Anyone who has been in the throes of the job hunt or in the midst of opening a new business will quickly find out how important some core skills are to achieving success. And while what those skills are may vary by industry, not having them can often lead to frustrating dead ends at best or, at worst, career ending mistakes or deficiencies.
The problem is, while we may be tuned into the importance of updating our skill set when it’s a present demand, many of us are so taxed in our current professional and personal lives that we neglect maintaining and advancing our skills and knowledge base once we’re comfortable, unintentional though it may be.
A decade ago, brushing up on coveted business skills on the side would require a significant amount of legwork, but lucky for us, that’s no longer the case. Here are five ways you can brush up or advance your skills without adding an unbearable amount of work to your already hectic schedule.
1. Take an Online Class
WHAT? I know — I just told you that you weren’t going to be adding a significant amount of work to your already hectic day, and I stand by that. Today, several universities have taken an open source approach to education, and that means online learning that is widely available and often self driven.
An excellent example of this is edX.org. With robust course offerings that span a significant amount of industries and disciplines, many of which are offered free, you can find a class that suites your needs and learn and engage on your own terms.
2. Consider Professional Networks
The great things about professional networks is that you can surround yourself with peers immersed in the same industry as you. Engagement in a network can help you stay abreast of the most recent developments in your industry, including skills that will be or are uniquely valuable.
Access to platforms like LinkedIn can put you into contact with not only professionals but organizations that are important in your industry. Often time, these network connects are how professionals are alerted to upcoming seminars, webinars, or other skill boosting opportunities.
The best part is that involvement can be as vigorous or laid back (think spectator sport) as you prefer, meaning scrolling through on your lunch break once or twice a week is totally acceptable.
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3. Tune Into Industry Outlets
While we’re on the topic of lunch break scrolling, another excellent way to boost your skills without committing to schedules it to follow the top blogs, journals, and, podcasts in your industry. Be it on their social media platforms or via a good ol’ RSS feed, staying tuned in to industry specific outlets will help you expand your knowledge and stay current with any new or shifting trends. It can also help you connect with your peers.
In addition to your industry specific outlets, it’s also great to check out those that may be outside your industry but are relevant to the skills you’d like to develop. For example, those looking to expand their search engine marketing skills may find Moz.com’s blog to be quite useful, while if you’re looking to brush up on grammar and improve your writing, following the Grammar Girl on QuickAndDirtyTips.com may be just want you need.
The best part? Many outlets offer both blogs and podcasts, meaning you can tailor your learning to fit your life style.
4. Research Your Local & State Resources
Many cities, counties, and states offer residents opportunities to advance their skills with programs designed specifically for professional growth. Some of these programs are government run, while others may be offered by community and state colleges. Often times, programs are free or offered at a discounted cost to adult professionals who are looking to gain skills but aren’t necessarily looking for credits.
5. Ask Your Employer
A well versed employee is a valuable one, and many companies recognize that there is a significant value in offer educational or development opportunities to their employees. For this reason, many companies have skill boosting resources internally or work closely with outside resources to help employees grow.
Aside from potentially tapping into a great resource specifically designed to help you advance skills directly relevant to your current position, it can’t hurt to let your boss know that you’re open to professional development.
Today, the professional pool is highly competitive and often spans the nation, if not the globe. As a professional, resting on your laurels may feel nice, but you may find that over time, that can have detrimental consequences to your career. Thanks to the growing collection of resources, both online and location based, the opportunity to refresh or expand your business skills is often only a click, an email, or a conversation away.
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