by Deanna Parkton
Regardless of what industry you started your career in or which one you are currently working in, you can continue to build skills that will serve you no matter the type of roles you pursue in the future. Often, we can feel restricted by our industry and may feel boxed into the career we chose at the start. In our last blog post The Culture Change of Choosing a Career, we discussed the way that the current world of work is changing – opening up opportunities for all of us to explore different pathways.
When thinking about ways to continue differentiating yourself, think about yourself as a skills-based professional rather than an industry-based professional. This is a strategic and beneficial way to move through your career. Not only will you avoid being limited to your original career path, but you will naturally open up new doors to opportunity. For example, the data-minded teacher who uses advanced Excel or data visualization can open up their future career options into data analytics. The warehouse manager who specializes in project management from an operations and logistics standpoint might transition into a project manager role in a brand new industry.
In order to do this, think about your exploration as a step-by-step process. By breaking things down into smaller steps, it can feel a lot more manageable.
Research in-demand skills
(either in your desired future industry or versatile skills that work across industries)
Forbes highlighted top skills from the book Future Skills: The 20 Skills and Competencies Everyone Needs to Succeed in a Digital World, listing digital literacy and data literacy as the top two in-demand skills.
LinkedIn highlighted skills such as project management and research as in-demand soft skills. The article also highlights in-demand hard skills such as various technologies and types of software platforms (i.e. CRM – customer relationship management software).
Reflect on your current skills
Identify what skills you currently use in your role. These can be skills that are already a part of your job description, or skills that you have implemented out of necessity or as part of your natural abilities. If you are the “go-to” person for all things tech-related, be sure to give yourself credit for this ability. Maybe you saw a need for new processes to be created and you took the initiative to do so. Thinking of yourself as a process-oriented individual who strives for efficiency and transparency will help you see all of the additional value that you bring to your role.
Identify skills you would like to develop
Based on your research and what you already have to offer, you can identify either new skills or skills that you want to further hone. There are so many online options to learn and expand skills. LinkedIn Learning has courses on a wide-range of topics including soft skills like leadership and communication as well as countless technologies and software platforms. Other online sites such as edX, Coursera and Udacity include similar opportunities to learn – often boasting both free and paid courses.
Identify opportunities to use your skills
A great option to use your skills is within your current role (if possible). Not only are your skills then connected to a tangible professional experience, but you can gain visibility at your current company. This often takes the form of either a special project within your team, or even collaborating with a team that specializes in your desired skill. Let’s say that you work on a customer-facing team and after each customer interaction, a survey is sent to the customer regarding their experience. Your goal is to gain skills related to data analytics. Using the survey data, you may collaborate with the data analytics team on a visualization tool that would help your team improve their work, allowing them to view and understand the survey results easily and in real time. The data team needs your expertise to be able to translate the data into actionable items for your current team; and your current team needs to make sure that the data team understands how the data can be useful. It’s a win-win for both groups to reach their goals.
Other ways that you can use your skills is by volunteering your skills with non-profit organizations, or offering your services on a freelance basis. Sites like idealist.org or upwork.com can help you find projects to utilize your skills.
Promoting your skills
Whether you decide to job search, explore opportunities internally or look for projects within your current role, being able to articulate your value is a crucial part of the process. If you are looking to collaborate with others on a special project where you can flex your skills, discussing what you have to offer will help get your manager and other team leads on board.
The Muse highlights the importance of not only being results driven, but quantifying your results to market yourself as someone who gets things done. Even if you are a newbie to a new skill or project, if you have proven yourself as someone who takes initiative and follows through on a project, most leaders will be happy to have someone like you involved.
Even if you are happy in your current role and have no plans to explore other opportunities, continuing to think about and utilize your skills in a meaningful way will help you continue to grow as a professional. You never know where your new skill sets can take you, but ultimately recognizing the value that you hold as a professional is priceless.
For more ideas on how you can strategize your work, consider working with a career coach. A coach can help you identify strategies to face challenges head on. Check out our executive coaching services and sign up for a free consultation here.
Deanna Parkton is a writer, career coach and educator with a passion for professional development and work wellness and happiness. With a focus on self-reflection, she works with individuals in their quest to reach their career goals as well as satisfaction in work-life balance. You can find more of her writing at workinglivingwell.com and she can be reached at email@example.com.