No Cost Skill Boosters

Career Blog

There are many ways to enhance your skills in advance of a job search. While I’m a proponent of traditional classroom training, pursuing an additional degree or certification can be time-consuming, costly, and often, not directly applicable to the opportunity you seek. Even flexible online options such as webinars and asynchronous presentations can burden both your calendar and bottom line.

Sometimes the most relevant and meaningful lessons can be acquired for free, during the normal course of business. If you’re time or cash-strapped…perhaps both, consider these paths to career enlightenment. 

  1. Earn a Mentor: I say earn because, in the work world, a little give and take goes a long way. Find a colleague with a skill you admire, such as presentation prowess, and who lacks something you excel in, like strategic planning or forecasting. Then barter brainpower. Not only will you both benefit from the exchange, but you’ll also gain a judgment-free confidant in the process.
  2. Volunteer for a Project: Take a supporting role in a project that allows you to practice the new skill in a low-risk environment. If large group presentations are your Achilles heel, offer to chair meetings for a community group or a project outside your department. You don’t have to devote a ton of time to the local Toastmasters to learn the skill (although it is a helpful organization). Just find ways to stand and speak. If you care about the organization, project, or cause, you’ll be more likely to stick with it. Just be sure to tap someone you trust to provide consistent feedback to ensure you improve.
  3. Get a Development Plan: Be upfront with your manager about what you want to learn and why. Let’s face it. Chances are he/she already knows what you need to improve. Once you agree on a focus area, set out to hone the skill during real work. Just make sure he/she is willing to coach you along the way.
  4. Ask Your Directs for Support: Too often, leaders assume they have to know all the answers. Don’t be afraid to be mentored by junior staff. Seize any opportunity to learn from Gen Y, interns, or whoever has something useful to teach. Humility is a rare and endearing commodity. Embrace it and you’ll reap the rewards.  

Formal training is a key element of one’s development plan, but if you are looking for a quick way to hone a specific skill in advance of a new job or assignment, spare your wallet and let the experiences of others be your guide.

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