DIY Upskilling: Take Charge of Your Professional Development

By Susan Krenn ‘04

I confess to feeling intimidated by ardent do-it-yourselfers. Always taking apart or putting together … where do they find the energy?!

If you share my DIY apprehension, fear not — I won’t ask you to fix faulty appliances or create an intricate wood carving.

Instead, the DIY that appeals to me is — you guessed it — upskilling! You’ve likely heard this buzzword, and with good reason. Upskilling refers to the process by which individuals learn new skills. According to a recent workforce survey, 60 percent of employees believe their current skill set will be outdated in the next three to five years.

I understand if the phrase “current skill set will be outdated ...” makes you cringe. (Me too.) But when viewed in the best possible light, upskilling doesn’t have to be a daunting or time-consuming prospect. It’s also an opportunity for some DIY professional development! 

Upskilling can certainly take place in an organizational context, such as company-sponsored training, but why wait for someone else to take an interest in your work/life fulfillment? Here are three ways to start upskilling now: 

Continually Reflect on Your Goals and Take Stock of Transferable Skills

  • Whether you’re working, in school, caring for family, preparing to retire or retired, enjoying an encore career, or something else — set aside regular times to think about your skills and how they relate to your personal and/or professional goals. Would honing a new skill bring intellectual stimulation? Career advancement? The ability to give back to others? 
  • Use this Transferable Skills Checklist to take note of skills you’ve already developed as well as ones you’d like to improve or pick up for the first time. 

Talk with People in Your Network and Arrange a Skill Swap!

  • Do you know someone (e.g., fellow ND grad, colleague, friend, professor, mentor) who has mastered a skill you’d like to add to your toolkit? Schedule a brief chat to learn ways to get started. 
  • Similarly, can you offer to teach a skill in exchange for new knowledge? I recently taught a friend how to edit her foundation’s website, and she gave me grant writing tips in return. 

Use Helpful (and Often, Free!) Online Tools

  • ThinkND — Browse topics such as career development, business, and science & technology for enriching content from ND. (Personal shout-out for the Clear-Sighted Career Series, which offers a TON of helpful career-related videos!)
  • Coursera — Features many free skill-building courses, e.g., “Writing in the Sciences” or “Creative Thinking: Techniques and Tools for Success.” There’s also a Guided Project option with self-paced activities, e.g., creating a professional ePortfolio or improving public speaking ability.
  • LinkedIn Learning — Numerous library systems provide free access to this platform, and the site itself offers a complimentary month for new users. Divided into Business, Creative, and Technology subcategories, you’ll find lessons of varying lengths for different experience levels and a wide range of interests. 
  • edX and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) — These resources offer online courses for career development, changing careers, supplemental learning, lifelong learning, corporate eLearning & training, and more.

Happy DIY upskilling — one of the best things you can do for yourself! 

Other news