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Stephen Crowe

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skills

 

Many people have shared their views on who is responsible for career development.  Answering the question of where the responsibility lies, is like asking who is accountable for Usain Bolt’s success. While he was the face in the public eye, there were teams of people, each with their own duties, helping him become number one.

 

The employee needs to be passionate about the career path and have a desire to work hard towards being the best they can.  Like Usain Bolt, they need to put in the hours, training to achieve their goals and pushing to get to the next level.

 

And every employer, small or large, needs to appreciate that if they are to thrive as a company, they need to make investments to get the best out of their staff.

 

For people working for large organisations, training and development is often defined by the HR team, who plan for staff at different levels. A grad accountant for example, may be put through the CA program or form part of a rotation program to gain on the job experience. Senior leadership may be given an opportunity to take part in career development initiatives including career coaching, mentor programs or leadership training.

 

But for many people working for a smaller firm, these career plans are not in place and the emphasis is on the employee to ask for training and support.

 

While most employers are likely to cover the cost of training courses and further study, ultimately, the employee needs have a plan and know what they are aiming for. The long-term responsibility lies with the employee. You need to have a clear idea of what your career aspirations are and how you plan to get there. You should set goals and milestones that you can scratch off once completed. Ask your manager for regular one on ones, to discuss what you’d like to do, what support you need and to update them on your progress.

 

Career development is not all about training courses and further study though. Both the employee and the manager need to be thinking about opportunities to gain practical experience. The managers should be thinking about what else they can give the employee to do, where can they be seconded to and what the next step on the ladder is. For people working with larger firms, you should be looking for openings as and when they become available, whether it be a sideways move or a promotion, you need to let your manager know that you’d like to express your interest and be considered for the role.

 

So, if you don’t have a career plan in place right now, you need to put something into place. To round off, here’s a quick summary of the steps you should take:

 

  • Set some time aside to sit down and consider your long-term career goals
  • Break it down and list the things you want to complete in the short term
  • List any training or development opportunities you’d like support with
  • Set up a meeting with your manager to discuss your plan and make sure it aligns with the business to ensure you get the support you’re after

 

skills

Does the idea of approaching colleagues you’ve never mingled with before make you nervous? Not sure how to ask the right questions and give the right answers? Chances are, you’re not alone. Even for the most confident people, networking can be a daunting prospect. It’s even more terrifying when you’re an introvert. When you’re shy, taking that first step into the unknown can be difficult.

However, networking is one of the most effective and least expensive methods to raise your profile and advance your career. When done right, you’ll find that it’s all about communicating passions and connecting with others who share those passions. It’s about listening, figuring out what others need and connecting them with people you think can help, without any designs for personal gain. The most successful networkers build genuine relationships and give more than they receive. They go beyond thinking, “What’s in it for me?” to ask “How can I help?”

To follow this approach, here are five ways to network successfully and have fun doing it:

 

 

Start small

Start with people you know, then expand to their acquaintances and finally strangers after the process becomes second nature. It’s not necessarily a bad idea to dive into the deep end and immerse yourself in a room full of people you don’t know, but networking is one of those skills that you will need for life so don’t hesitate to take the time to ease yourself into it.

 

Stop apologising

Drop the habit of apologising needlessly! It is easy to apologise when asking for help if you see networking as an imposition and not as exercise in relationship building. You are not asking anyone to do you a favour, so believe that you are worth their time. It could demonstrate your lack of professionalism and confidence, so don’t have to apologize for asking for help. Don’t have to apologize for wanting to learn more about the individual with whom you’re networking. One day you may be able to help them out.

 

Have a plan

The best networkers are always prepared and have a plan. Grab a notebook and bring it with you while networking to refer to some pointers or to take some notes.

Since every person has value, it’s essential that you know what yours is. Take the time to clarify what talents, strengths, skill sets and connections you can bring to the table. Map out what you want to talk about, particularly how you may be able to help other people, either now or in the future. If you’re attending an event specifically to network your way to a new job, have your personal pitch ready, anticipating questions you may be asked, such as why you’re looking for a new job, and have clear, concise answers at the ready.

