In the few short years I’ve been out of college, I’ve already experienced a myriad of career changes, both dramatic—like completely changing industries—and also common struggles like office politics and lay-offs. As a millennial professional, I am fascinated by how people work and how companies structure their workplaces and hire their employees. I’ve fairly quickly discovered that I don’t fall into a conventional belief system, partially aided by Clarity on Fire and companies like Buffer and Skillcrush, and more extensively from my own experiences, and I’m recognizing a shift that is taking place when it comes to how this new generation of workers chooses to work.
As more and more individuals give themselves permission to think outside of the box and form their own career opportunities, it becomes less about the expensive paper certificate that you display on your wall (or still have in its sleeve somewhere in your closet if you’re lazy and frugal like me…) and more about the skills and experiences you have gained in and out of the traditional workplace. Instead of being held back by the fear of being too inexperienced or unqualified for a position, take matters into your own hands, build those skills yourself, and make things happen.
[Tweet “Think outside of the box when it comes to your career and build your own skills.”]
It may seem overwhelming or daunting to try and build an entire skill set or to gain experience in a particular industry or field, but there are opportunities literally at your fingertips. You’d be surprised how quickly and inexpensively you can gain proficiency and confidence in a multitude of marketable skills.
Want a workbook to help plan out your skills-building strategy? Read on for a FREE guide below!
If you think you’d enjoy creating content, teaching others, spending time on social media, and building a community, and feel confident in your time management and organizational skills, blogging is a fantastic avenue for you to sharpen those talents. You’ll get the most out of the experience if you narrow your focus, invest in design and branding, try a variety of mediums like video and audio, and maintain consistent, high-quality content. Additionally, your blog will serve as a portfolio of your expertise on a specific niche or industry, which is particularly helpful for demonstrating skills that aren’t so tangible.
Related: Everyone Blogs, so Why Should You?
Content strategy, copywriting and editing proficiency, social media management, time management, basic design/HTML, digital marketing strategy, product marketing, analytics interpretation and application, SEO understanding, brand collaborations, instruction and technical writing, community building, branding, running advertisement and sponsorship programs, audio/visual editing, photography
Marketing Consultant, Digital Marketing Strategist, Content Strategist, Social Media Manager, Copywriter, Editor, Digital Account Executive, Product Marketing Manager, Communications Specialist
[Tweet “I’m building my ideal career thanks to the skills I’ve gained through blogging.”]
Invest in Your Education
Even if you don’t plan on getting your master’s degree, there really IS something to be said about lifelong learning (Hello, liberal arts education. Aren’t you proud?). You might not get a shiny new diploma out of the deal, but you’ll learn applicable skills and critical knowledge you can apply to your next career (for a fraction of the cost, or even for FREE).
See Erika’s List of 18 Expert Podcasts for Women Online Entrepreneurs.
If you’re looking to burst into the tech industry, check out Skillcrush. These powerful women instructors offer Blueprints and single skill classes and equip you with the knowledge and confidence you need to move forward. Plus, you’ll also get a working portfolio of your work and a personalized letter of recommendation. If you’re recently unemployed, they’ll even offer you a discount!
Another great online educational platform is Lynda. Take classes in development, photography, business, 3D animation, and more. You can start off with a free trial and then choose the paid path that makes the most sense to you.
Furthermore, many bloggers offer comprehensive eBooks, webinars, and eCourses that can help you gain business, design, and writing skills. One of my favorite infopreneurs is Regina from ByRegina.com. I have personally used a lot of her free resources and invested in some of her paid opportunities and have always learned something really useful and applicable. Other notable bloggers who offer these educational resources include Campfire Chic, Femtrepreneur, and XO Sarah.
Be sure to check out your local community college for inexpensive classes as well. You may even be able to obtain a certificate with just a few classes.
Get creative. There are so many resources out there that can teach you skills that go beyond the workplace, like how to generate smart passive income, how to take a digital detox, how to sew, and more.
