The coronavirus outbreak has resulted in self-isolation and left many – either working from home, on prolonged rest as part of the Furlough scheme, working reduced hours or even being made redundant – resulting in more time on your hands.

Rather than sitting at home binge-watching TV or catching up on the latest TV dramas, our experts say this is the perfect opportunity to develop your talent through upskilling and self-development. 

Dan Brown, Senior Manager of Part Qualified Finance says “this is a good opportunity to not only re-evaluate your current career direction, but also implement concrete actions to upskill yourself. In doing so will not only ensure you emerge from this crisis better equipped with necessary skills to make the most of any opportunity, it will allow you to take further steps on your overall career trajectory.”

Keeping your long-term career goals in mind, Dan explore five fundamental questions to help you identify relevant areas for upskilling during this work-from-home period.

What am I interested in learning more about?

Getting started can be the toughest part of any journey, so it’s good to begin with something you have always been interested in. Perhaps you’re an HR professional with a strong interest in coding but never had the opportunity to learn it; or you might be interested in public speaking even though your job doesn’t require you to do so.

“List all the areas you have an interest in and do an online search to find resources you can tap on. Start with something that calls out to you – this can be a course, workshop, webinar, or podcast. It doesn’t have to be directly related to your work; you’ll never know when these additional professional skills will come in handy” says Dan. 

What will make me shine at work?

Now that you’ve got started, keep the momentum going. For many, the best way to do so is to learn something directly relevant to your work, so you can easily see the immediate payoffs of your learning efforts. Identify areas of your work where you’re already good at, explore what will make you stand out further, and focus your efforts on improving yourself within these areas.

“Everyone needs to start thinking about this. In today’s climate, which is only going to get even more competitive, professionals need to consider how you can stand out amongst a saturated marketplace. One thing is for sure, you can never be ‘too educated’ there is always room for growth and improvement, so identify areas you know will be in high demand in the future or areas you’ve always wanted to focus on and upskill.”

What will make me less frustrated at work?

“Upskilling doesn’t just have to be about learning new things – it can be about re-learning your basics too. The current work from home arrangements present the best opportunity to tackle particular aspects of your work that you struggle with. Take some time to think about what frustrates you the almost every day. Is it your overflowing inbox, or your ever-growing to-do list? Is it spending large amounts of time on tedious administrative tasks, or perhaps communicating effectively with others?”

Once you’ve identified the ’weak links’ in your daily work, find ways to improve these areas. This could include reaching out to a colleague to find out how they complete their administrative tasks quickly (they may have secret shortcuts) or reading recommended articles on how you can manage your time more effectively.

What will help me develop a competitive advantage outside my job?

Even if you see yourself staying at your current role for the long-term, your career goals should not be tied to your job and company. In the long-run, what do you see yourself doing – and what are the skills needed for you to work towards your goals?

“If you’re a developer but have plans to become a manager in the future, you will need more than technical skills to land the desired role. For instance, you will need to possess leadership skills, the ability to communicate across teams and stakeholders, as well as manage multiple project timelines. By developing these soft skills that many companies perceive are lacking in technical professionals, you’ll eventually find yourself with an advantage over your competitors, be it for a promotion for an internal role, or for a managerial role in a different company.”

Am I thinking holistically?

“While it’s good to have specific upskilling areas to work on, do also make sure you’re considering the bigger picture, and you’re not leaving out any other opportunities for improvements.

Evaluate whether you are too focused on the soft skills and not enough of the hard skills, or vice versa. Are you exploring all the resources that you can be tapping on, or mostly just relying on a single approach, such as webinars? Are you challenging yourself enough – or perhaps challenging yourself too much such that it’s unsustainable in the long run?”

Upskilling yourself is a long and continuous journey, so it’s best to make sure it’s sustainable, personally interesting, and provides growth in various aspects of your professional life.

For more ideas on how you can improve and upskill yourself, or prepare for your next job search, visit our navigating COVID-19 career advice hub.

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