionals such as nurses with DNP degrees.
The demand for highly trained nurses is partially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic hit the healthcare sector extremely hard and resulted in thousands of nurses leaving their roles. The pandemic also exposed just how unprepared we were for a comprehensive health crisis and how little trust there is in public health measures.
In order to better prepare the population for future pandemics and improve trust in public health, highly trained professionals, such as DNP nurses, will need to take leadership roles and make change happen. This is certainly an exciting time for the nursing profession, and there are a huge number of career opportunities right now.
Take care of yourself
When thinking about how to upskill and get ahead in your profession, it can be easy to fall into the trap of “hustle culture,” which encourages people to work amazingly hard and sacrifice huge amounts of time and energy to succeed in their work. Again, this kind of behavior can lead to burnout, anxiety, and depression, and it also gives work and labor an extreme level of importance that it quite frankly should not have in anyone’s life.
When you are planning your career goals and how to upskill to get to where you want to be, make sure that you are also checking in with yourself to see how you are feeling and whether or not you need to take a break or change paths. Some people reach the pinnacle of their career only to realize that it did not actually provide the satisfaction they were looking for, and then they are faced with the fact that they spent decades of their life working extremely hard for an empty accomplishment.
Take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally and make time for yourself outside of upskilling and work. Try to remember that work is really just that – work – and that there is much, much more to your life than how you perform labor. In the long run, taking your time and having a full life, without “hustling” too much, will be worth it.