How often should you update your professional skills?


As many individuals return to work this month, we enter a highly competitive market that’s characterised not only by a need to rebuild, but also a desire to work differently. As much as the last year has been a challenge, for lots of people it has been a wake up call around the things that they do and don’t want from their work/life balance. To compete in the work market, get the most out of your job and place yourself amongst the top talent for the roles you want, what’s the advice when it comes to updating your professional skills?

Why is it important to regularly update your professional skills?

If you’ve been in your job for a while there are probably two things that characterise your expertise: 

  1. You have soft skills that you just can’t teach
  2. You may feel on the back foot when it comes to new technical knowledge.

Updating your professional skills is as much about your confidence as your ability. There are lots of things that only experience can teach you, but a wider market awareness and an understanding of new technical capabilities can keep you abreast of the opportunities and wider landscape. It can also help you to appreciate or better understand the skills of others coming into the company, and if you’re in a position of leadership that can help you to make better management decisions. Then again, if you’re seeking to apply for a new job, updated skills can give your CV an edge over other candidates or inspire new ideas for innovation as you gain greater knowledge of your specialist area.

In the words of Benjamin Franklin: “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest”, and even the best of us should never stop learning.

Benefits of regularly updating your professional skills include:

  • Improved self-confidenceProof of being proactive
  • Improved marketabilityBetter career opportunities 

What should be updated regularly in CV?

While your CV itself doesn’t necessarily need regular updating, it should be up to date. This probably goes without saying, but especially if you’ve been in the same job for a long time, it’s amazing how these documents can end up sitting in a proverbial drawer for years gathering dust. 

Checking your CV two or three times a year, adding new skills and courses that you have done and reprioritising it for specific jobs that you do choose to apply for will not only keep it up to date, but will also help you to think about how you present yourself and your skills. The perceived wisdom is to update your resume at least twice a year if you’re currently in a job, but more often if you are looking for a new role.

How frequently should you look to learn something new?

There’s no hard and fast rule on how often you should seek to learn something new. To some extent, we’re always learning – especially if you’re in a job and you communicate proactively with your peers. In that regard, keep an open mind and remember we can always learn from one another.

In a more structured capacity, whether it’s learning for yourself or providing learning opportunities for your team, it’s a balance between keeping skills up to date, inspiring new thoughts and ideas, but not going into overload when everyone already has a lot to do. The frequency of skills updates depends very much on what you do, but a good rule of thumb is to seek some formal training once a year. Remaining mindful of the skills, knowledge and market developments around you as a whole however, is ongoing. 

What other ways can you learn without taking professional courses?

Professional development courses are just one way to improve your skills and stay market aware. In our digital world we have access to so many discussions, webinars, white papers and forums, it can sometimes be overwhelming. However, selecting a cross-section of platforms to be involved with can be a great asset. Ideas include:

  • Joining discussion groups (maybe even start one!)
  • Taking part in webinars
  • Go to or take part in professional events
  • You might even find informative information on the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime!
  • Read studies and news stories that represent different angles on the same topic

It’s important to remember that you don’t have to get involved with everything – it’s better to choose a few, sustainable ways of developing your knowledge than trying to do everything at once. 

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