Need to upskill? 6 things to consider first

by John Burfitt
29 May 2015

Originally published in 2015

The times are certainly a-changing in the modern newsroom. Certainly the conversations are, if chats I was involved with in two mag offices this week are any indication. There was little of the usual mag office gossip I was used to. Amid a week of headlines about newspaper shutdowns and Fairfax redundancies, the conversations proved far more career focused.

The chats I found myself involved in were with journos discussing upskilling and the courses they were undertaking to prepare them for new directions in the industry. And, as someone just back from three months in Asia studying for a uni teaching diploma, I was fascinated to hear how others were adding to their skills set.

The general approach to upskilling appears to fall into two categories – studying specific material with a definite outcome in mind, and studying anything you can get their hands on in the desperate hope it might help bump up the quality of the resume. A comment from a career coach Rik Schnabel I interviewed comes to mind. He said, “The main mistake we see with upskilling is people think they have to learn everything and be a master of everything, and that is just not the case.”

With people currently taking off in all directions, there is definitely a right way and a wrong way to approach upskilling. Here are some of the essentials to consider:

1. Where are you now and where you want to go

You need a starting point of taking stock of the current state of your career and deciding where you want to be in five years. Rather than hope those changes in our industry just miraculously bypass you, decide now what are the skills you need to make you more employable in the future. Here’s a hint – look at what younger people in your office are skilled at, and learn the same skills. As soon as possible.

2. Ask your boss

The greatest investment any organisation makes is in its people, so if things are changing, ask your boss what training courses are on offer through the human resource department that can equip you for the changes. Having someone else pay for your training is the best way to upskill. Being pro-active about expanding your talents might also make others see you in a new light, and for new opportunities.

3. What else can you do

Being a journalist sets us up for so many other arenas, be it public relations, copywriting or project management. If you do want to go beyond journalism and want to work in other areas, what do you need to learn to be able to do such a job? Use your basic research skills and ask someone in those fields. Then decide how you can learn it, maybe by offering to complete unpaid work experience to learn on the job or possibly by doing a course.

4. Short or long term

Don’t assume you need to sign up for a three-year uni course to upskill. What you need might be as simple as an online course, a number of coaching sessions, or even a course for a couple of months at a local community college. These colleges are doing huge business right now as they are affordable, accessible and are full of people from all ranges of industries preparing themselves for future careers. This is about making yourself and what you offer into an attractive package, rather than being left behind.

5. The right qualification

It is astounding how many people go back to study and waste their time and money on the wrong degree or certificate because they haven’t done their research. You may have signed up with the best of intentions, but no real idea of what those new qualifications can do for you in the long run. Ask questions – lots of them – about what the anticipated outcomes of the course are. This is an investment – of time and money – in your future, so spend it wisely.

6. Personal development

If you are still lost, but know you must take action to keep up with the changes around you, do a personal development course to help give some focus to what you really want out of the future. Self development courses can be great to offer an insight into what you want the next chapter to be and then help motivate you to become personally and emotionally prepared.

 Are you looking to upskill or have you retrained recently? We’d love to hear your thoughts / experiences in the comments.

One response on "Need to upskill? 6 things to consider first"

  1. Nadia Brizi says:

    You have surely made a great list of tips/advices. Thanks for taking the time to put these together. Also, you can check Kool Stories, an online skill-learning platform where anyone can upskill and pursue their interests.

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