Age is no barrier to learning, and here we offer advice on how to add more strings to your bow by learning new skills that will be useful in your new career.

Why learning new skills is important

Whether you are fresh out of school, college or university or you have itchy feet and are contemplating a new career later in life, learning new skills is important for your personal development. The more skills you have, the more adaptable you can be and the more career options this will open up.

And learning new skills is important whether you are happy in your job or looking for a new one. In order to change career you certainly need to broaden your prospects by improving your value to a potential employer in terms of your skills and knowledge. But in any job and in any position, we should always be looking to better ourselves and learn new things, if only to keep our brains active and perhaps make a mundane job more interesting.

Learning new skills for a new career

For changing your career, learning new skills is essential. Of course you can re-train and take online courses in the evenings or weekends, as you prepare to start a new career, and if you are taking a specific qualification to make you eligible for a new career. But there are many ways in which you can acquire new skills in your existing job – where this is appropriate – which can be transferrable to a new career and which will make you more valuable and more attractive to a prospective employer.

  • Mentoring

    You can demonstrate and learn the art of leadership by taking someone under your wing and trying to develop them. You can offer feedback and constructive criticism and plan a roadmap for their learning and development. This can then go on your CV and act as valuable work experience towards a new position.

  • Volunteer for projects

    If opportunities arise to branch out, you could volunteer to be involved in new projects that take you out of your comfort zone. They may not necessarily involve the specific skills or knowledge you will need in a new career, but it will demonstrate that you have a willingness and appetite for learning and personal development. These new skills will test yourself and might also help to confirm whether or not you are ready to take the leap into a new career.

  • Problem solve

    It is usually quite easy to play a more active role in everyday problem-solving, and if nothing else, management always prefer to be approached with a solution, rather than a new problem which requires a solution. So you can take special interest in an aspect of work and become an expert in it, pitching a solution in a structured proposal. This may then become a project you can demonstrate success and proficiency in.

  • Talk to other departments

    Another simple way to learn new skills and knowledge is to take an interest in other departments and tasks around the workplace, and where possible and appropriate, maybe volunteering to take on extra work. A good manager will want their staff to be willing, proactive and flexible, so this should be encouraged and will also improve your interpersonal and communication skills.

  • Learn more about the organisation

    You can develop your knowledge by taking more of an interest in the overall performance of the organisation and giving yourself a more rounded business understanding. This could be reading up on the history, how premises and buildings were acquired and developed, studying the financial performance and getting involved in KPIs and objectives and targets. These will all demonstrate that you have an understanding and appreciation of all levels of business.

Of course some of these may not be possible in your existing workplace, but they are all practices and disciplines that someone wanting to change careers should want to get involved in. You should be dynamic, willing to learn, not afraid to take on something different and certainly not afraid of a challenge.

On top of these learning opportunities outlined above, most organisations have an involvement in IT, health & safety and environmental management, which are disciplines that are transferrable to other industries. And actively learning tasks involved in these areas, such as risk assessments, audits, inspection and monitoring, can all come in handy when you are faced with different environments and different careers.