How To Develop Skills Using 13 Professional Strategies

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 11 October 2022 | Published 27 September 2021

Updated 11 October 2022

Published 27 September 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Part of advancing in your career and becoming more competent in your job is learning new skills. Gaining qualifications can help you meet the requirements for jobs and promotions or improve your ability to accomplish tasks in your current position. By learning how to develop skills, you can expand your opportunities and set a standard for lifelong learning throughout your career. In this article, we explain the benefit of learning new professional skills and share several strategies for developing new skills and enhancing the ones you already have.

Why is it important to develop new skills?

Developing professional skills is important because it gives you the ability to grow in your career and adapt to changes in your job. Whether you want to advance from an entry-level position to a leadership role in a single industry or transition from one career to another, the ability to research new abilities and develop competence in a new area helps you adjust to new challenges.

Here are some of the main benefits of investing in your professional skill development:

  • Maintaining relevant qualifications: As businesses expand and incorporate new innovations, you may learn new skills, such as how to operate equipment or apply new methodologies. Developing skills helps you remain relevant by learning the most modern techniques in your industry.

  • Staying flexible: Learning new skills can help you maintain an adaptable and creative mindset throughout your life, making it easier to process new information and acquire knowledge and skills in the future.

  • Expanding your opportunities: By developing your skills, you can add qualifications to your resume and access more opportunities in your career field or other industries. Each additional skill you learn can help you be successful in leadership roles and give you the ability to teach your skills to others.

Related: 10 Best Skills To Include on a CV

How to develop skills for your career

Here are several strategies you can use to learn new skills and grow the skills you already have:

1. Set goals for yourself

Setting specific goals to improve your career helps you stay on track with your development. Make sure your goals are measurable, achievable and relevant to your profession or your job. Choose one specific skill that you want to learn as your main ambition, then establish smaller objectives that you can achieve on your way to accomplishing that overall goal.

Then, consider organising a timeline to achieve your goal by setting the ideal deadlines that you want for each objective. When establishing these timelines, consider how much time you expect to spend practising before achieving success in each milestone.

Related: How To Create an Individual Development Plan (With Template)

2. Find a mentor

Seek out a mentor who's already an expert in the skill you want to develop so they can guide you and give you tips and advice as you learn. A professional mentor is typically a manager, supervisor or another experienced colleague who you respect and trust. Once you find your mentor, you can reach out for informal meetings, which can then naturally develop into a professional relationship.

3. Seek feedback about strengths and weaknesses

When working on your skills, you can ask managers, colleagues or even friends or family members about your strengths and areas for improvement. It's important to seek feedback from people who can give you honest critiques that you can apply to your success. Once you identify your weaknesses, you can focus on developing those skills. If you're unsure which skills you want to work on, ask others for advice on areas of improvement. If you already have a skill you want to study, you can seek specific feedback on what you can refine.

Related: 10 Examples of Positive Feedback (With Tips for Giving It)

4. Review job descriptions for positions you want

To help decide on the best skills to develop for your career goals, browse job descriptions for careers that interest you. These job descriptions can give you an idea of the transferable skills you have, including the job-specific skills you can improve or develop. Once you identify those skills, you can research shadowing or education programs that where you can gain the knowledge, abilities and certifications you need.

5. Enrol in a degree program

Getting a formal education is a great way to obtain more professional skills in a structured environment where you can gain immediate feedback from an expert. Employers often encourage candidates to further their education with a degree, and some offer tuition assistance or reimbursement to employees. You can consider looking for online programs or attending school part-time to accommodate your work schedule. If you're advancing your career with a program that's related to a previous degree, you may also find that many of your credits are transferable.

6. Take continuing education courses

You can also take continuing education courses such as workshops, seminars and online e-learning courses. These courses provide targeted educational content that to help enhance your professional knowledge in your field. You can take continuing education courses in technical subjects specific to your job or in general competencies that apply t any field, such as leadership or project management. For some professions, continuing education courses are a requirement to stay qualified in the industry. Many colleges and universities offer continuing education courses in a variety of fields.

7. Take advantage of company training

Explore any training opportunities available at your current employer, from official company training to casual knowledge-sharing sessions between coworkers. If any of your colleagues have skills that you want to learn, you can ask if they'd be interested in leading an educational session during lunch or participating in a skill trade opportunity. Many companies also use independent training departments with experts in different fields that train on specialised skill sets. Check in with your supervisor about what your company offers and which courses would be especially beneficial for your professional growth.

8. Participate in job shadowing

Job shadowing is a great way to learn more about the day-to-day responsibilities of another profession and to learn new skills. Generally, it's best to choose individuals who are experienced or perform well in their positions. Job shadowing usually involves following a professional while they perform their job duties and learning about different skills. You can perform a job shadow at your own workplace by asking someone in a leadership position if they have time to teach you about their role. Another option is to reach out to professionals in other industries or organisations.

9. Join a professional association in your field

Signing up for professional associations can provide you with many opportunities to learn new skills from people with experience in your industry. In a group setting, you can converse with colleagues about your industry and discover skills you want to develop. Professional associations often host conferences, training opportunities and courses that emphasise skill development and innovation in your field.

10. Create a reasonable routine

When trying to develop a new skill, plan a schedule and dedicate a certain amount of time each day or week to learn or practise your new abilities. To become adept at a skill, it's important to get comfortable using it regularly. Try to select a reasonable amount of time that makes sense in your work and personal schedule. Keep a calendar and track the time you spend studying and practising to keep yourself accountable for your skill development.

Related: Organisational Skills: Definition, How To Use and Examples

11. Complete practical projects

Find ways to apply your skills in a practical way to prove that you know how to apply your theoretical and fundamental knowledge. Using new skills also helps you move from basic knowledge to mastery of a skill. For example, after studying computer programming, writing code for a basic website is a great way to practise and learn about potential issues in a fun, practical way. This also helps you transition your skills to a job-oriented environment that you can put on your resume or professional portfolio.

12. Find an accountability partner

Consider looking for someone else who also wants to learn that same skill and keeping one another accountable by sharing your progress or studying together. Check in with one another about your progress, practise your skills and share the outcomes of your projects to inspire each other's success. Knowing that someone else is interested in your progress can keep you motivated and excited about developing your skills. It also provides you with someone who you can ask if you have simple questions or want to discuss strategies for skill development.

13. Teach and mentor others

Once you have a basic understanding of your skill, you can confirm your knowledge by teaching it to others. Explaining a concept or teaching a task to someone else can be a great way to get better at the subject yourself. You can discover aspects of the skill you can learn and validate your experience with the fundamentals of a subject by explaining them in different ways to others.

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