The importance of upskilling: Developing new skills for a successful career switch | Welcome to the Jungle (2024)

Building your skill set is perhaps the most important part of kickstarting your career. Most workers spend years studying a specific subject at university, training for specific roles and duties, and learning the unique competencies needed for their dream job. However, the learning doesn’t stop at any point in your career. While you may no longer be in the classroom or doing an internship, learning new skills can help you keep up with industry trends, keep your skill set competitive, and ensure that you are continuously growing no matter what stage you are at.

Upskilling is an essential part of every career path but is especially useful for workers seeking to make a career switch. Whether you’re in your first real job, or at the senior level, there is always room to challenge yourself and learn new ways to apply your unique talents at work. So, how can upskilling help you make a successful career change?

What is upskilling?

Upskilling looks different for everyone and can sound like a corporate buzzword if you don’t understand it. In fact, upskilling simply means advancing your existing skill set or learning new skills. What this means in practice is different for every worker, as everyone has their own unique abilities and goals. Upskilling can be as simple as learning a new tool on software you use every day, or starting from scratch while preparing to change industries.

Why is it important?

In today’s evolving job market, having the right skill set is crucial. In fact, many experts warn that we are on the verge of a “skills shortage” in which the demand for skilled workers exceeds the number of qualified job hunters in many industries, with 68% of midsized companies reporting that difficulty recruiting workers with the right skill set was the most serious problem their company was facing. So, if you’re attempting to make a career change, upskilling can be one of the most effective ways of successfully shifting industries and finding your dream job. Even though companies may not have an enormous pool of skilled candidates to choose from, it doesn’t mean that recruiters will settle for less when it comes to finding a worker with the skills they’re looking for.

Where should you start?

Making the decision to upskill can be intimidating, especially if you are doing it to make a career change to a completely new industry. However, you’re not alone in your goals or your hesitation, because although over half of Americans are currently considering making a career change, 69% of them feel that they lack the necessary skills to make the switch successfully. Education can also be a looming hurdle when you’re thinking about ways to upskill, as 50% of Americans report degree requirements as the main barrier to career change or advancement. Still, no matter your situation, nothing should hold you back from starting your upskilling journey.

So, what steps should you take to start building your new skill set?

1. Examine your skill set

The first thing to do once you decide upskilling is the tool you need to make a successful career change is to assess the skills you currently possess. Whether you’re jumping into a completely different industry, or simply changing roles within a similar field, you likely already have some of the skills required for your new dream job. With that in mind, you’ll need to identify what are known as transferable skills, or skills that can be used in a variety of different roles. Alongside the universal skills you’ve honed on your current career path like communication, project management, etc., you probably already have at least one or two of the more specialized skills required for your new career. You’re off to a good start!

2. Identify your growth areas

Once you’ve thoroughly researched your new career and identified the required skills that you already have, it’s time to look at your growth areas or skills you may be lacking at the moment. When you have an understanding of the most important areas you need to upskill, it’s time to find the best way to do so. Start by reaching out to your current network, and connecting with any contacts that have the skills you’re going to need. Ask them what advice they would give for developing a particular skill, and be sure to get diverse feedback, as everyone learns differently.

3. Understand your learning style

That brings us to the next, and possibly most important step in upskilling: reflecting on your learning style. It may be years since you’ve been in a position where you were studying or training for something completely new to you, and it may take a while to find out what works best for you when it comes to different ways of learning. There are so many methods of upskilling to try, so it’s important to know yourself and choose the best method for your development. For instance, some people do best in a classroom setting and would benefit from going back to school and learning in a traditional environment, while others may not be cut out for that style of knowledge acquisition.

Luckily, there are many alternatives to traditional education today. If you need a personalized touch, you can look into hiring a career coach or a tutor who can help you create a personalized plan to learn specific skills and set benchmarks that work best for you and your unique career path. You can also benefit from online courses in nearly anything you can imagine. Platforms like Coursera and Udemy can be great tools to start your upskilling journey. With thousands of different courses to choose from, you can tailor the level of study, time commitment, and budget to your situation.

If you desire a more hands-on approach to learning, there are still plenty of opportunities for you to learn on the job. Internships are one way you can learn new skills in a real working environment, and although they are traditionally reserved for students, more and more companies are opening their programs to workers with a non-traditional educational route, or those looking to make a career change. If you’re ready to feel 21 again and pay your dues, a short internship or work experience program can not only teach you valuable skills for your new career but also give you a glimpse into what the reality of daily life in the industry is like.

Following through

Once you’ve taken the necessary steps to make a plan for upskilling, all that’s left is to commit to the goals you set for your professional development. Setting deadlines for completing your courses and keeping track of your experiences can be a helpful way to monitor your progress, and prove that you’ve been learning the skills you need for a successful career switch.

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The importance of upskilling: Developing new skills for a successful career switch | Welcome to the Jungle (2024)

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