Career advice

Take initiative to develop your skill set

A lot of people wish to develop their professional skill set, but they find it hard to ask for it at their workplace. However, it is the people who ask who often get to attend courses and continuing education.

You are responsible for your own development. It benefits you personally and your company when you frequently expand your knowledge and competencies. Your manager also holds a part of the responsibility, but in the end, the responsibility and initiative to grow lies with you. In the busy everyday life at a workplace your manager will not necessarily notice your specific need for development. They will see that you are doing a good and competent job. You need to tell them where you feel you lack knowledge or wish to develop certain skills.

It is often the employees themselves who are hesitant or do not prioritize courses and further education because they are very busy. You might recognize this with yourself. However, you have to make an effort to plan your continuing education and growth. 20 percent of IDAs members do not participate in competency activities because they did not initiate it themselves. That tendency appeared in the IDA Salary Statistics from 2021 for employees in the private sector. At 9 out of 10 companies it was the employee’s request for continuing education that paved the way for them to participate in courses and educational activities, showed a survey by HBS for Confederation of Danish Industry (DI).

It is important that you continuously check in with yourself and make sure you are developing your skill set in a direction that matches the career path you wish to have. Otherwise, your manager might suggest competency activities that favours your current job and the company you work for – which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can take you in a different direction in your career than you wish to have long term. Talk to your manager about the direction you wish to grow, then they might be able to help you as well as the company.

Advice on how to ask for courses and education

“The money is not an issue, but the time you spend away while being at a course is”. That is a highly likely example of a rejection when the issue of courses and education arises. But a no is not always a no. Do you have the time NOT to educate yourself further in your workplace? In the end a three-day course might give you the competencies to do your work faster because of newly learned methods and techniques. Here is four pieces of advice on how to prepare for the conversation about wanting to attend a course.

Advice nr 1: What is in it for your company

When you have found the right course or the right educational activity you need to be able to show how it applies to your tasks and to the company you are in. Create a list of competencies you will achieve by attending and how you apply them in your job afterwards. In that way it will be easier for your manager to see the return on investment by letting you attend the course – especially if the effect is applicable in the long run.

Advice nr 2: Prepare the facts

It is easier for your manager to say yes or no to a course if you have the concise facts ready for them, such as the name of the course, the price, and the dates. If your manager says no, then ask how to make it possible. Is it better at a different point of time? Is the price to high? Or does your manager rather seeing you attend a different sort of course.  

Advice nr 3: Make a plan for the time you’ll be away

Look at your calendar a while before the course or educational activity and suggest a plan for your tasks that need handling while you are away. Is it necessary that a colleague takes over while you are away or can they wait till you are back?

Advice nr 4: Implement your new competencies

It is a pity not using your new competencies after having attended a course. The best way to implement them in your job is to create a plan before the course on how to apply them. This plan will also be a good argument for the conversation with your manager – it shows that you have thought it through and how this course might help you with doing your job better.

If you get the green light to attend the course, then an idea is to share what you have learned with your manager and colleagues and how you wish to use your new skill set. That way you have someone holding you to it, so you do not forget about the changes you wish to make.

Can IDA help you?

IDA offers a variation of ways to help you develop your skill set and competencies: Network, mentoring, courses, conferences, events, webinars, and podcasts.