Skills and Potential Careers:
The sky is the limit! You can learn anything from programming to web and graphic design to photography to accounting!
[Tweet “The best gift you can give yourself is an investment in your education.”]
Sometimes in order to gain something, you have to be willing to give something. Opportunities don’t always come by in the workplace, but you can create them through volunteering. Joining a board, a non-profit organization, or a community group can help you sharpen your skills, provide real-world application, and/or help you make connections with new individuals.
Seek out volunteer experiences in the industry you wish to work in or with people who possess skills you desire to learn. Because money and status is off the table, the focus is on helping others, which often provides returns ten-fold.
Time management, leadership, communication, problem-solving, fundraising, event planning and coordinating, community building, flexibility, compassion
Run a Side Hustle
Do you have an entrepreneurial spirit? Are you itching for a creative outlet? Consider running your own side hustle. Direct your ambition into taking your hobby and turning it into a business. Not only will you make some extra cash, but you’ll learn in the trenches how business works and how to market your product or service. Before you take the plunge, ask yourself these five questions.
Business management, social media management, organization, time management, digital marketing strategy, leadership, accounting
There’s something to be said about knowing how to work a room. Even if you don’t want to be the attention of an entire room, regularly practicing how to communicate with new people can take you extremely far in life. It is quite possibly the most underrated professional skill that everyone should learn.
It’s not about schmoozing or rubbing elbows with big executives but rather about making mutually-beneficial, genuine connections quickly and effectively. If you and the person you are talking to can mutually express who you are and what you’re looking for and find ways to help or support one another, consider yourself a success. Networking is uncomfortable, I get it! But the more you do it, the better you’ll be.
Here are some tips:
- Be intentional with your body language. Keep your arms and legs uncrossed, stand up straight and confidence, turn towards the person you are talking to, use eye contact, and smile.
- Use the person’s name whom you are talking to. Repeat it back when you are being introduced to help commit it to memory.
- Keep the conversation flowing by briefly recapping your discussion to the next person that enters your circle. (Example: “Hey Sam! Casey and I were just talking about how difficult it can be to find time to work on our passion projects. What are you working on right now?”)
- Ask questions, but don’t treat your conversation like an interrogation.
- Bring business cards so you can quickly pass off your information without missing an opportunity to reconnect later.
- Remember that every person has value. Just because he or she may not be able to help you doesn’t mean they aren’t worth talking to. Remember, this is an exchange, not a one-way street. And hey, they might have a friend or a colleague that can help you.
- Focus on making one or two meaningful connections rather than attracting the attention of an entire group of people.
Networking doesn’t just have to happen in person! Use social media and your communities to your advantage. Whitney talks at large about residual success—the concept that helping others find success can ultimately bring you success. Keep that principle in mind as you establish connections both on and offline.
Conversation skills, developing your elevator pitch, establishing connections, making your goals known
[Tweet “Challenge yourself to talk to 3 new people at your next event + focus on how you can help THEM.”]
Bonus Tip: Seek out and Take Advantage of an Opportunity
Lastly, keep your eyes and ears open for opportunity everywhere you go. Sometimes the most meaningful connections and opportunities can manifest themselves in the most random ways. Everyone knows something you don’t; everyone knows someone you haven’t met yet. When you see an opening to learn more, to offer your help, to solve a problem, to add value, to ask a question, to take action—DO IT. You’ll never regret the chances you take and you’ll always learn from everything you do, especially from the mistakes.
Instead of waiting for your next career step, take the initiative and challenge yourself to learn and grow by doing. If you’re a blogger, have you shared your acquired skills with your employer or put it on your resume? If you’ve taken a course or read an eBook recently, have you shared what you learned with your mentor? For those who volunteer, have you thought about what skills you are gaining from helping others? When was the last time you went to a networking event and listened with the intent to help others? It’s time to take charge of your situation and make things happen!
P.S. Need a little guidance to help you organize your skill-building strategy?
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