By Hannah Morgan

U.S. News, May 31, 2018 —

Take advantage of every opportunity to enhance your skills.

Acquiring new professional skills is one of the best steps you can take to develop your career and maintain your marketability. When you possess skills that are harder to come by, you become more valuable both inside and outside your company.

Companies are offering professional development opportunities to show employees their commitment to them and to increase productivity. It may also be a way to retain valuable employees. But even if your employer doesn’t offer to pay for training, you can still access free or low-cost quality training.

With so many options and the ability to access classes any time or anywhere, what do you need to consider before signing up for training?


Even if your employer doesn’t offer to pay for training, you can still access free or low-cost quality training. (iStockPhoto)


Ensure you complete the course. Before signing up for anything, take into consideration whether the training will interest you, if it’s in-demand and how it will impact your performance. Start with training that interests you to ensure you’ll complete it.

Verify the skills and training are valued. Before you invest time and money in developing new skills, talk with people in your industry. Ask whether the skills and training are valued in your field or desired role. Also look at job postings to see how often the skills are requested or required.

Enroll in training to develop technical skills. Develop skills that will help you do your job better or open you up to new opportunities. Even if you don’t need technical skills to do your job today, learning about in-demand skills will help you stay in touch with the technology and tools that may simplify your job or become a new requirement in the future. LinkedIn’s research identified these as the top 10 technical skills for 2018:

  • Cloud and distributed computing
  • Statistical analysis and data mining
  • Middleware and integration software
  • Web architecture and development framework
  • User interface design
  • Software revision control systems
  • Data presentation
  • SEO/SEM marketing
  • Mobile development
  • Network and information security

Master the soft skills. Soft skills may sound nonessential, however, developing your soft skills will help you outperform the competition. Soft skills serve as a foundation and allow you to perform any job better. Think about the best or worst manager, co-worker or professor you ever had. What made them so memorable? Chances are your impression of them had to do with their soft skills. According to LinkedIn’s research, these are the top four soft skills in demand for 2018: leadership, communication, collaboration and time management.

Select the right type of training. Do you learn best when you can collaborate with other students or do you prefer to master the topic alone? Have you taken online courses before? How have students rated the course or class? Today, you have many more options on how, when and where to receive training. Popular online learning platforms include Udemy, Lynda, Coursera and Skillshare. And don’t forget about massive open online courses, or MOOCs. These are affordable training options where you will find courses offered by some of the best colleges and universities.

Another alternative is to establish a mentoring relationship, either company-sponsored or one you initiate yourself. Select someone who possesses the skills you want to grow and ask for thjeir tutoring.

If you prefer in-person training, consider professional associations, local training providers and colleges and universities. Also, check with your alma mater. You may find they offer courses to alumni.

Carve out time. You have many demands on your time, but don’t let that get in the way of investing in yourself. Allot time each week to complete your coursework and you’ll be much more likely to complete the work. Asking for your manager’s support before, during and after your training may allow you the opportunity to practice your newly acquired skills on the job.

Prove you’ve used the skills. Listing the training you’ve completed on your resume isn’t enough for employers. They want to see how you’ve used the skills. One way to practice your new skills is to offer to train your team on what you learned. This may help you get your manager’s buy-in. Sharing your new knowledge helps cement the content and concepts in your head and adds a cost-effective solution to up the skills in the organization. If this isn’t an option, take on an outside project. Check with your instructor, classmates and friends to see who needs help. Once you’ve completed the project, be sure you include it, and the associated skills, on your LinkedIn profile and resume.

Adopt the mindset of being a lifelong learner. There will always be new technology and employers will always be looking for people with cutting-edge skills and knowledge. It’s up to you to make sure you have the skills employers are looking for. Be curious and continue to learn new in-demand skills.