In a piece for IEEE’s Today’s Engineer, John Platt discusses the topic, “Upskilling for Career Advancement.” After the 2013 Kelly Global Workforce Index was released, a significant trend was apparent; more and more technology professionals are looking into training and education for career advancement. This “upskilling” of today differs from even recent years in that many employees are seeking opportunities on their own and not waiting on their employers to provide them. Platt attributes this change to a variety of reasons.
Firstly, 57% of the respondents to the Kelly study said they weren’t upskilling to find new jobs at new companies, but in order to improve their skills to hopefully be promoted at their current company. Employer-loyalty is at a high and 70% of respondents also said that on-the-job training was the most desirable way to improve their skills. On-the-job training also poses the highest value, due to the economy affecting many corporations’ budgets. Platt names seeking out a mentor within your organization or reading the latest technology books as cost-effective solutions. He also credits seeking and prioritizing the time to develop skills as equally important.
It is not just industry-specific and technical skills that can make one more desirable. Soft skills such as written and verbal communication, learning other languages, and leadership techniques are great ways to set yourself apart from the crowd. Platt quotes Anthony Fasano, the founder of the Institute for Engineering Career Development and author of Engineer Your Own Success: 7 Key Elements to Creating an Extraordinary Engineering Career on the topic of soft skills:
“Fasano, who credits his own career success with his efforts to focus on his soft skills, says… ‘If you're in a room with 100 engineers, 95 to 99 of them can solve a problem for you technically. But how many of them can communicate the answer to a lay person, or get up there and present the problem or solution to people, or lead a team of engineers to solve a problem?’”
Platt wraps up the piece saying that it’s important to set specific goals in how you want to improve your skills and to consistently revisit them to make sure you’re on track or to see if they need to be adjusted. He also calls upon Fasano again, suggesting that building a team or network of fellow engineers can act as a sort of teammate/coach situation that creates a great support relationship and keeps everyone on track.