6 Ways to Quickly Learn New Skills

Learning a new skill is the best way to fast track your career to a big promotion, land a new position or amplify your productivity in your current role. Do you want to learn to code, create a spreadsheet or speak a second language conversationally?

First, you must begin by defining your goals. Need a new skill for a department transfer? Talk with those in a similar role or with supervisors in that department about what skills you’ll need to acquire to transfer to the team. Be clear with your manager about your goals for climbing the corporate ladder, and work with him or her to outline your next steps.

Now that you’ve established the goals, you want to learn the required skills quickly. Try these six ways to get those skills into your career toolbox stat:

1. Receive Mentorship

According to one study, 86 percent of professionals believe mentorship is a key success factor for career development. Reach out with a courteous email to senior members of your organization working within your career development target, and ask for thirty minutes for an informational interview about growing into your goals. Say you’d like to discuss the possibility of a mentorship. You may meet at the office, for coffee or at their favorite restaurant — leave your options open and respect their time.

Arrive at the meeting with a clear outline of what you hope to gather from the meeting. See if you can transform one of these meetings into a mentorship, and continue to check in once a month if the senior member agrees to the idea of a monthly follow-up.

2. Job Shadowing is Still in Style

So, you want to transfer out from marketing to product management? How can you gain the right skillset if you’re 9-to-5-ing it already?

Talk to your manager about your career growth goals, and see if he or she is open to sending you over to product management to listen in on a meeting or go to a networking event with the other team. Job shadowing is still in style, and you’ll learn about what being on the team is like along with what skills you’ll need to acquire. You could also discover the transition isn’t right for you, after all. Don’t forget to go above and beyond with your current duties.

3. Read to Feed Your Head

Tired of reading reports? Take a break and read an article or a book chapter on the subject you’re learning. The beauty of reading allows you to take the full responsibility of learning into your hands and work within your schedule, not anyone else’s. Work at your own pace.

Set reading goals by creating a to-be-read list, with book titles that begin with an overview of the skill you’re trying to enhance. By the time you reach the list’s end you’ll have a more refined skill set. Use sites like LibraryThing and Goodreads to read book reviews of titles you want to check out and build your reading list.

Love an article by an expert? Check their bio to see if they’ve authored any books on the subject. Visit your local library to find more relevant topics on the subject.

4. Become a Student

Studying at your own pace is rewarding, but sometimes you need help from a teacher. There are many routes to take as a student. Take professional development courses offered by your company. Consider a local university or community college for classes on personal enrichment and career development.

You may not have time to be physically present anywhere but the office and your home. An alternative is to sign up for online classes offered by career network organizations — for journalists, that might be MediaBistro, for example. Consider online open education classes such as Udemy or Coursera — you can find many such classes on the Open Education Database, and some provide certificates of achievement for a small fee.

5. Ask for a New Project

Tired of doing the same old work in your job description? If you can do your duties in your sleep, it’s time to request a new project to level up your skillset and test those skills you’ve been working on. There’s nothing like a new challenge to quickly acclimate you to the ins and outs of a new skill.

Requesting a new project will also show your boss that you’re not afraid to take the initiative and work hard at something outside your general duties, increasing the chances of landing your dream job within the company.

6. Attend a Professional Conference

Conferences aren’t reserved for those with an exhaustive list of accomplishments — they’re for professionals of all career levels. Conferences offer panels and workshops that provide the privilege of being surrounded by experts and newbies alike who are all eager to exchange information and resources.

In many cases, it’s possible that your employer will help pay for part or all of the costs of attending the conference. Just ask. Outline how the conference will develop your skillset and how you will apply these skills to your role at the company.

Let’s Get Learning!

Consider the style of learning that works best for you. For some, that’s learning on their own through reading various books and taking the initiative on new projects. Others may prefer mentorship, job shadowing, taking a class or going to a conference. Your style may combine many of these methods, but the goal is the same: to quickly learn a new skill and climb the ladder.

Learning a skill gives you newfound confidence and the ammunition to make the switch to a new role. It can also improve the way you work in your current role. Have you had to pick up a skill quickly? What did you learn? Comment below, share the wisdom and subscribe to Punched Clocks for more career advice on climbing the ladder to your dream job.


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Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks.

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