In 2014, almost half of the companies surveyed by Careerbuilder said that they would invest in training and employing workers who don’t have experience in their industries or fields. This was an increase by 10% over 2013, and will only increase further in 2015.
The focus on training comes from the stress of recruitment, with more and more organizations finding it difficult to hire highly qualified candidates in specialty and higher-level roles. Whether it's certain computer skills, business training, management training, or more particular career-related skills, attaining well-roundedness or depth can unlock new opportunities in any career.
If you’re someone who wants to use this skills gap to your advantage, this is a huge opportunity to show you’re a teachable professional. Get an edge through some sort of training and you'll be leaps and bounds ahead of other candidates who lack that effort, whether for a promotion or for a job search.
Look inside your own company
Most big companies and some small ones invest in high-quality employee training and development programs within their own organizational structure. These programs allow their employees to develop and expand their skillset. If your company has an employee development program, you should immediately begin taking advantage of it.
By showing dedication to and progress in learning new work skills, you’re effectively signaling to your employer that you’re eager to expand your role beyond your current responsibilities. Savvy employers will take notice and encourage your skills development. And if they’re truly smart, you may soon find yourself in a conversation with a hiring manager at your company that wants you to move to their team.
Reach out to your human resources team to see what types of in-demand skills you can learn and ask your manager if there are more in-depth courses you can take to level up your role and responsibilities.
Start the learning process solo
If your company doesn’t have an employee development program (or if you want to change employers), then you can start the learning process on your own. Many free and inexpensive online education options exist for you to kickstart your own professional development. These include Khan Academy, Codeacademy, Coursera, and more.
Learning an all new skill or skillset by yourself can be tough, so make sure you set reasonable goals. Add in an additional layer of accountability in the form of a learning buddy (a friend/family member who will track your progress). As you learn, check in with your goals and your learning buddy to stay on track.
Once you start feeling confident with your learning, begin listing your newly learned skills on your resume. Go a step further by passing certification tests as proof of your progress. Finally, create a portfolio of your work (if applicable), post it online, and link to it wherever you can.
Some examples of portfolio sites include Dribble and Behance for design and art, 500px for photography, Contently for content marketing, Medium for your own personal blog, GitHub for your coding projects, and many more. These services will make you more easily discoverable by interested employers, and will show that you’ve put your learning into practice.
Take advantage of local professional communities and associations
If you want to start making a name for yourself in a newly learned field, you will need to continue learning from others who already have those skills. Luckily, finding and attending community networking opportunities is easier than ever, with the expansion of online services like Meetup and Eventbrite.
You can find a Meetup or event for almost any trade. The more meetings you attend, the faster you will become a part of a local community of like-minded folks. If you’re active in discussions and add value, then you’ll be invited to take part in group learning sessions, collaborate on projects, and contribute your perspective and newly earned expertise.
Beyond local meetings, you can join a relevant national professional association. These associations provide educational support to members. This comes in the form of professional development courses and career advice from industry insiders and local business leaders.
This is not only a great educational opportunity, but a great networking opportunity as well. You’ll expand the horizons of your education far beyond what you could do on your own, and you’ll be in a position where people can notice your career transition.
Reach out to your network
Your own network should be the first place you look for a job that takes advantage of your expanded skillset. Find people you know at companies you might want to work for. Look at their companies’ career pages for openings that use your newly learned skills.
If opportunities exist, then you should reach out to your contact in the company and explain your situation, saying that you’re actively learning, you’ve taken action on your new knowledge, and you’re eager and ready to learn if the company is also willing to teach. It's more important to prove yourself as teachable and motivated, constantly able to gain the skills needed for any situation, than to simply have a set of skills that never evolve. You might also find out what skills you need and at what level to unlock better opportunities.