If you’re afraid you’ll freeze up or get tongue-tied in a social setting, think of ice-breaker questions you can ask people you meet. You can try:

-Commenting on your surroundings – you’re all in the same location so use it to your advantage. Ask if they’ve ever been here before and it could lead to finding where they work and what they do. You could also talk about the food that’s provided!

-Humour – Everyone loves a laugh and it’s a great way to move past any initial awkwardness and kick-start a fun conversation. Make a silly joke and see where it goes from there. You could either be remembered as the one with the bad jokes or the good jokes, either way you’ll be remembered.

-Finding people who look a little lost or lonely – these people might just be like you and are unsure of how to approach new people. Walk on over and introduce yourself – they might just be waiting for someone to come and talk to them. They would appreciate the gesture and would be more likely to open up to you for a chat.

-Compliment people – Point out an accessory someone could be wearing like their watch or necklace. People typically enjoy others noticing their efforts to look good, and these interactions are a friendly way to start a conversation.

 

Relate, don’t promote

Forget your personal agenda. Instead, make it your goal to be open, friendly and honest, and to forge connections between people who may be able to help each other. Generosity is an attractive quality and it’s something special that people will remember about you. Good professional networking isn’t about selling. Instead, it’s about building relationships and creating friendships. At business networking events and conferences, ask lots of questions and most importantly, listen rather than talk too much. Find common ground and connect, and remember what’s being said. This will help build your credibility when you follow up and people see that you’ve taken the time and effort to remember them and your conversation.

 

Follow Up Respectfully

If you told someone you’d get in touch with them, do it and reaffirm your intent to assist in any way you can. After an initial meeting, follow up with your contacts with a ‘thank you and nice to connect’ message. Based on your conversation, send them an article or other information they might find helpful. Make it a priority to follow up promptly so you’re fresh in their mind, and invite them to connect on LinkedIn or a similar industry networking platform. These simple methods can be highly effective for building your connections, ensuring any future approach is more warmly received.

If you promised to introduce someone to a person you know, take the time to do it. Everyone is busy these days with jobs, families, events, commitments — even so, it takes no more than a minute to shoot off an email to introduce two people you want to connect. They can take it from there and do the work — just enjoy being the bridge. Little things like that mean a lot to people and just one introduction can end up changing someone’s life for the better.

 

skills

The modern-day job search for graduates is becoming an increasingly competitive environment where an individual can find themselves pitted against hundreds of other applicants all in the same boat. The string tying all these graduates together is most likely limited industry knowledge and experience. However, as important as having experience is for any job search, there is one undeniable truth: that having and maintaining a positive attitude is crucial. Employers are looking for candidates that can add value, meaning that they are seeking future leaders that can inspire and promote business longevity. A positive frame of mind not only affects the way you view the world, but your environment and the people around you. This leads us to the big question: what defines a positive thinker?

 

Positive thinking and mental fortitude outlast skills

Skills get outdated over time as industries shift and change, companies are constantly re-skilling and providing ongoing training for their employees to build value in their business. Skills can be attained and bought whereas attitude cannot. Attitude, when compared to a skill set is timeless. Without the right attitude, you can’t form solid working habits which have to be practiced over time. Without the right attitude, you’ll be missing out on learning new things as you are unable to see past the mistakes. Without the right attitude, you won’t land the job you want as you are hindering your own self growth.

Mental fortitude is the ability to pick oneself up from life’s failures and capitalizing on them as lessons and opportunities. Possessing it will not only carry over into the workplace, but into your personal life as well. By viewing problems as an opportunity, you would find that focusing on finding a solution is a more productive use of your time and energy. Being proactive keeps your brain switched on and like a muscle, your brain will be more effective if trained over time. One cannot expect to attract or impress potential employers if one does not exhibit the energy associated with gaining success. Walking into a job interview can be an extremely nerve-wracking and intimidating experience for newcomers, so when a candidate with limited to no industry experience is being judged, having a resilient and positive attitude is a good start.

