upskill by reading
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How to upskill easily without doing a course

16 Dec 2016

Career happiness requires professional progression and development, but that doesn’t have to mean sacrificing your work-life balance. Jane McNeill from Hays Recruitment has plenty of ways to upskill outside of the office and enrich your career.

The world of work is ever-changing, requiring candidates to not only keep their skills updated, but also learn new ones. Although many employers offer both on-the-job training and the chance to take more formal qualifications, it’s still up to you to upskill and stay abreast of developments in your field.

By refining and updating your expertise, you can ensure that it stays relevant for the job you do, and also makes you more appealing to future employers, if and when you decide to look for a new role.

You don’t necessarily have to spend a lot of money, or use up company time and budget. There are many timely, cost-effective, and even free ways to upskill in your own time, whether it’s at home, during your commute or on holiday.

Learn a new language or two

The job market is becomingly more and more globalised. If you’re fluent in another language, you open yourself up to new opportunities; be it multilingual, overseas or both. Being able to speak another language is also a specialist skill, which can attract greater demand and a much higher salary.

Aside from classes, try Duolingo – a free and gamified language learning experience. Download it on your phone and take it with you everywhere, so when you have a spare five minutes, you can pick up where you left off.

When you’re a little more advanced, install Readlang Web Reader on your desktop. This extension allows you to read web pages in another language and translate the words you don’t know.


Volunteering allows you to step outside of your comfort zone and adapt to unfamiliar environments. You will meet new people, learn new approaches and gain new insights, whilst also giving something back.

I think of the above qualities when I see voluntary work on a CV, and believe that it speaks volumes about that candidate’s attitude.

Find a mentor

You can skip a whole host of steps and avoid a lot of mistakes if you learn from someone who is already where you want to be. Talk to them about how they got to where they are and what they learned along the way.

You will gain plenty of professional insight talking to somebody with more experience. You can also clarify which skills you still need to develop.

Train or mentor others

Nobody else has had the same journey as you. You will have your own stories and life lessons, and could offer a lot to somebody as their mentor. In addition, you will find yourself learning just as much during this process.

You will most likely learn something from the mentee, particularly about their experiences and approaches to working life. Mentoring will also boost your coaching and leadership skills as you grow confident in teaching others.

Moreover, explaining something to someone else can really solidify how much you know in your own mind, and show you where the gaps are in your knowledge.


Talk to others inside and outside your industry, both online and offline. Speak to people from a wide range of ages and backgrounds.

In doing this, you will broaden your mindset, your circle of connections and your interpersonal skills; teaching you what life might be like outside your current role.

Keep an eye out for webinars, podcasts and live events

Webinars and podcasts are great because there’s often a recording so you can tune in when and wherever is convenient. You’ll be absolutely spoiled for choice on pretty much any subject you can think of if you do a quick Google search, but narrow it down by asking what other people recommend.

Live events mean you do have to spend a little travel time and money, but you’ll get the double benefit of face-to-face teaching and meeting new people. Make sure you remember to take a notepad or take notes on your phone, so you can list any ideas that you want to follow up on. This is another great way of learning from the experts and building your own know-how.

Start a blog

Start researching your area of interest. Read up on industry news and opinion pieces. Follow other bloggers on your chosen topic.

Once you start writing, learn how to get your content noticed by looking at blogging tips. There are plenty out there in the form of podcasts, webinars and blog posts themselves.

This will give you the chance to build upon your existing knowledge, develop a keyword-rich online portfolio and impress anyone who might be looking to hire.


An obvious one, but Amazon is teeming with books on all sorts of subjects, and it’s a great way to expand your awareness. You may even find the biographies or autobiographies of some of the leaders in your field.

Teach yourself to be social media savvy

If you’re not on social media these days, you will find yourself missing out. Job vacancies, thought leadership pieces and networking opportunities are often posted on everything from Twitter to LinkedIn.

Build your social media profile carefully, however, because while that night of too many cocktails in Malaga may really have been hilarious, a prospective employer might not be so convinced.

Show off your knowledge on forums and in groups on your subject, and build a presence to be proud of.

Once again, this is another simple way to keep your finger on the pulse with any developments in your area of interest, whilst also promoting yourself to prospective employers.


Don’t forget to document your new skills so you can present it to your current or future businesses. Remember to update your CV and social profiles with any new skills you have learned.

Whether you’re looking for a new job in the same field, a complete change of career or even a promotion, your chances of success are much higher if you follow these nine steps. These effective methods will ensure that you are continuously developing yourself throughout your career, and showcasing that to potential recruiters.

By Jane McNeill

A version of this article originally appeared on Hays’ Viewpoint blog.

Jane McNeill was appointed to the Hays Australia & New Zealand management board in 2007. Now based in Sydney, Jane oversees Hays’ operations in both NSW and WA.

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