How to Advance Your Career Through Upskilling and Reskilling in Your Current Role
Growth-minded employees proactively seek out ways to improve and grow on the job instead of waiting for opportunities to present themselves.
Having the right mindset and a willingness to grow makes all the difference to fully developing your own talent and potential. Whether you are just starting out in your career or have plenty of experience under your belt, people with a growth mentality all share the traits of the classic self-starter: They take the initiative, embrace change and are prepared to surmount the challenges of any potential failures by learning from every experience.
It is important to understand that an individual's appetite for learning can show up in different ways, from on-the-job upskilling to external coursework and personal study as part of reskilling. It's your attitude that counts. The task of leadership is to create the pathways, funding and culture to support that personal drive for improvement.
Someone with a fixed mindset can be positive and talented but risk stagnation, because they tend to believe those qualities alone are enough. Employees with a growth mindset are always looking for opportunities to develop, regardless of past achievements.
That same difference is reflected at the organizational level. A company with a fixed mindset can unintentionally promote aggressive competition among employees, because talent is seen as a finite resource, and there are limited opportunities for advancement. However, adopting a growth mindset fosters collaboration over pure competition, which benefits everyone across internal company divisions.
Having a clear philosophy around promotion and movement within your organization gives individuals focused on growing the green light to move forward with confidence. It ensures they don't fear that their enthusiasm for learning new skills will be regarded as moving outside their lane.
Leadership sets the tone
The best leaders allow themselves to be uncomfortable as they grow, change and evolve. From CEOs to frontline managers, this willingness not only models a growth mindset for employees but also helps foster a workplace culture in which upskilling and reskilling are encouraged and rewarded.
Growth leaders do more than pay lip service to professional development. Offering funding for tuition, training and education is one thing, but are people taking advantage of what is available? The average utilization of company stipends for professional development is typically pretty low. Employees say they don't have time to use it. The focus of leadership should be to create the time and space for people to pursue growth opportunities.
A McKinsey survey of 165 C-suite executives and senior vice presidents with growth responsibilities identified seven common behaviors and beliefs that inform their success. These include creating an empowering culture of delegation in which middle managers and frontline employees are trusted to make critical decisions. They also set ambitious goals and clearly communicate progress across the organization.
These leaders encourage risk-taking, celebrate success and don't punish failure — the same attributes that employees are urged to develop.
Reach farther, learn more
Pushing yourself toward continual growth will inevitably open up new opportunities, even if you have occasional setbacks. It's all part of the learning curve. Someone with a growth mentality understands that there is no end to self-improvement, because there is always more to absorb and apply.
Stanford University psychologist, Carol S. Dweck, a pioneer in the study of mindset, says we are all a mix of fixed and growth mindsets, though people tend toward one type or another. This gives weight to the idea of choice. It may sound obvious, but effort, in particular, is key. However, it's important to understand that effort alone is not enough. Receiving positive feedback for a failed effort helps no one, regardless of how hard they tried. What matters most in every situation is one's willingness to learn from each experience and to always value and prioritize honest, truthful feedback, regardless of how difficult it may be to hear.
Choosing to strive for success is what separates those who grow and those who stay comfortable. The people who get ahead are those who can bear the tension of working toward a career goal that seems just out of reach. They value feedback and view constructive criticism as a learning opportunity, even when it hurts. It's hard to not take criticism personally — and it's not a bad thing to feel the sting of a sharp critique — but what's important is how you use the information and grow from the experience.
If you match an attitude of curiosity and engagement with the hard work of constant application, your efforts will be rewarded.
Do the work before you get the job
I have had super ambitious employees who always asked to take more coursework and others who were very focused on intimately learning about the business and upskilling on the job. As a leader, you can provide opportunities for both styles, but it is important to ensure that education has a practical application.
The Center for Creative Leadership's tried-and-tested 70-20-10 rule offers a principle for employees, too. According to this rule, there are three types of experiences that shape leaders:
70% challenging experiences and assignments
20% developmental relationships
10% coursework and training
In this model, the majority of learning takes place right where you are. A company can offer the tools and resources for upskilling, including on-the-job and off-site training, but experiencing the demands and responsibilities of a desired position before actually landing the job helps employees earn the right to be promoted.
Harness your ambition
The growth-minded employee never waits for an opportunity to present itself. Instead, they proactively seek out ways to improve and grow on the job, through both available training and often by simply doing the work required of a new position before they're offered a promotion, which signals to leadership that they have the drive and initiative to excel in the new role.
Talent is not a finite resource. It can be expanded and built upon, just like anything else. However, constant growth is only possible through leadership that encourages employees who are not afraid to show they are willing to cultivate new skills and take on more responsibilities.
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