Boost Your Skills to Boost Your Career

There’s a good chance you already know what you want to accomplish in your career. Perhaps you’re longing to launch your own business or you’ve been eyeing the executive office. But do you have what it takes to get there?

Now more than ever, business is moving at break-neck speed as technologies evolve. To stay ahead of the curve, you need to make sure you have the skills the jobs of tomorrow—and of your dreams—will require. Take the time to reflect on where you are and where you’re going, and your efforts will pay off in spades. Here’s how.

Identify your strengths—and your weaknesses
It’s great to sit back and enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done, but if that’s all we do as professionals, then we’re doing ourselves a disservice. Instead, we need to spend equal time identifying where we could stand a little work.

For instance, perhaps you’re not as confident as you’d like when you’re presenting in front of a full room, or maybe you’re not up to speed on the latest software. When we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll see that there’s always a little room for improvement.

“Knowing where you are gives you some clarity about what you may need to do next,” explains Cathy Francois, MBA, GCDF, career advising specialist in Career Services and adjunct instructor at UMUC. “This really is a proactive approach.”

Assess your skills gap
After you’ve determined where you can enhance your existing skill set, it’s time to take the next step: discovering what new skills you need to reach your goals.

“This is an important step because you don’t want to be blindsided about what the market needs,” stresses Francois. “Going through this exercise can help you move forward with your career plan with confidence.”

She advises looking at job descriptions for your ideal position to see where you fall short. She also suggests job seekers review LinkedIn profiles of other professionals who already are in a position to which you aspire.

“Look back at their career progression to see if there is another position you could take that is between your current role and your dream job,” Francois says. “Also, take a close look at which professional associations they may be connected to, and see if you can connect with representatives from these organizations to schedule informational interviews.”

Once you determine where the gap in your skills exists, you can take steps to address these areas of opportunity.

Create an action plan
After you’ve identified the skills you will need to achieve your career objectives, it’s time to create a plan to develop them.

One option is to earn a certificate to fill in a gap in your skill set, especially if it is an industry requirement for your dream job. Francois also suggests checking with your human resources department to see if your current company offers professional development opportunities. Of course, you can stay current on industry trends by reading trade publications and attending relevant seminars to dive deeper into a given subject. Another way to enhance your abilities is to join a committee or board where you can hone new skills and turn them into experience you can add to your resume.

Professional associations also offer continuing education resources—but only if you know how to take advantage of them properly. “You don’t want to just pay that membership fee,” Francois says. “If you really want to use your membership to fill a gap in your skill set, you have to play an active role in the organization.”

And, she adds, “We also have a number of career resources for UMUC students and alumni on CareerQuest.”

In the end, there are plenty of options that are readily available if you are looking to boost your skill set to advance in your professional life.

“You really have to take ownership in managing your career if you want to move to the next level, and this is a lifelong process,” notes Francois. “It’s not just for when you want to get that promotion. It’s something you have to continually do to remain a relevant and viable candidate.”

UMUC’s Career Services are available to help you in every stage of your career. Visit CareerQuest to utilize its career tools, access the UMUC Career Mentor Program, or to set up an appointment with a UMUC Career Advising Specialist.