10 Ways to Get Your Job Skills in Shape

Learn the steps you should take today if you want to be competitive tomorrow

by Kate Ashford
tires and shoe in sand image
Photograph: Geof Kern

If you’re uncomfortable downloading tools on your own, take advantage of tutorials at your company when they’re available. If you have access to an Apple or Microsoft store,  sit in on workshops. (Find Apple classes at apple.com/retail/learn; locate Microsoft in-store tutorials at content.microsoftstore.com and online classes at microsoft.com/learning.)

To learn how to do something specific, consult Google; a YouTube video tutorial with lots of viewer hits is probably a good place to start. If you need to get up to speed on a few things fairly quickly, consider registering with Lynda.com, a library of online software-training videos; monthly memberships begin at $25. “Too many women, especially those over 45, think that if they know how to use PowerPoint or Excel, they’re OK,” says human resources director Pam Jackson. “No! You need to be able to harness technology to work for you.”

Today that means being comfortable with Dropbox, Google Docs, Google Analytics, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest, at the least. Be sure to update your software annually and keep an eye on your applications. “If people can’t open your files, you may be behind,” says Wilen-Daugenti. 

1. Think about what job you’ll want in 10 years.

2. Check job boards for those positions. What are the requirements? Do you meet them?

3. Get together with people who have the title you’d like. Ask them, “What skills do I need in order to become you?”

4. Note whether there is a set of skills or a degree that you don’t have. If there is, you may want to enroll in school.

5. Figure out if you can return to school part time while working.

6. Consider an online degree. But choose your school carefully. Employers are more likely to respect a degree from a school that also has a brick-and-mortar presence or one from a hybrid program in which you attend the occasional in-person class.

“When my executives find themselves in career transition, the number-one regret is always, ‘Why didn’t I stay in touch with more people?’” says Cafasso. “We all need to think of our LinkedIn connections and professional network as possible customers, referral sources and valuable assets.” Facebook, she says, is also a venue for networking, but not necessarily the most effective one. Here’s how to stay in touch with your professional contacts:

Divide your LinkedIn connections into three groups, perhaps A, B and C.

Then decide on a level of correspondence for each. For instance, maybe the A’s get a quarterly e-mail with a note, link or article. The C’s may receive only a holiday greeting. “Staying in touch doesn’t have to be involved or complicated,” Cafasso says. “Even if you called one person per week, you’d have a fresher connection should you need it.”

Here’s who should be in each group:

First published in the February 2013 issue

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