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Council Post: 12 Ways To Develop And Sharpen Professional Skills Outside Of Work

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Council Post: 12 Ways To Develop And Sharpen Professional Skills Outside Of Work

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Some companies provide formal training opportunities or other educational benefits; others don’t, but that doesn’t mean their employees can’t pursue professional development opportunities on their own time. As technology continues to evolve, there are more options available than ever before for those who are looking to sharpen their skills outside of the workplace.

From online courses and resources to networking opportunities through social media and beyond, there are countless places professionals can turn to strengthen their skill sets. Here, members of Forbes Coaches Council explore helpful routes professionals looking to grow their skills and advance their careers outside of official employer channels can take.

1. Find Online Training Courses

Accessing courses on edX, Google or other online training platforms is a time-efficient way to learn core skills. Another good way to grow your skills is to participate in not-for-profits—either by helping plan an event as a volunteer or by joining the board. Often, a mentor can emerge through shared interests in areas that are unrelated to your current professional responsibilities. – Ben Levitan, Cedalion Partners

2. Turn To A Leader For Mentorship

Great leaders want to mentor those who are coming up. Network to find a few leaders you could learn from. Perhaps they work in your industry or were in the position you are in now at one point. Be bold! Tell them you want a mentor and coach, someone to help you navigate tough terrain. As an executive, I made time to mentor young leaders, and it was a true joy and pleasure to help others rise up. – Cari Jacobs-Crovetto, carijacobs.com aka The Force Majeure

3. Find Opportunities To Network And Grow Skills

Join professional associations in your community, attend monthly educational programs to network and grow skills, and volunteer for leadership roles. Look for low-cost or free webinars through multiple associations. Check out training courses on LinkedIn and Coursera. Consider honing your skills with nonprofits as a board member or an extra pair of hands. Put the word out that you’re looking for opportunities! – Holly Burkett, hbconsulting / Evaluation Works

4. Request Guidance From Informal Mentors Or Colleagues

Seek out an informal mentor within your professional network who can offer guidance. Before investing in training programs, ask this mentor for advice on which certifications or courses are worth the time and expense. In addition to a senior mentor, find colleagues who are in a similar place in their careers who may want to collaborate on projects outside of work or share knowledge to hone skills. – Michael Timmes, Insperity


Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?


5. Join An Industry-Specific Professional Association

Learning opportunities should not be limited to what an employer organization can provide. A balanced approach to professional development should include joining an association affiliated with your profession. Members of professional associations typically enjoy free or low-cost options for development. – Anthony Howard, HR Certified LLC

6. Join Professional Networking Groups

Join some professional networking groups to be kept in the loop about what growth opportunities are being offered. That way, you will hear about interesting initiatives, workshops and seminars that are going on in your field or area. Maybe your group will even invite their own guest speakers and facilitators. – Rajeev Shroff, Cupela Consulting

7. Utilize Free Online Learning Resources

The number of free learning resources available on the internet is astonishing. Depending on the area of development required, there are TED Talks you can watch for diverse awareness, free courses supplied by tech companies (such as Alphabet and Meta) for more technical needs, and even free soft-skills courses provided by some universities and learning and development companies. There’s never an excuse to not be learning. – Dr. Rakish Rana, The Clear Coach

8. Identify The Skills You Need And Find Free Classes

In terms of practical, hands-on skills, both General Assembly and LinkedIn Learning have courses, as well as pathways for careers. First, gather information through interviews with people inside and outside of your company to get a sense of what the most relevant needed skills are. Next, sign up for the free version of classes you need to get a sense of the type of instruction best suited to you. – Kelly Huang, Coach Kelly Huang

9. Develop A Vision And Upskill On One Topic At A Time

Don’t let your company’s lack of foresight inhibit your career growth. Develop a vision of where you want to be in three to five years and identify the knowledge and skills you need to get there. Then, pick one topic each quarter to upskill on. Search for experts on YouTube, Coursera and Udemy, and do a deep dive into free and low-cost training options. Fuel your growth mindset. Your future self will thank you for it! – Gabriella Goddard, Brainsparker Global

10. Look For Low-Cost Training Opportunities Online

There are so many free or low-cost training opportunities online that will expand your skill set. There are also industry-recognized certification programs that allow you to demonstrate skill in a subject area, often for a low cost. Training and education opportunities have never been more accessible and available, and most allow you to showcase your achievements on LinkedIn as well! – Krista Neher, Boot Camp Digital

11. Build Skills By Volunteering In Your Local Community

A great way to build skills is by volunteering in your local community. Pick something you are passionate about. Be strategic in selecting a nonprofit, charity or community group, as this allows you to build skills in areas where you want to grow professionally. Over time, this experience will add to your résumé, especially if you decide to take on a leadership role, such as being the chair of a committee. – Nikki Moberly, Big Breakthroughs

12. Proactively Create Your Own Opportunities

Beyond just looking, proactively create opportunities where you can practice learning by doing while building your reputation around a certain skill set. You can start by reaching out to your social networks and local communities to find challenges that you would like to help address by using your skills. – Joyce Talag, Joyful Transformations LLC

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