Adding new skills to your toolbox is a great way to stay current and improve your marketability.

Whether you’re a seasoned professional or just started your first job, acquiring new skills is a career-long venture. There’s no better time to start than now, and as the saying goes, the early bird gets the best opportunities and/or promotion! So start adding new skills to your toolbox by using the following few steps that we’ve compiled.

Step 1. Build a Knowledge Base

What skills are you interested in attaining? There are several good sites out there that can help you find suitable training programs and courses that will teach you new skills. Consider any of the following:

  • Pluralsight is a technology skills platform that provides a variety of video training courses for software developers, IT administrators, and creative professionals.
  • Udemy has over 100,000 courses for IT and software, programming, marketing, data science, design, business management, personal development, and more.
  • Cybrary offers free IT training online for all experience levels for professionals interested in cybersecurity and career development.
  • O’Reilly/Safari just like Pluralsight, O’Reilly is a technology skills platform that provides a variety of video training courses and resources covering artificial intelligence, operations, data, UX design, finance, leadership and more.

Step 2. Join a Community

Identify a local meet up, user group, or association in the area or online to continue to learn and network with like-minded professionals. Even if you live in a city where there aren’t many working in your field, organizations and user groups are taking advantage of virtual technology and networking online. An online environment opens the opportunity for networking nationwide. Furthermore, if you’re joining a group for the first time, meeting online helps ease the hesitation of physically walking into a room full of strangers. Meeting online evens out the playing field because most, if not all in attendance, are going to be in a similar environment and attire. The online environment is reasonably forgiving, usually casual, which eases the sense of community.

Look into online communities such as Career Guru on LinkedIn, GitHub, and Standuply chat groups. With all these resources, you’ll have no problem find a group to join. So what are you waiting for!

Step 3. Start a Side Project

Whether you’re taking online courses or going through a training program to develop new skills, it is good practice to build your skills around a project. Reach out to local organizations, small businesses, or nonprofit organizations; they may have projects where you can apply your new skills. Are you still in touch with any of your college professors or have you developed a professional relationship with a recruiter, why not try them? Broadening your skills on projects builds and enforces your resume, which drives up your value and demand. If you’re unsure where to start, you can always count on groups chatting about projects online. Some projects may even be group projects you can join.

Step 4. Gain Professional Experience

You can also perfect your skills by applying them to opportunities available at your current place of employment. Is your manager familiar with your new skill interests, and are there current or upcoming opportunities where you may be able to utilize those new skills? If you don’t ask, you’ll never know, and neither will your manager. Take the time to have the conversation, there may not be opportunities within your division, but your manager may know of other internal or external opportunities. Further yet, your manager may know about company perks or discounts offered to employees interested in developing new skills or attaining certifications. It’s a win-win situation! You get to take a course to learn a new skill, your company pays for it, and on top of that, you’re still getting your regular paycheck. I don’t know about you, but it sounds good to me, now excuse me as I end this so I can have this conversation with my manager!