Setting goals sets you up for success

Goal setting is a way we can break down the bigger picture into manageable chunks. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the notion of “Finding a job”. By breaking down these goals into something you can control and visualize more clearly, you are not only able keep up the positivity but set yourself up for success. For example, if the overarching goal is to “Find a job”, then you would want to divide that up into mini goals like: ensuring your resume is up to date, knowing what field you want to work in, apply for x amount of jobs a day, etc. Completing these smaller tasks allows you to cross off a list, giving you a sense of achievement and keeping you motivated. By focusing on putting together the individual puzzle pieces, you’d find that the bigger picture will slowly come together in the process.

Don’t forget to reset

Maintaining a positive attitude is easier said than done. There will be some days that will test you, where you find it difficult to keep a smile on your face or to go about your day without any worries. We are human and are imperfect beings. Burnout is inevitable if we expect ourselves to endure everything life throws at us without taking the appropriate measures. Ask yourself: what can you control and what can’t you control? Sometimes we can’t control the negative things that happen to us but we can control how we react to them. When you start to feel like you are burning out, it is important to reset yourself and take a break. For instance, you have been to a few interviews, and haven’t heard back from any of them yet. Take a step back and think objectively: it most likely isn’t personal. By taking a break, you stop whatever it is that you are doing that is causing your burnout, and replace it with a totally unrelated activity. This allows you to leave the baggage and negativity behind and start anew with a fresh state of mind.

Student mentality and work ethic go hand in hand

Continuous self-improvement is essential if you want to stay relevant in the workplace. Every day is a school day, and there is always something new to learn no matter the context. Having a student mentality means that you are always asking questions and constantly analyzing yourself in order to understand how you can always do things better. Being self-aware is a highly sought management skill that establishes your work ethic and desire to progress. Through maintaining a humble attitude, you can only improve on where and who you are now. The journey of personal growth is after all, based on progression, not perfection.

skills

A recent report by Deloitte Australia, has highlighted that jobs requiring soft skills are projected to grow 2.5 times faster than occupations where the need for soft skills are less in demand. It would appear that it’s no longer enough to impress employers with your extensive qualifications and technical experience; employers are increasingly expecting candidates to bring a strong set of soft skills to the table.

What do we mean by “Soft Skills”?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary “Soft Skills” are “personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.” These attributes or qualities typically include social and communication skills and emotional intelligence. Employers often find that candidates with strong technical skills and capabilities do not hold equally strong soft skills. The good news is that it’s entirely possible to develop new soft skills and strengthen those that we have already have through our experiences both inside and outside the workplace. Whilst hard skills may get you through an employer’s door, it’s your soft skills that will ultimately help land you the job!

To help you we have highlighted some of the most highly sought after soft skills that employers come back to again and again.

Communication Skills

We can’t emphasise strongly enough the importance of communicating confidently, professionally and articulately. Recruitment agents and potential employers will make an instant judgement on the strength of your communication skills. Don’t lose the job before you’ve started by mumbling, appearing disinterested or using poor language. Employers need candidates who can communicate with colleagues and clients and be strong representatives of their organisations. They want candidates who can communicate ideas and plans and drive their business forward.

Adaptability

Having the ability to be flexible and adapt to changing requirements and circumstances is an essential soft skill in any employee who wants to succeed especially within a fast-paced workplace. Employers are looking for employees who are resilient in the face of change and competing demands.

Self-Starters

The best employees don’t need to be spoon fed everything. Whilst employers are happy to provide training and development opportunities they are also looking for potential employees who have initiative and a drive to seek out answers, opportunities and add value. They want candidates who have a strong work ethic with motivation to give their best at all times.

Stakeholder Management

The ability to manage your time and workload under pressure is a fundamental soft skill. Equally as important and perhaps more demanding however, is the ability to effectively manage stakeholders. By understanding requirements, setting boundaries and negotiating or pushing back when necessary, you will be able to effectively manage expectations and deadlines. This is very much a soft skill that develops with knowledge and experience however employers will most certainly be looking to see your potential on this front!

Emotional Intelligence

The ability to read situations and people and react appropriately is a highly rated skill by employers. Whether that be cheering up or calming down colleagues, choosing the correct moments to speak or be silent or being able to deescalate a confrontation – these moments require you to manage your emotions and often the emotions of others. Having strong self-awareness and self-management and applying these to your interactions with others will allow you to successfully navigate the workplace.

