Expanding Skills on the Job


by Rachel Vilsack

You don’t stop using your skills – or expanding your skills – after you get the job. As anyone who has been employed knows, to be a productive and indispensable employee, you must be forward-thinking and continue to grow your skill set. As a professional, what do you do to expand your skills on the job?

 

I asked several iSpeak blog contributors what they do on-the-job to grow their skills. Here are some of their responses:

 

  • “One thing I do is sit in on other workshops. Even if I have attended that workshop before, I watch someone different do it to get ideas for activities or information. Sometimes, I am able to learn new things from my own co-workers, and I didn’t have to travel far or spend any money doing it.”

Is there something you could learn from your co-workers that could be implemented in your job?

 

  • “I took an assessment of my strengths recently and was surprised at the results! I found I had strength in collecting and storing information (facts, data, and statistics) but I rarely shared it with people who could benefit from my knowledge. Now I purposely seek out opportunities to share my knowledge, and my colleagues know that I am a person who enjoys answering their questions.”

Assessing yourself and continuing your career development  is essential. What could you learn about yourself that could apply right now to your job?

 

  • “Recently, it’s just been agreeing to new work responsibilities and learning on the job. This has included some online software training and most often teaching myself new features or uses for software I already use, like Excel.”

 

  • “I make myself available and actively propose to take on new tasks that belong to the set of skills I am interested in developing. It’s amazing how many related skills you can fail to develop if you do not proactively seek opportunities to develop them. I’d say that every time we do things the same way we had done them before we miss a chance to expand our skills. And that is scary, because the first instinct is to get things done as quickly as possible without taking any risk.”

 

  • “I do things that challenge and stretch me. I don’t stay in my comfort zone, which would be mostly sitting behind desk writing or analyzing data. Sometimes I take on new projects purposefully; other times I’m a little more pushed into it. But even with those projects that don’t feel like a great fit with my skill set initially, I usually realize when they’re done that they’ve given me skills or perspectives that serve me well and “round me out” as an employee and a person.”

What do you do every day at work? Is there a project or activity at work you could participate in that would push you out of your comfort zone?

 

  • “I joined Toastmasters to expand my communication skills, have taken leadership and management training, and seek out books that will help me better understand myself and others (such as Strengths Finder, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and Emotional Intelligence 2.0).”

Joining a professional association is a great way to stay current in your profession. Are there any other groups, organizations or training that could help you expand your skill set?

 

  • “My two guiding philosophies about professional development are: 1) You can learn something new every day. 2) Be forward thinking in your skills development.”

 

We’re interested in learning from you, too. How have you continued to learn, grow and expand your skills at work? 

 

5 thoughts on “Expanding Skills on the Job

  1. Rachel Vilsack July 2, 2012 / 12:03 pm

    Thanks everyone for commenting! 
     
    I notice that several people mention that they look to their supervisor for guidance or feedback on their progress. This is some excellent advice!

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  2. Katy Sunsdahl July 1, 2012 / 4:24 pm

    I try to challenge myself to expand my skills on a regular basis by trying to find ways to expand my current position within the company.  There is not a lot of room for advancement where I work so I find that in order to stand out, I need to do my job bigger and better than it is.  My position is only what I make of it and will only grow if I push it.  I seek out feedback from my team, attend trainings both broad and specific to my position, ask for projects that offer an opportunity to learn, and check-in with my supervisor on a regular basis. 

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  3. Luke Thomas June 30, 2012 / 3:51 pm

    I make sure to attend all the trainings that I can even if they do not seem to be necessarily inline with my interests. All information can be useful and often tied in with existing knowledge and skills. Network with your coworkers, making friends can result in attaining new skills even if by chance. Offer help to others when available, learn from the experience. 

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  4. Jamie Buss June 15, 2012 / 7:58 am

    I've recently had the good fortune to be assigned to work on a couple of national projects, in coalitions with partners in far-away places. I've been interested to learn more not at a technical level, but at some other level that I don't even have words for. So I pay close attention to how my own supervisor conducts our business, and other more seasoned colleagues close by. I generally try to formulate my own suggestion about what we ought to do, then ask for advice. Formulating my suggestion before asking for advice tremendously increases my learning in these situations. So I try to add value wherever I can, while also noticing where I need to follow more seasoned advice, and hopefully learn from the opportunity.  

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  5. Shelia McComb June 15, 2012 / 7:44 am

    If you are interesting in advancing your career, look at positions above you such as common projects, skills, group involvement, training, networking, etc.  Ask for projects and duties that  help move you in that direction.  Solicit feedback along the way to ensure you are on track with the requirements and expectations.  Keep your supervisor apprised of your progress and be ready to discuss your progress at your performance evaluations. Have fun and be proud as you move up!

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