To many in the working world, learning and expanding on your knowledge comes second nature. Most people want to understand new tools, practices, and skills as they emerge. This is referred to as ‘upskilling,’ which simply means broadening and improving your workplace skill set.

Upskilling is a common practice among white-collared professionals. From professional development seminars and conferences to mentorships and shadowing, it's a great way to expand your workplace knowledge.

But while many workplaces might require upskilling on a semi-regular basis, many people don’t seek it out. I think that’s a huge mistake.

Upskilling is one of the best things you can do, not only as an employee but as a person. And upskilling in your field is great, but upskilling by learning subjects outside your field of interest is even better. Constantly learning and growing, both in and out of work can help set you up for future success.

Why you should upskill?

There are three main types of upskilling: perfecting a skill within your field, learning a peripheral skill, or diving into a completely new skill. The first and second are often what jobs require you to do, but the third is often an overlooked area of upskilling.

If you’re a writer, you might not see any need to learn basic coding skills. If you’re a programmer, you might think you don’t need to write. And if you’re a policy advisor, you might not think that graphic design will help you in any way. You could just outsource those tasks, after all.

However, even learning the basics of any of those can set you a step ahead in your career path. It might never be needed, but recruiters and potential employers will take note of it. The more you can offer as an employee, the more you can negotiate a higher position, a salary raise, or better assignments, even if it has nothing to do with your actual role.

Plus, the more industries you can know about, the stronger employee you will be. Imagine trying to write for a European Software Company with little to no knowledge of how the software actually works. You wouldn’t be as effective in your role. This is not to say you’ll ever need to know everything about those subjects, but by continuously learning, you can apply for a wider range of jobs and roles.

Within your current job, it can help you be a bigger team player, have more of a say on assignments, and impress your bosses. Outside of work, it will make you more marketable to other companies and better roles. It’s what's known as transferable skills, and it’s very important.

Plus, in this ever-growing digital world, many people are turning to freelance and remote work for their futures. By increasing your skillset, you’ll be able to find and keep clients, offer better packages of work, or even look outside your city, state, and country for exciting job opportunities. The digital nomad lifestyle can be for everyone.

So will the benefits of learning outside skills may not be immediately apparent, they will make you more marketable, more efficient, and more forward-thinking than ever before.

How do you Upskill?

As I mentioned before, upskilling comes in many forms. At work, it might come in the form of professional development seminars, luncheons, or conferences. And if you’re offered any of those, take them! You’ll be getting paid to learn and grow in your field.

Another place to look for upskilling is in the form of mentoring and shadowing. You could do this in your workplace, if allowed. Mentoring within your team is great, but also see if someone outside your team would be willing to let you shadow them, or even just pick their brain over a coffee. This will let you see and understand the day-to-day of another team and how that operates. This can help you better utilize that team for projects and show how you can improve your own team. It will also allow you to see if it’s worth your time to learn and perfect that area, or if it’s not really something that interests you.

Outside of work, there are plenty of ways to upskill yourself. You can take classes through the local community colleges or community centers, find networking groups through Facebook or Meetup, or take online classes through sites like Lynda.com or Udemy.

Personally, I find online classes the easiest to commit to. You can do them in the comfort of your home, in your PJs, while laying on the couch. And there are so many classes out there. Whether it’s marketing related, business-related, or just for fun, there is sure to be a class out there for you. I’ve taken SEO classes, design classes, and even a gaming class to help me understand that industry better. And, if you have a library card, you might be able to get the classes for free.

With my library card, I have access to Lynda.com, which is owned by LinkedIn Learning. I can take any of the thousands of classes on there, all for free. Best of all, when I’ve finished a course, I can add a certificate straight to my LinkedIn profile.

If you don’t have free access, the classes are still very affordable, and easy to work at your own pace. It’s a great way to spend time at home in a productive manner.

Upskilling on your own will show dedication, commitment, and drive that employers love to see.

Future-Proofing

There are tons of ways to upskill. Whether it’s with a group through meet-ups or seminars, one-on-one through mentorship, or on your own with classes, you’ll come out a stronger employee and smarter person.

Whichever one you choose, stick with it, and don’t overwhelm yourself. It’s easy to want to learn everything once you start, but understand your limitations and pick one subject to get going. The more you learn and grow in your craft, the more you’ll want to perfect it.

Over time, as you continue to learn new skills, you’ll realize how valuable it can be. By having a wide range of talents, you’ll set yourself for success, even if your market crashes or automation takes over. You can simply dust yourself off and apply for the next role. It’s future-proofing at it’s finest.