 

skills

Moving in to your first leadership role can be a daunting experience. Taking on additional responsibilities of overseeing the workload and management of a team can be a lot to take on. To best prepare you for the challenges ahead, we have pulled together some advice to consider in advance of your new role to allow you to make a positive impact from the outset and ultimately prepare you for success!

 

 

Set your own Agenda – You may be moving in to a new role with big shoes to fill. Perhaps your predecessor was very popular and successful in the role and you worry you won’t match up. Alternatively, maybe your predecessor struggled in the role and wasn’t a good fit. Either way, don’t stress about living up to or surpassing the reputation of your predecessor – be yourself! You are there to make your own mark and add your own personal value to the organisation. Whilst you understandably want to differentiate yourself from your predecessor this doesn’t happen overnight and trying to do so from the outset may rub your colleagues up the wrong way.

Set some Goals – Use your first few weeks wisely. Take the opportunity to set or clarify goals with your team so that you and everyone else knows what they are working towards. Transparency will allow your team to get a sense of what your priorities and values are and won’t lead to speculation and apprehension about any changes you may implement.

Build a Rapport with your Team – From the outset it’s important to engage with your team members and strike up a rapport with them. This doesn’t mean you need to be everyone’s best friend but there is no denying that a team will work hard for a leader that they like and respect. Getting to know your team by introducing yourself personally to each one and having one to one meetings if possible to establish their motivations and preferences of management style will be a good start. Do your best to remember everyone’s name – these small gestures can really help your team members feel valued!

Keep the Communication Flowing – Strong communication is key to driving your agenda forward and ensuring that your team members buy in to that agenda also. Keeping your team updated on objectives and deadlines as well as sharing progress and informing them of any potential changes will encourage your team members to trust you and your strategy. It is equally important to listen to your team. Take the opportunity in the early days to establish yourself as an approachable and collaborative leader who is open to hearing your team’s views, opinions, issues of concern and recommendations. Giving your team a voice and being open minded to what you hear will contribute to an engaged and motivated team which can only reap rewards.

We hope you found this advice valuable and take it on board as you approach your first leadership role. Start your new role as you mean to go on and you will undoubtedly make a positive impact!

skills

Linkedin currently has over 500 million users in 200 countries and territories and has plans to expand its user base to 3 billion in the not so distant future. It seems that Linkedin is not going away any time soon, with the platform increasingly playing a role in the search for talented candidates.

Faced with 500 million other Linkedin user profiles it can be overwhelming to think of ways to make your profile stand out in such a huge crowd. To give you a helping hand we have pulled together some top tips for ensuring your Linkedin profile has maximum impact on the right people!

Choosing the right profile picture

Make sure you have a profile photo! According to Linkedin, profiles with photos get 21 times more profile views than those without. We would advise you to keep it simple – use a plain background to avoid distraction and ensure you are presented professionally. Make eye contact with the camera and smile! Avoid selfies or using photos with family or friends be it on holidays or on a night on the town. Whilst you might think these photos indicate how sociable and well-travelled you are, they can also serve to create a negative impression and distract from the professional image you are trying to present. You may also want to consider paying for a professional head shot to avoid the pit falls above!

Sell yourself in a brief profile

This is your chance to really sell yourself and let potential recruiters and employers out there understand who you are, what you do and where your interests lie. Very often we come across profiles containing a large number of ‘Featured Skills’. Whilst we would encourage you to complete this section to ensure your profile features in any search results for that skill, where we have 100’s of candidates with a similar background and skill set it can become very difficult to distinguish between them. This is where your personal profile comes in to play! Providing a summary allows you to put your skills in to context by giving some brief information on your background and experience to date. If you are open to new roles or changing career paths, this section also offers you the opportunity to clarify the type of roles you would be interested in hearing about. Make it as easy for the recruiters and employers out there to understand where you are coming from and where you want to be!

