Strategies to improve professional skills and move up the career ladder


Have you ever lost a job opportunity because you lacked qualifications? If so, you have to read this article. Updating our professional skills is essential so that we do not stagnate in our career.

Learning is everything. What we learn becomes a part of ourselves and accompanies us throughout our lives. We evolve and our environment too, so it is necessary to update and adapt. Those who don’t do it end up being left behind. As the Chinese proverb says:
“Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.”

The report indicates that six out of ten workers will need training before 2027 and that, on average, a worker needs to update 44% of their skills.

For this reason, it emphasizes the importance of offering learning and recycling opportunities to workers. And it highlights the following issues to consider:

  1. More and more value is placed on cognitive skills, due to the increasing importance of the ability to provide solutions to complex problems in the workplace.
  2. The most important skills for workers in 2023 are analytical thinking and creative thinking, and this will continue to be the case for the next five years.
  3. Technological knowledge, particularly in the field of artificial intelligence and big data, will become more important.
  4. Collective action from the public and private sectors will be needed to provide flexible and affordable retraining pathways.

Technology or analytical thinking?

While technological literacy is among the top 10 most in-demand skills, it is soft skills such as analytical and creative thinking, self-awareness and agility that rank even higher. This reflects the need for workers to adapt to profound changes in the workplace.

Improving skills is essential to aspire to positions of greater responsibility, as it provides a competitive advantage and increases people’s professional development opportunities. Through the acquisition of knowledge and the development of competencies, you can take on greater responsibilities and achieve success in different fields.

The most important professional skills

Continuous learning and improvement of skills allow the professional to remain competitive in a constantly evolving work environment. There are two fashionable terms in companies related to learning: upskilling and reskilling .

Upskilling refers to the improvement of skills, abilities and competencies to improve productivity and achieve internal promotion. We could translate it as a “skills promotion”.

Reskilling is professional recycling to occupy other different positions in the company, that is, training in new skills or updating skills.

Aspire to positions of more responsibility

It is essential to improve skills to be able to aspire to positions of greater responsibility in the company. Some practices that will help us achieve this are the following:

  1. Establish our purpose. What do we aspire to? What moves us in life? What motivates us in our areas of interest? Where would we like to see ourselves in a few years? Let’s try to align the inner compass that marks our north in the personal and work spheres.
  2. Identify our areas of improvement. Let’s analyze weaknesses and strengths. We can ask family, friends and co-workers. Let’s try to reinforce the areas of improvement and personal and professional growth.
  3. Set realistic goals. Reaching small goals will help us to set ourselves new, more ambitious goals. It is important to be realistic in the goals. In this way, each positive experience will help us face new challenges and achieve them. Effort and perseverance should be our hallmarks.
  4. Perfect what is necessary. It is better to do first what we must and then what we want. We seek continuous improvement and quality in our work.
  5. Foster personal relationships. More is achieved with good relationships than with good reasons. Let’s try to get to know our colleagues personally, help where we can, be cordial and try to maintain a good atmosphere. Integrating and being part of the work team to help achieve goals is the best way to demonstrate our professional worth.
  6. Keep our knowledge up to date. If we turn work into an opportunity for professional and personal growth, we can always be up to date. It’s not so much that we do what we like (it’s not always easy), but that we like what we do (effort and dedication help). It is good to take different courses, and that our director or department director help us in the choice.
  7. Evaluate ourselves continuously. We can request evaluation of our professional development directly (asking colleagues and superiors) or indirectly (observing the reactions of others), and use that information to improve.

An obligation and a challenge

Professional recycling and updating knowledge is not an option. It is an obligation that we have to have with ourselves and with the organization. Technological advances, shared work with new generations, new demands and challenges force us to keep up to date. Otherwise we can fall into obsolescence as workers and be an obstacle to the advancement of the organization.

This continuous challenge, far from being a real threat, has to encourage us not to rest on our laurels. Some organizations offer internal promotions exclusively to employees who have completed the training required for that position. Those who haven’t cared don’t even get the offer. We have to be proactive and not reactive. Be prepared and updated to take advantage of promotional opportunities that arise and improve.

In the words of the American professor and philosopher Vernon Howard :
“Always walk through life as if you had something new to learn and you will.”

Author Bios: Fernando Diez Ruiz is Associate Professor, Elena Quevedo is a Lecturer & Researcher. Faculty of Psychology and Education. Educational Innovation Unit (Responsible Teacher Training) and Elene Igoa Iraola is a Predoctoral Researcher all at the University of Deusto