Why upskilling yourself is the path to a future-proof career

July 21, 2021 - 16 min read

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Upskill meaning: What is the upskilling definition?

4 upskilling techniques you can use right now

Benefits of upskilling for your career

Upskilling vs reskilling

How to upskill in 6 steps

Where can you apply upskilling?

Start upskilling to master your career path

The world is changing quickly, and with it, the future of work.

Even if you’re highly trained and educated, your industry will keep changing and require constant adaptation.

Upskilling yourself is the solution to this problem. You can evolve your skills to keep up with the changes in your industry and further your career.

Let’s explore what upskilling means and how you can apply it to your own career.

Upskill meaning: What is the upskilling definition?

Upskilling is the process of learning new skills that your organization needs to succeed now and in the future. By teaching yourself these missing skills (or taking a class), it closes the gap between what employees can do and what the organization needs them to do.

Upskilling can help an organization remain competitive in a quickly changing environment.

This skill gap is caused both by an aging workforce and rapid developments in technology.

4 upskilling techniques you can use right now

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If you want to start upskilling and become a better asset for your company, here are some techniques you can use.

1. Virtual courses and online learning

Gone are the days when you needed to show up in a classroom to learn something new.

Nowadays, you can access virtual courses to upskill your qualifications. This means that you can work on learning something new whenever you have time.

Several virtual course platforms are available online, including:

  • LinkedIn Learning
  • Skillshare
  • Open learning from MIT
  • Khan Academy
  • HubSpot Academy

You can work on these virtual courses at your own pace. So even if your career is demanding, you can still find the time to upskill.

2. Microlearning

Microlearning is exactly what it sounds like — short bursts of learning content.

These bite-sized trainings are better for the retention of materials.

Research shows that spaced-out learning in short bursts is better for long-term memory.

3. Mentoring

Mentoring involves learning from someone who is more experienced than you or who sits above you on the career ladder. You can watch them work, allow them to teach you directly, or have discussions about the skills you want to work on.

Keep in mind that your mentor doesn’t necessarily have to be above you in paygrade.

It all depends on what you want to upskill.

For example, if you want to improve your digital skills, someone straight out of college or a training program you may be more skilled than you in that regard.

4. Coaching

Unlike mentors, coaches receive special training to guide you towards achieving your goals.

Coaching can be a highly effective way to close your skill gap and realize your potential. It’s more tailored to you or your group than virtual courses.

You can establish long-term goals and work towards them little by little.

Benefits of upskilling for your career

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Upskilling can move your career forward in several ways. Here’s how:

1. Get a raise

When you start upskilling yourself, you become more valuable to your employer.

64% of learning and development professionals agree that workplace learning and development shifted from a “nice to have” to a “need to have” in 2021.

Upskilling and reskilling are the top priorities for these professionals, and have had a 15% increase in priority since June 2020. So working on those skills is one of the best ways to increase your value.

2. Make your work life more satisfying

If you feel stuck in one place at work, upskilling can help you overcome this.

Learning something new is one of the best ways to adopt a fresh perspective. Plus, your new skill sets can make you more productive at your job.

This can make your job more pleasant and satisfying at the same time.

3. Discover a new passion

As you learn, you may discover a new passion. This can lead to new career opportunities down the road.

You can even make a career change if you discover your new passion is what makes you happy.

4. Develop personally

Finally, upskilling is great for your personal development.

You can keep improving yourself by constantly learning new things. This can also help you achieve personal fulfillment.

Continuing to learn may even decrease your chances of developing dementia, according to studies.

Upskilling vs. reskilling

Upskilling and reskilling share some similarities, but they each have their own purpose.

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Reskilling trains people with adjacent skills; upskilling closes skill gaps

If a company needs a specific skill, it will find people with adjacent skills within its workforce to reskill them for what the company needs.

On the other hand, upskilling teaches new and advanced skills to close a skill gap.

Both teach new skills, but upskilling focuses on the current career path. Reskilling teaches skills that go in a different direction.

Reskilling prepares for a different job; upskilling can be for the same job

Upskilling’s goal is to make employees better at their current position. On the other hand, reskilling trains employees to do another job in the same company.