Encourage head hunting by making your profile public

We live in an age where we are increasingly wary of the risks of putting our personal details online. However, if you want to attract the attention of employers and recruiters out there it really is essential they be able to view your profile. You don’t need to include personal details like addresses or phone numbers but by making your profile public, employers and recruiters have the option to decide if you’re a good fit for any potential roles and approach you via InMail. If for whatever reason you are reluctant to mention in your summary profile that you are looking for new roles, you could make use of Linkedin’s relatively new functionality which allows you designate yourself as ‘Open to new opportunities’. This functionality is only available for premium users of Linkedin such as subscribers of Linkedin Recruiter which is typically used by recruiters and human resource professionals and is therefore unlikely to be visible to your current employer or Linkedin connections.

Personalise your profile

Create a multi-dimensional profile by including information which sets you apart and makes your profile memorable. Make sure to include any voluntary experience you have completed, memberships of organisations or committees as well as any major personal accomplishments. Endorsements and recommendations from previous employers will also help your profile stand out from others. Connect with Linkedin groups of interest to you which will not only expand your network but also give potential employers and recruiters an idea of your outside interests.

Linkedin has become something of a game changer in recruitment. It is a platform that is being utilised like never before by recruiters and employers alike who are using it frequently to source talent particularly in areas where there is a skills shortage. If your Linkedin profile is not up to scratch it may be overlooked! Give yourself the best chance of obtaining a new role by following our top tips to reinvigorate your profile!

For information on Linkedin Statistics see: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/linkedin-numbers-2017-statistics-meenakshi-chaudhary and https://press.linkedin.com/about-linkedin?#

skills

It was heartbreaking to read about the despair some workers felt when car makers closed down their factories earlier this month. Workers were on average 50 years old, had spent 20 years working for one company, and felt they did not have the skills to find work elsewhere.

While it is true that manufacturing in Australia is in decline, everybody has transferable skills – those that are developed across the lifespan in both work and non-work settings. Being able to use those skills in a different setting can open up a host of job opportunities, but first you must identify them and value them as much as a prospective employer might.

You definitely have transferable skills

Doing any job involves many skills over and above those required to accomplish core tasks, and some skills are useful in almost every job.  Skills are different to attributes, and the good news is that you can learn and develop them. You may have acquired transferable skills by participating in the health and safety committee in your office, or by being a member of a social committee. Putting on a great Christmas party, for example, could help you into a career in events if you are able to connect the skills you learnt to an employer’s requirements.

Outside of work, you may have played a sport, or belonged to a school or community organisation, or be involved in a hobby. These will have given you transferable skills that you can bring to the workplace in a new role. Anybody who has kids will know that being a parent teaches many skills, such as patience, perseverance, and negotiation, to name just three. A parent returning to the workforce can name these skills to increase their likelihood of success.

Some things you might have learnt to do, such as fixing a computer or coding your own website, are technical skills, while others are ‘soft’ skills that will always be in demand, like the ability to communicate well, delegate tasks or resolve conflicts. Whether you have learnt these on the job in another workplace or in your non-working life, they are valuable skills that will give you the edge in any job application.

Why transferable skills matter

Your set of transferable skills will help you in different ways at different points in your career. When you are starting out, your time as netball captain or bass player in a band can show your prospective employer that you have good team skills and can co-operate with others. Your part-time job in a supermarket demonstrates that you know about customer service, and even the hours spent playing DOTA will have taught you about teamwork and cooperation.

For those who are looking to change careers, transferable skills are crucial. Being able to research and analyse, for example, transfers well from an academic job to a range of roles in a commercial enterprise.

Anybody re-entering the workforce after a break will need to call on their transferable skills as many occupation-based skills will have become obsolete. Even if all the organisation’s billing is now automated or outsourced, the ability to work magic with a spreadsheet still has a range of applications.

What are your transferable skills?

Take some time to make a list of your transferable skills and how they can be helpful to you in your future career. Do you know a second or a third language? That can be a huge advantage in today’s globalised workplace. Are you a writer in your spare time? Or are you really good at setting goals and motivating people in your running group?

Once you have listed them, think about how you can use them. It may be to help you write a good resume, or to identify career opportunities you hadn’t considered. Your list might reveal gaps in your skills that you could address with a short course or on-the-job training.

