While they’re not the same thing, career advancement and skill improvement are often interconnected.
Career advancement is the progression of one’s career. What this looks like depends on the person and on their career path but in general, this is often an upward progression through the ranks: from an officer to coordinator, from coordinator to manager, from manager to director, and so on.
Skill improvement is simply the development of certain skill sets relevant to one’s profession, and is one method of career development.
How can skill improvement lead to career advancement?
And more importantly, why is it important?
Often, the advancement of an employee through the company ranks is the result of good performance. But performing well in one role does not indicate an employee has the ability to perform well in another.
Consider a professional seeking a managerial role but who has never had experience as a manager: there will be gaps in their skillset that need to be filled in order to perform well in this new position. One way in which they can go about bridging these gaps is by identifying - through job descriptions, observation, or simply asking people who are already in the role - and improving the skills necessary. This may be as simple as learning a new piece of software or as complicated as mastering a new language.
Of course, not all skills can be learned theoretically. Some can only be learned on the job. But in order to gain a better foothold into a promotion, demonstrating proactivity and the ability to learn can be a good way to inspire confidence from superiors.
The skills that matter most: soft skills
Sometimes, the skills that have the most impact at work are the ones that are hard to measure. While technical qualifications are important, equally, soft skills are in high demand and should be a regular area of skill improvement focus.
A good example of this is the ability to work well in teams or having good verbal communication skills.
How can employees learn new skills?
The good news is there are many ways available to employees who want to develop their hard or soft skill sets.
- Online learning and short courses
There are many opportunities online to learn technical skills like coding, marketing, or even a new language online or through physical courses. Consider carefully not only the job you would like to be promoted into, but also think long-term: what direction do you want your career to take? This is especially important for more complicated skills that will take time to master.
- Volunteer for new projects
Is there a project you can volunteer for that requires the skills you need for that promotion? If so, ask to be involved. Being put in situations that will allow you to practice new skills is a good way - and sometimes the only way - to hone your abilities, but it is also a way to show your superiors what you can do.
- Find a mentor
Another great way to upskill is by finding someone that can mentor you at work. Not only can a mentor coach you in both hard and soft skills, they might also be able to put you into contact with other people that can help you progress in your journey.
Along with a mentor, the people in your network can be a great source of information. Not only will this broaden your interpersonal skills - another soft skill - but they can also inform you of new opportunities, new interesting contacts, and providing insight into other jobs or companies.
Though securing an advancement in your career is a much more holistic process than simply upskilling, it’s also of great benefit to the people with whom you work. Learning to perform better at work is always a good thing, and through networking, mentoring, volunteering, and short courses, you’ll put yourself in a good position to chase that next promotion.