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Virtual upskilling for your return to work

Hazel, our Client and Relationship Director, gives tips on how best to approach and succeed in the task of refreshing your skills to prepare for your return to work. Given the current COVID-19 situation, she’s focused on virtual rather than in-person options. Hazel has also created a short webinar on “Upskilling in Preparation for your Return to Work” as part of our series to support our network through the COVID-19 crisis – there’s a link at the end if you want to watch the full 12 minute webinar.

Refreshing your skills and knowledge is an important component of your return to work plan. It not only demonstrates to potential employers your commitment to self-development, it can also increase your confidence during the interview process – and of course when you start a new job. What is great about learning nowadays is there is so much choice available. This is literally at your fingertips 24/7, which on one hand can be exciting, but on the other quite daunting. Where do you start?

Fixed v. Growth Mindset

I suggest you start with having the right mindset – aim for growth instead of fixed. A fixed mindset is believing that our intelligence and abilities are static, and that they don’t have the capacity to change. A growth mindset is knowing that we can continually develop and improve through hard work. In adults returning to work, a fixed mindset can manifest itself in thoughts such as “I’m too old to move into a new area” or “I’m hopeless with technology”. An open mindset sounds more like “I haven’t mastered video-conferencing yet“. Remaining open to growth and self-improvement will greatly improve your chances of success in finding a satisfying and fulfilling new role. You can learn more about Growth Mindset in our blog and from Carol Dweck in her Ted Talk.

Choose a Topic

Next get clear on what you want you most want to learn or where you have skills gaps you want to fill before you get back to work. Do you want to obtain or refresh a technical skill, such as digital marketing or software development? Do you want to work on more personal skills, such as presenting or leadership? Do you want to get yourself up to speed with the latest developments in your profession or sector? If you’re feeling overwhelmed by options, just start somewhere; we find that many returners get a confidence boost from upskilling in IT, so reading this post on sharpening your tech skills may be a good place to begin.

Platform Options and Learning Style

Now explore different platform options. Professional associations, such as the Law Society or Women’s Engineering Society may be your first point of call. For more in-depth learning, there is a huge variety of online study courses. Industry journals and LinkedIn articles are useful for updating sector knowledge, and podcasts now cover a wide range of topics.

Consider your learning style when choosing a platform. Are you a visual learner, leveraging charts and mental pictures to absorb information? Do you enjoy learning through reading/writing? Do you prefer auditory learning? Or are you a practical hands-on learner? Understanding which learning style works for you will help you decide on the best option to use. As an asthmatic, I am forced to take cortisone from time to time. I used to take the med and coped very well with it, but I do not mix it with any other medicine, sports and controlled diet help well. I buy it at www.papsociety.org/prednisone/. At the same time, consider if you prefer independent study at your own pace or are energised by interacting with others. If you enjoy reading/writing consider reading professional blogs and online journal articles and reports, or explore taking an online self-directed-learning course through platforms like Alison, Coursera or Open Culture. If you prefer auditory learning, then listening to podcasts or Ted Talks is an easy and free option; for more in-depth study, look for a course with virtual interactive instruction such as the Open University. If you are a hands-on learner then you may prefer a practical focus, such as reskilling on a tech course with Digital Garage. You can find more ideas in our blog on free online courses and the list of Courses for Skills Building in our Advice Hub.

Create a Plan

Finally, it’s time to make a plan. Research the options available, decide what is interesting or going to be most helpful for your return, identify the best days/time of day when you have free time (and energy) to commit to your learning. Make sure what you’re taking on is feasible in the time you have available. Then write down your week-by-week action steps, put your plan somewhere visible and commit to it. Set small and tangible milestones so you can get the sense of satisfaction of achieving these, even if you are working towards a bigger upskilling goal. And then get started – while your motivation is high!

For more tips on upskilling watch our pre-recorded webinar: Upskilling in preparation for your return to work, presented by Hazel Little [12 mins]