When you are applying for a job, the position description will contain a list of the skills the employer is looking for. Match your transferable skills to the requirements of the position, with a specific example. If, for instance, you co-ordinated the fete at your child’s school and you are applying for a role involving project management, link the skills you used to run the event with the requirements to be able to lead a team, communicate and manage risk. Use your cover letter to explain how your transferable skills match the requirements of the job description.

Here are some of the most in-demand transferable skills. How many do you have?

Interpersonal skills: relate well to others • motivates others • good at resolving conflict • team player

Organisational skills: setting and meeting goals • time management • following up • meeting deadlines • planning

Leadership skills: team building • delegating • innovative • motivating • decision-making • strategic thinking

Communication skills: presentation • simplifying • writing and editing • persuading • teaching

You can work at the skills you have and learn new ones, either by informal learning in your free time or with a mentor, or by enrolling in short courses, webinars and workplace learning programs.

Managers can support their teams by encouraging and sponsoring members to take courses in areas that will both add to their transferable skills and make them more effective team members.

Document what you learn and how it might transfer into a different role than the one you have now. And be ready to use your transferable skills in a new setting when the time is right.

skills

Whether you want to develop in your current position or you have set your sights on a new role, effective skills development takes planning and commitment to making time to learn or upgrade your skills. The world of online learning has made this a bit easier, and there are good courses to do in your ‘free’ time with this flexible approach.

When planning your approach, start with any mandatory professional education requirements, such as courses designed to help you to comply with licencing conditions. Use professional websites to identify what’s on during the year, and commit to a timetable of helpful sessions, so that you’re not scrambling around for those last points at the end of the year.

Then identify areas that you want to learn more about. It might be something identified in your performance review, or an area in which you realise your skills have fallen behind. You may see that a new skill could lead to a promotion or even a coveted new role.

These are some of the courses we have found helpful and which you can jump into now to upgrade your skills.

For upgrading your business writing skills, the Australian Writers Centre offers a one-day course on the essentials for people working in customer service, support or sales. The course is also available online. For middle managers and above, there’s Professional Business Writing, which runs every couple of months. This one is aimed at writing proposals and reports. The presenters at the AWC are experts in their field as well as great presenters, and as a bonus, the classrooms overlook Luna Park and the harbour. The next one starts on 23 June, so hop on board.

Getting your head around project management can be bewildering. The Australian Institute of Management  runs short courses for novices (two-day course, next running in Sydney on 8-9 June) and for those with some knowledge and experience (three-day course, next running 7-9 June in Sydney and 20-22 June in Parramatta). AIM has a wide range of courses, from Leading with Emotional Intelligence (14 June) to Managing budgets (20 June).

Webinars are often a huge disappointment, not delivering what they promise and disguising a marketing pitch as a learning opportunity. A site for solo entrepreneurs, Flying Solo, has good ones on demand, and they are helpful to everybody, not just soloists.  Accelerate your workflow is particularly helpful, showing you how to use technology to streamline work. Dealing with your inbox, automating routine office tasks and an analysis of the budget’s implications are some recent topics.

Fancy studying at Harvard or Princeton? You can. Coursera is one of many providers of massive open online courses, or MOOCs. They are free, online and generally presented by outstanding lecturers. Try Preparing to manage human resources,   a four-week course from the University of Minnesota, which starts this week, or Big Data: data visualisation from QUT.  Coursera is also offering a practical, project-based course, How to write a resume, created by the State University of New York. When you finish you will have a polished resume developed with guidance from a professional career counsellor and recruiter, and with feedback from your peers.

Skillshare  is a great platform for learning creative skills from others. The range of skills on offer is huge – from making French macarons to being more productive. Most include practical projects. There is a good selection of video classes in digital marketing, so helpful if you have been charged with writing your organisation’s blog posts! You are bound to find something to do for fun and relaxation too, like painting or creating a custom rubber stamp.

Lynda.com,  part of LinkedIn, offers video tutorials you can follow at your own pace. You can learn about thousands of topics taught by industry experts and working professionals in software, creative, and business skills.

