Evolving to stay relevant is a huge part of landing a meaningful career, especially for those who are trying to break into a new field or reenter the workforce.
Identifying and evaluating your strengths, personality traits, and values will help you narrow your focus so that you can plot a course toward your ideal career. With your direction outlined, it’s time to start updating your skills so you can stand out for the right reasons.
Updating your skill set has some obvious advantages, like having relevant, recent experience to add to your resume. But, there are a few other immensely valuable benefits of closing your skill-gap that you might not have considered before. To begin, learning something new is a great way to engage your mind, build your confidence and your feelings of self-worth.
Feeling a sense of achievement will help you gain momentum toward your end-goal. What’s more, getting involved in professional or social activities like part-time, contract, temporary or volunteer work will lead you to become acquainted with people who can act as references and vouch for how outstanding you are. You never know where one conversation or one meeting could lead you.
Opening yourself up to new professional relationships also builds your network and increases your chances of getting a referral from someone who thinks highly of you. People hire people—hiring managers typically ask people they trust for recommendations for strong candidates.
How do you become the first person that comes to mind? Get out there, bolster your experience, and make sure your contacts know what you’re looking to do and what you have to contribute.
Are you ready to roll up your sleeves and start updating your skills? Here are four simple steps to follow:
1. Pinpoint what skills need updating.
Imagine yourself as Charles Darwin running around the Galapagos Islands collecting and classifying finches. Or as your favorite pioneer, leader, or detective. We are going to adopt the same curiosity. What can you bring to the workplace that sets you apart?
Maybe you’ve unearthed that you’re analytical, good with numbers, great with customer service and communication, you like working with your hands, whatever it might be. Jump online and do a quick search for job titles that are of interest to you.
Once you find job descriptions that get you excited, save them or print them out. Then, work backward. When you read the job description, what skills do you have? What skills or experience are you missing? Highlight those and bring them to the next step.
If you still feel lost or discouraged about this process, consider working with a career consultant or coach (like me) to iron out what work-related activities appeal to you most.
2. Find where you can get further training.
If you are looking for classes to update and improve hard professional skills, community colleges are an excellent resource.
The public library, workforce centers, community centers and government organizations also offer workshops, and they may have clubs you can get involved with for additional resources and support. Even Groupon offers great deals on training and certification courses in Microsoft Excel, for example.
Before deciding on which program to start, make sure you research the credibility of the organization or institution hosting the class. Volunteering is another great way to boost transferable skills, like fundraising, budget management, leadership, and project management to name a few.
3. Evaluate your resources.
Are the courses, workshops, or classes worth the time and effort? Use a site like O*Net to search the positions you’re targeting to see the exact skills you will need and the median wages in your state. Some jobs may require extensive and expensive education to meet the requirements. Weigh the cost vs. benefit, consider your available resources and speak with the people that this decision could influence.
Get to work and get involved. Here are a few options to get you going:
- Apprenticeships. If you are interested in exploring apprenticeship as the next step in your career, there are many ways to find opportunities in your area. United States Department of Labor
- Volunteer work. You can use a site like VolunteerMatch to find volunteer positions near you.
- Professional or social groups. Check out Meetup or Eventbrite for events and groups in your area. You can find sport groups, book clubs, workshops, professional associations and more. Try to pick a group and attend regularly so you can develop relationships and become an insider.
- Flexible jobs. If you are looking for a part-time or telecommuting position, FlexJobs is a site where you can search for flexible jobs in 100+ career categories. There is a $14.95/month usage fee, but all posts are hand screened for legitimacy, and there is a satisfaction guarantee so if you’re not happy with the service, they will refund the fee.
Once you get training, put it to the test! Consider offering your services as an independent consultant. You can provide a discount or a pro-bono fee for the first few clients if they act as references for potential employers or even future potential clients.
“Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.” —Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back
You have to water a seed for it to grow, right? The same principle applies to your search for a meaningful career. Think about it- a seed represents potential, creation, and renewal.
If you want to transform your life, you have to give yourself the time and resources that will allow you to grow, improve your performance and reach new heights. You are the only person that can give yourself that opportunity.
Once you get going, your efforts will start to blossom into something more tangible. So, let’s make it happen.
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