A 3-step beginner’s guide to building skills in the workplace

Self-employed in publishing

In the run up to October’s event, United, We Publish, BookMachine will be featuring a number of opinions on Unite-focused topics such as training, pay, employment law and flexible working. This is a guest post from Jasmin Kirkbride. Jasmin is a regular blogger for BookMachine and Editorial Assistant at Periscope Books (part of Garnet Publishing). She is also a published author and you can find her on Twitter @jasminkirkbride.

Back in the day where a ‘job-for-life’ attitude ruled the workplace, developing skills was a less urgent need than it is today. In a fast-paced world where many young people are encouraged to move between jobs every couple of years, having a solid foundation of skills is crucial to your CV. Yet, it can be tricky to know how to find training courses and funding to build these skills in the first place.

Identifying your skill gap

A good place to start identifying gaps in your skills is to look at the job you’re doing and look honestly at the areas that you find difficult. It could be proofreading, contract writing, or even team management – the likelihood is that if you’re struggling with it, there’ll be a course out there to fix it.

If you’re happy with your current tasks but are looking for a promotion, it can also be helpful to look at the skills that people possess in the position you want. Make sure you check out what you need to have under your belt to qualify for the position.

Finding – and funding – training

Once you’ve identified which skill you want to work on, have a look around on the internet to find out what training is available. Make sure to do your research here, and really discover which courses will suit your needs best. Not all training is of the same quality and it’s important to be aware of what the industry standard might be, as this could affect your future employment possibilities. Be aware in particular that while free online courses and instructive blog articles can be very helpful and are definitely better than nothing, most of them won’t be able to give you the practical, experienced training you need to plug that skills gap!

Once you’ve had a look at what the market looks like, approach your employer to discuss your training. It may be that they have their own training schemes that they prefer, or that they receive a discount for. If this is the case, check them out, find out whether they match up with what you discovered during your research. If not, there’s no harm in talking to your employer about the possibility of taking a different course that you would be more comfortable with. More importantly, your employer will be able to give you an idea of whether or not they can fund your training, how much of a budget you will have for your training, and whether they have any support systems in place to help you with it.

Most employers are enthusiastic about training and skill-development in the workplace nowadays, but if your employers happen to be one of the few that aren’t, it’s important to know your rights as a worker. For example, if your workplace employs more than 250 people, you have been working there for over 26 weeks and the training is relevant to your current job, you may ask for unpaid leave in order to undertake it. Conversely, you may want to choose an online course that you can complete during evenings and weekends.

However supportive your employer may be about your training, though, they may not be able to fund the course. In this case, explore other funding options such as industry charities, grants, or discounts offered by the training companies themselves. There are also benefits and discounts to be gained from joining certain societies and communities – like BookMachine! Just because your employer can’t fund you, it certainly doesn’t mean the end of your training journey.

Don’t be afraid to not know!

Last but not least, don’t be afraid to admit there are skills you don’t have. Skill gaps can appear at any point in someone’s career, and the most successful people tend to engage in new learning projects from the minute the hit the job market to the moment they retire. Industries are constantly changing and our skillsets have to as well.

– Join us  for ‘United, We Publish‘ in London on the 27th October.

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