How to Use a Summer Slowdown to Build Your Skill Set
Calls that go unanswered, key contacts on vacation, an office full of summer interns taking care of the busywork. If your workplace experiences the summer slowdown that is typical for so many industries, and you find yourself with time on your hands, then get busy! It’s time to develop and expand your hard and soft skill sets.
The skills employers want most
LinkedIn recently released data that pointed to the most in-demand skills in the current job market. LinkedIn identified the most sought-after skills by focusing on the skills most commonly listed in the profiles of LinkedIn members who were most appealing to employers.
According to this methodology, the most in-demand hard skills are cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI), analytical reasoning, people management, user experience (UX) design and mobile application development. The most in-demand soft skills are creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability and time management.
Creating a skills wish list
Your mission to build your skill set should begin with a bit of research to determine which skills are most in demand in your field and area of expertise. Use your summer downtime to read trade publications, websites and blogs in your industry, taking note of which skills and qualities are most talked about in articles about talent acquisition. After all, no one can fault you for keeping current on your field during work hours.
Next, start looking at job boards in your field and taking notes on the most commonly desired skills for positions you can see yourself seeking in the near future. Now that you have a list of hard and soft skills, ask yourself which you already have and which you need to acquire.
Ways to gain new skills
From cultivating mentoring relationships to adding professional development titles to your summer reading list, experts recommend a variety of strategies to help build your skill set.
- At work
Many HR departments try to combat the summer doldrums by hosting skill-building workshops. Sign up for as many as you can. If you have a strong relationship with your manager, ask to shadow a co-worker in another department or to partner on a project that will allow you to acquire new skills.
You can teach yourself to use new platforms and acquire technical skills through online training, including on YouTube, or by taking work-focused online courses offered for free or low cost by websites like Coursera and Udacity. Online courses also are offered by many professional organizations.
- In your field
Most professional associations offer certifications and skills training at discounted rates for members, including for soft skills such as leadership. Taking part in these courses comes with the added bonus of increasing your network. You may even be able to convince your employer to pay for you to attend a seminar or conference in your field.
- In your community
Certification and skills-based courses are offered by local business organizations and community colleges, often at no or low cost. Another option is to build your skills in service to others. Spending your off hours volunteering for a nonprofit can bolster people skills and professional competencies.
Community service can take the form of direct interaction with the public, heading up a project or committee, or serving on a board. You may find yourself able to take on aspects of leadership you don’t get to exercise in your current role — project management, budgeting or public speaking.
How to leverage your new skills
As you build your skill set, you’ll need to add them to the most recent version of your resume. This can be simplified by taking advantage of resume applications, such as LiveCareer’s Resume Builder or Resume Templates. For skills you already have and those you’ve recently mastered, make sure you use the same language to describe them that is most often used by employers.
Once you’ve completed this summer update of your resume with your newly highlighted skills, consider sharing it with your manager and HR department as an indication that you are ready to make the next move in your career and you’d like it to be with your current employer. Your new skills should create more growth opportunities for you within your company.
When you apply for new positions with new employers, remember to tweak your wording so that you describe your hard and soft skills in the exact same words employed by each job description so that your newly strengthened resume makes it past any automated applicant tracking system and into the hands of a human recruiter.
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