No matter how far up the career ladder you’ve climbed, it’s never wise to get too comfortable. Shocks like the recent Covid-19 pandemic and the Delta variant demonstrate that we never know what’s around the corner. Trends toward digitalization have now been accelerated, leaving those who lack technical skills behind. Who knows what could change the work landscape next and what skills we’ll need in that new world?
The best thing any professional can do is continually upskill with an eye toward the future. Here are six ways to achieve exactly that — no matter what your current position is.
1. Keep up with emerging technology and trends in your sector.
You don’t need me to tell you that the world is changing. But many intelligent people make the mistake of thinking that holding onto their job is enough to stay on top of industry developments. In my experience, that's simply not the case.
So, what can you do to ensure you remain on the cutting edge? The easiest option is simply to follow social media accounts or subscribe to email newsletters created by experts in your industry. Start by following the most prominent companies and individuals in your sector (e.g., Hubspot, if you own a digital marketing agency) and embrace the rabbit hole of learning as you discover increasingly niche content.
To go one step further, you could attend industry events. These events allow you to kill two birds with one stone by providing networking opportunities and educating you about what’s happening.
2. Work on your social media presence.
Don’t just keep up with the latest news; get involved in the conversation. Many people are afraid of publishing content on the internet in case they “get it wrong,” but you don’t have to position yourself as a LinkedIn influencer or even a thought leader until you’re ready. Feel free to pick the medium you’re most comfortable with and post whatever feels the most authentic to you. That could be long-form articles on Medium, sharing your favorite industry-related articles on Twitter or writing about industry trends on LinkedIn — whatever works best for you.
3. Seek out formal training.
Of course, you can also participate in some kind of training program or course. If you’ve identified areas of weakness that you think could come back to bite you in the future (e.g., you want to learn Python to analyze data more effectively), it’s time to act.
Naturally, not all courses are created equal. Look for ones that are accredited or recognized by a professional body (this will vary between countries as well as industries). Then, pitch it to your company to see if they’ll cover the cost by explaining the additional value you’ll be able to provide them after the training.
4. Read as much as possible.
President Harry S. Truman said that “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” We live in a world where attention spans are growing shorter and the bigger picture is being lost in the 24/7 news cycle; the best remedy to this is reading books that discuss in-depth ideas.
How does this help you adapt in your career? Reading allows you to make links between what’s happening in your working day and historical, social and cultural phenomena. Book by book, you’ll become more creative, wise and innovative.
If you’re thinking that keeping up with industry trends via social media while also reading books sounds too overwhelming, that’s okay — just pick one if you need to. Moreover, today’s audiobook options offer a plethora of opportunities to "read" on the go.
5. Find a mentor.
Everyone needs a mentor — even the people mentoring others. Fortunately, the mentoring relationship doesn’t have to be as formal as you might think.
If there’s someone in your company who has a skill you lack or a position you want — or you find someone online that fits the criteria — you don’t have to ask them to formally be your mentor. Rather, simply reach out with an intelligent and well-researched yet straightforward question, and most people will be happy to get back to you with a response. Bonus points if you can offer value somehow by providing your thoughts or observations on a topic that matters to them. In an ideal scenario, this will lead to the start of a fulfilling, two-sided relationship.
6. Develop a plan.
While the tips above can be helpful, they’re worth little to nothing if you don’t have a clear idea of where you want to end up. Many experts predict that creativity, emotional intelligence, leadership, adaptability and analytical thinking will become increasingly important as technology advances. But which of these skills are the most important for your industry, and which methods would help you develop them? Once you know the answer to those questions, you can start to get strategic and plan.
Your next challenge awaits you.
Remember, you don’t have to follow all six tips on this list to upskill and adapt in your career. Once you’ve got a solid plan in place, the most effective strategy is often focusing on doing one thing really well rather than trying to spread yourself too thin. So, start taking those baby steps now so you can thank yourself five years down the line.