Be sure to add all the new skills you learn to your resume. There are plenty more good sources of skills and professional development learning, and you are sure to find an online course, webinar, podcast or class to suit your needs. The important thing is to identify a need and then commit to learning.

If you have learnt something amazing, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

 

 

skills

Do you know where you’re going with your career and how you’re going to get there? If the answer is no to either one or both of those questions, it’s time to make a plan for your professional development. Your plan can cover any period up to five years but probably no less than two. Where to start? We’ll show you in four steps:

Step 1: Your destination

If you’re going to make a plan you’ll need to decide first where you want to end up. Once you know that, you have a better idea about where to start. This part is also where you decide if your plan is going to be for two, three, four or five years into the future. Write a statement outlining where you plan to be and by what time.

Step 2: Self assessment

Now you need to assess your strengths and weaknesses to highlight areas that you will need to develop and build upon. Write these down in two columns. Just to be sure that you don’t have any blind spots, it’s always good to run your self-assessment of your strengths and weaknesses by someone you can trust to be honest with you. They might see characteristics in you that you don’t.

Step 3: Gap analysis

Now that you’re clear about where you want to be and what your strengths and weaknesses are, it’s time to analyse how far away you are from reaching your destination. Do you need to undertake some short-term training or enroll into a course at college or university? Do you need to work on a portfolio of work?

Perhaps you need to develop some ‘soft skills’ such as learning to communicate more effectively in writing or how to present well in front of a group of people. You might also need to network with people in the field you want to work, as well as form closer relationships with people who can help you.

Step 4: Goals and action steps

Based on your gap analysis, set yourself some goals and list the action steps that will help you meet them. Remember, goals need to be specific, time oriented, measurable and achievable, so make sure you have all this covered. Let’s say your goal is to do a course in bookkeeping. Will you study part time or full time? Online or face-to-face? How long will it take you to complete your studies?

Once you know when you are likely to finish your course your first action step would be to research where you could study. Your second action step could be to apply to get into the course and your third would be to enroll and so on until you have reached your goal of graduating. Write all your action steps down next to your goals – they make up your plan.

Once you have completed the four steps and created your professional development plan you’re not finished. What? Another step? Not really. It’s just that a professional development plan is not static – it’s a flexible document that changes as you change as a person and as your circumstances change. You can’t always predict what will happen to you in the future, so review your plan every six months, or sooner if necessary, so it’s still relevant to your situation.

skills

Are you bored with your job? Looking to switch careers? Wanting to expand your skill set? Or maybe you want to dip your toes into an area of study without making a full commitment just yet. Look not further.

Finding ways to upskill has never been easier or cheaper. In fact, you can learn all kinds of new skills and develop knowledge in endless subjects for nothing or very little money. So more excuses – here’s the low down on six killer ways to increase your employability at little or no cost:

Udemy

Udemy gives you access to 30,000 courses in just about any subject you can think of. Courses cost range from $0 up to $500. All courses have star ratings and you can read feedback from former students. You can also see how the courses are structured to make sure that they cover what you’re interested in.

Coursera

Coursera’s courses are short – mostly between four and fifteen weeks. They’re all free and cover subjects such as business, accounting, computing, writing, psychology and lots more.

Codacademy

Codacademy specialises in teaching computer-coding skills for beginners. Their courses are interactive and free. With Codacademy you can learn just about everything you need to build your own website from scratch.

Udacity

If you’re interested in technology, Udacity has courses ranging from beginner to advanced. You can learn things like working with data, creating computer animations and how to create your own application for the web.

Short Udacity courses take two weeks to two months to complete and they’re free. Longer courses, called Nanodegrees, are estimated to take six to nine months if you study for 10 hours per week. They cost $200 per month.

Khan Academy

All of Khan Academy’s courses are free and there are plenty to choose from. Are you interested economics and finance? History and the arts? How about maths and science? It’s all there for you to delve in and out of as you please.

Open2Study

Open2Study courses are also free. Unlike the other online courses we have covered so far where you can work at your own pace, Open2Study courses all run for one month and they have start and end dates. You can also read reviews from former students to gauge if a course is right for you.

We live in exciting times. Never before has it been so easy to study what you want, from almost anywhere and for so little. What would you like to know more about?