You can still obtain another position by upskilling, especially a promotion. But that’s not its main goal.

How to upskill in 6 steps

Let’s explore a step-by-step process for you to upskill yourself and improve your career path.

1. Start with goal-setting

Before you start learning anything, you need to take a step back and identify your goals.

Do you have a specific career path you want to take? Are you aiming for a promotion opportunity? Is there a specific task you want to be able to achieve on your own that requires certain skills?

Knowing what your goals are will help you go in the right learning direction.

This can be anything. Perhaps you want to go from entry-level to a manager-level position. Or maybe you have the long-term goal of entering the C-suite.

2. Identify your knowledge gaps

Now that you know your goals, what is stopping you from achieving them?

These will be your knowledge gaps.

You can find out what knowledge gaps you have by consulting with people who have already achieved what you want. Ask them what skills got them to where they are.

Alternatively, you can look at job postings for the position you’re aiming for. Check out what skills the recruiters require to consider someone for the job. Compare this to your existing skills.

3. Establish an upskilling strategy for learning

With your knowledge gaps clearly identified, you can start to create a learning strategy.

Look at various education and training opportunities that can fill in your gaps. Plan out a curriculum for yourself using these resources.

What will you learn first? What will follow? Where will you learn this skill?

Consider what budget you have before choosing your upskilling options. For example, you can try lower-budget options like free courses on Coursera or a monthly subscription to a learning platform like Skillshare.

But if you have the budget for it, consider adding coaching to your curriculum so that you can get one-on-one support.

You should also plan out how you will make time for learning. For example, you may decide to spend half an hour a day learning Python after work.

4. Start learning

It’s time to put your plan into action and learn a new skill. This will take time — you can’t rush learning.

Do your best to have fun throughout the process and cultivate curiosity.

5. Practice your skills

Learning should always culminate in practice.

Find opportunities to practice what you’ve learned in real situations. For example, if you’ve just learned Python, suggest a workflow that you can automate at work and develop something for that.

If you don’t feel confident enough to make a big move yet, practice on a personal project first.

6. Never stop learning

You’ll never be done upskilling. It requires continuous learning.

Even once you achieve your goals, you can always remain open to improving yourself and pursue lifelong learning. You can practice a beginner’s mind to stay open to these opportunities.

Stay aware of any other knowledge gaps that may pop up during your continued learning. Remain adaptable so that you can fill in those gaps as your industry evolves.

Where can you apply upskilling?

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There are four main areas you can upskill. Let’s break them down.

1. Digital upskilling

Digital upskilling is one of the most important applications of upskilling. As new technology appears in the workforce, so does a need for relevant skills.

As digital transformation changes every industry, it’s important to fill in knowledge gaps so you don’t fall too far behind.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, 1 in 3 American workers either had limited digital skills or none at all. This means there’s a large skill gap in the workforce.

Here are some digital skills you can work on:

2. Leadership

Developing leaders is crucial for organizations.

Leaders do well in management positions and can help bring out the best in a workforce. As a result, many organizations value leadership skills.

These include:

3. Soft skills

Soft skills are necessary skills to interact with others and stay productive at your job.

These are often more difficult to pinpoint than hard skills. They also take more time and commitment to develop.

Some examples of valuable soft skills include:

4. Analytics

Analytical skills involve anything relating to data science, statistics, research analysis, and other similar fields.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, occupations that require analytical skills are some of the fastest-growing occupations right now.

For example, statisticians are predicted to grow at a rate of 35% between 2019 and 2029.

Here are some analytic skills you should consider upskilling:

  • Problem-solving
  • Inductive and deductive reasoning
  • Research
  • Data science
  • Business analysis
  • Critical thinking

Start upskilling to master your career path

Upskilling yourself doesn’t just make you better at your job, it helps your personal development. Learn to be a continuous learner and you'll be better at life.

It keeps you relevant in a fast-changing digital world.

You can start upskilling to achieve your personal goals by trying coaching with BetterUp. Sign up for a demo to see how it can help you level up.

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Published July 21, 2021

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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