It’s no news that employers are constantly looking for candidates who can add value to their organization. Whether you’re seeking a higher position within your current organization or in another, staying on top of your game is key to advancing your career. Sometimes, all it takes is a little bit of brushing up on your existing skills or acquiring new ones to meet the changing market demands in your industry.
This article aims to inform you on how to improve your transferable, hidden, or technical skills in pursuit of career advancement opportunities.
Upskilling vs. Reskilling: How Do They Differ?
Upskilling and reskilling are two terms that describe the process of acquiring new skills or enhancing existing ones in a professional context. While they share similarities, they have distinct differences.
Upskilling refers to the process of improving or enhancing existing skills, knowledge, and capabilities in a particular area of expertise. It involves updating or expanding current skills to keep pace with technological advancements and changing job requirements. For example, a programmer may upskill by learning a new programming language, and a project manager who wants to take on more supervisory roles can upskill by improving their leadership and communication skills.
When Siemens created an internal training program that teaches workers about digitalization, and other advanced manufacturing technologies, it was their way of helping their staff upskill. According to Daniela Proust, the global vice president at Siemens AG, “They realized that employees must constantly adapt to changing roles and learn new skills.”¹
Reskilling, on the other hand, refers to the process of acquiring new skills or completely retraining for a new job or career. This is often necessary when the existing skills you possess become obsolete due to changes in the job market or industry. For example, post-pandemic, many healthcare workers had to pivot their skills to meet new demands. Nurses who typically worked in surgical or outpatient settings were redeployed to COVID-19 units to provide critical care.²
Both upskilling and reskilling are important strategies for climbing the corporate ladder, especially in today’s rapidly changing job market. While upskilling is necessary to stay competitive and relevant in your current field, reskilling may be necessary to adapt to the changing job market and find new opportunities.
Upskilling and Reskilling the Skills That Matter
Your goals, career path, and the demands of your industry are usually the major factors that determine which of the two strategies you may find more useful. Either way, here are four major categories of skills to keep your eyes on:
1. Transferable Skills
Transferable skills are skills that can be applied across different jobs. Examples include communication, teamwork, problem-solving, adaptability, and analytical skills. These qualities are particularly valuable because they can be transferred from one job to another, regardless of the job function. For example, If you seek to fill analytical positions, you can look out for roles that require analytical thinkers such as systems or data analysts. Both roles require identifying areas for improvement and developing solutions to increase efficiency and effectiveness.
In other words, transferable skills include a set of abilities you already possess. These abilities make learning new skills easier, especially when transitioning into a new career. As an IT professional with a background in software development, for example, you most likely know Python already. You just need to brush up on your scripting capabilities, SQLes, SQL, and DBA skills. Transferable skills, regardless of your field, can be improved through the following steps:
- Identify the transferable skills you possess: If you have a position in mind, first review the job description. Take an inventory of the required skills by conducting a self-assessment or analyzing previous work experience. This helps you identify transferable skills that are most important for the role you’re interested in.
- Develop an improvement plan: This can involve taking courses, attending workshops, reading books or articles, seeking mentorship, and staying up to date with current trends.
- Practice the skills: Gain hands-on experience by working on personal assignments, contributing to open-source projects, or pursuing internships. Additionally, consider volunteering for leadership roles or participating in team-building exercises.
- Seek feedback: Seeking feedback from colleagues, mentors, or supervisors can help you identify areas for improvement and make adjustments to your development plan.
- Be proactive: Take on new challenges and seek out opportunities to apply your new skills and knowledge. This will help you demonstrate your value to your current or potential organization.
2. Hidden Skills
Hidden skills are abilities and strengths that you possess but may not be aware of, or have not had the opportunity to develop or utilize in a professional context. These skills may also not be immediately evident from your resume or job application, and possibly not related to your primary area of expertise or professional experience.
For example, a software developer may have a hidden talent for photography that is not immediately apparent from their resume or job application. However, when an organization taps into this skill, it could be useful in roles such as advertising, marketing, or e-commerce, where high-quality images are important for showcasing products or services.
If you’ve discovered your hidden talents, your best bet is to find ways to put them to use. This may require you to volunteer more but in the long run, contributing to your organization’s growth with your hidden abilities can position you as a valuable team member. On the other hand, if you’ve yet to discover your hidden talents, here’s how you can:
- Take some time to self-reflect on your strengths. This may include areas of interest that may not have been utilized in your current or previous roles. Ask yourself questions such as: What are my hobbies and interests? What do I enjoy doing in my free time? What skills have I developed outside of work?
- Ask opinions from others. Ask friends, family, colleagues, or mentors for feedback on your strengths and areas of expertise. They may have insights on skills you possess that you may not be aware of.
- Consider taking assessments. Research personality tests, skill assessments, or online quizzes to identify your hidden skills. Many of these resources are available online for free and can provide insights into your strengths and areas of interest.
- Explore new activities or hobbies that interest you. This can help you identify new skills or areas of interest that you can apply to your professional life. Also, look out for recurring patterns in your interests, hobbies, and work experiences.
3. Technical Learnability
Technical learnability refers to a person’s ability to quickly and effectively learn new technical skills or adapt to new technologies in their field. It involves the ability to absorb, process, and apply new technical knowledge and skills, as well as the willingness to embrace and learn new technologies as they emerge.
This skill is becoming increasingly important as technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, and many jobs require ongoing learning and upskilling to keep up with these changes. For example, a data analyst who has experience working with traditional relational databases decides to learn about big data technologies such as Hadoop and Spark to handle large-scale data processing and analysis.
Different factors including your cognitive ability, motivation, attitude towards learning, past experiences, and the availability of learning support can affect your technical learnability. With the right mindset and resources, you can develop your technical learnability over time. This allows you to stay up to date with the latest technologies and remain competitive in their fields.
4. Hidden Knowledge
Hidden knowledge refers to information or expertise that is not readily visible or accessible and may not be widely known or recognized. This knowledge is termed hidden because it hasn’t been discovered or its use hasn’t surfaced. Similar to hidden skills, hidden knowledge may not be explicitly stated or documented, but instead is acquired through experience, intuition, or tacit understanding.
For example, a senior manager at a financial services company has developed a deep understanding of the internal politics and power dynamics of the organization and has learned how to navigate these effectively to get things done. Uncovering and leveraging hidden knowledge can be challenging as it often requires careful observation, communication, and collaboration with others. However, it can provide valuable insights and perspectives that can lead to better decision-making and improved outcomes.
Ultimately, the ability to learn new skills and adapt to new technologies is essential for staying relevant and moving up the corporate ladder. Professionals must identify their transferable skills, hidden skills, technical learnability, and hidden knowledge to maximize their potential for career advancement. By continuously learning and developing their skills, professionals can position themselves for success and achieve their career goals.
EXPLORE OPPORTUNITIES TO ADVANCE YOUR CAREER WITH STRATEGIC SYSTEMS INC.
At Strategic Systems, we’re always ready to meet career needs. If you’re looking for job opportunities where you can utilize your hidden knowledge, transferable/hidden skills, and technical learnability, we’ve got you covered. By connecting with us now, you’ll be on your way to finding the most suitable job match.
1. Richardson, Daniel. “Siemens: Fill your work skills backpack”. https://www.unleash.ai/learning-and-development/siemens-fill-your-work-skills-backpack/. Published June 6, 2022. Accessed March 1, 2023.
2. PMC. “Building Health Services in a Rapidly Changing Landscape: Lessons in Adaptive Leadership and Pivots in a COVID-19 Remote Monitoring Program”. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7808765/. Accessed March 1, 2023.