It’s that time of year again…as the fireworks fade and the end of the holiday season looms closer, most of us start thinking about the year ahead, making resolutions we’ll never keep (hello dusty old running shoes), and setting new personal goals.
For a lot of people, this means finding a new job. In fact, here in the tech recruitment world, we typically see a surge in job applications at the start of every year. So with so much competition, how do you make your application stand out from the crowd?
Our advice is to learn some valuable new skills to add to your resume!
Self-directed learning is now easier than ever, with loads of free online resources and tutorials. It also shows that you’re driven, motivated, and passionate about your own professional development – all valuable qualities that employers look for! Plus, finding unique ways to upskill can give you good examples to talk about in an interview.
In this blog, we’ll outline 10 ways to upskill that will stand out on your LinkedIn profile and CV, and broaden your job search to better-paying (and often more interesting) roles!
1. Learn a new programming language
Plus, since programming languages vary depending on the environment you’re developing in, once you’ve learnt a new language, you’ll start to uncover all the places where it’s used. For example, Python can be used to develop a website, create desktop applications, and analyse large complex data sets – to name just a few examples. Imagine the variety of projects and job opportunities that learning Python could open up!
When you stack multiple languages into your arsenal, there’s also a significant boost to your value in the IT job market, because the more large-scale projects and senior roles often require a combination of programming languages.
Whether you’re learning in your own time at home or manage to find a project in your workplace to help develop your skills, there are lots of handy tips and articles out there to make your learning as quick and efficient as possible, so why not give it a go?
2. Start a hobby or project that requires new skills
With so many public holidays and long weekends at the beginning of the year, it’s the perfect time to start a new hobby or embark on a pet project that challenges you. The best way to do this is to find something you’re interested in or passionate about, so that you stay engaged as you work through the challenges of learning something new.
There are loads of different tutorials online, so find one that interests and challenges you, learn some new skills, and add them to your CV. You could even start thinking about how to use them as examples in an interview situation!
3. Complete certifications within your workplace tech stack
If you’re already working in an IT role, chances are the organisation’s tech stack has platforms that offer their own certifications. For example, Amazon Web Services offer formal training and qualifications for IT professionals, and website content management systems often provide digital certifications, all of which look great on your CV.
One benefit of choosing something in your workplace tech stack is that the new skills you learn will be highly transferable to other organisations, and you’ll get an understanding of concepts which aren’t just specific to that particular platform, but are relevant across other brands and platforms too (e.g. cloud computing).
The other advantage of looking for certifications related to your organisation’s tech stack is that your employer might consider paying for it, or they might even get the training free as a part of an enterprise contract from the provider.
4. Take a short course online
If you’re reading this, you likely know the field of information technology is vast. You can find training and qualifications online in everything from front-end development to project management, and from both New Zealand based educational institutions and global e-learning platforms. It’s best to decide what you want to learn and then do some comparison shopping. There’s nothing wrong with a mixture of local, tertiary-style short courses and other forms of e-learning. An employer in tech should, and likely will, consider all this together.
5. Watch YouTube tutorials
YouTube isn’t just a great place to waste an evening, it’s a huge repository of valuable information. The quality of YouTube content has skyrocketed over the past decade, with high view counts translating into significant revenue for content creators, and attracting a higher calibre of quality content. However, you should still use some discretion when choosing which channels to follow; some good indicators of quality are the view counts, ratings, number of positive comments, and feedback in online communities (more on that later).
YouTube learning is a brilliant tool that is reshaping the way we upskill. Being able to pause, replay and come back to how-to guides means you can learn at your own pace. Many development or design channels also incorporate screen capture so you can see live examples of the skill you’re trying to learn in practice (e.g. writing a piece of code for a mobile app).
6. Join online tech communities
Online communities in tech are so important. The industry moves at a blistering pace, and the sheer range of platforms, languages, systems and practices means that no one’s an expert in everything. By tapping into online communities like subreddits and the highly popular and valuable Stack Overflow, you can link up with other developers, designers, and IT professionals, and get answers to your questions.
Always make sure you clarify and confirm the source of information, and if you’re applying new knowledge learnt from an online community, it’s probably best done in a ‘low stakes’ situation first. Then, once you learn more about the skill or technology, you can apply it in more complex scenarios.
7. Shadow someone more experienced
While this approach isn’t technically self-directed learning, it can be initiated by you, not your employer. If you have strong internal relationships and there’s someone willing to give up some time, then learning alongside a senior in your business can be really valuable. Shadowing doesn’t have to be an imposition – it could just be 10-15 minutes in the day where you sit alongside that team member and watch how they apply a certain skill to a piece of work you both understand.
The great thing about this type of learning is that you can see the benefit of the skill in real-life scenarios that are relevant to your day-to-day work, and you’ll get ongoing support and guidance from that same person as you start to use and hone the skill yourself.
8. Upskill in areas outside of tech
Upskilling as a tech professional is about more than just learning technical skills. The more well-rounded you are, the more doors that may open (and more interesting your work may be). Business skills come in many categories, including business analysis, finance, HR, operations, procurement, management, communications, marketing and all the industry-specific skills relevant to your business.
Take some time to learn more about the organisation or industry you’re working in. There could be opportunities to learn through your employer, or you can find learning opportunities (formal or otherwise) in your own time. There are many people in IT that we work with who have a background in both business and technology – the mixture of both make for excellent senior roles where the demands and KPIs are essential to business success.
9. Develop soft skills through theory and practice
Soft skills are essential for a highly successful IT career. Even the most technical roles can be hamstrung by someone unable to communicate ideas, empathise or adapt. Soft skills are sometimes tricky to develop because they require more than just reading and theory; to hone these skills, one must be self-aware and apply them deliberately in live situations. However, your employer should be able to support you by incorporating these into your professional development plan. This puts some structure around the upskilling and challenges you to make improvements over a set period.
Front footing your soft skill development is music to an employer’s ears. Combined with a roadmap of technical skill development, these abilities will make for a far more effective team member with excellent internal promotion potential.
10. Volunteer for challenging (but manageable) tasks
Applying a new skill to solve real challenges is part of truly learning a new skill. The workplace is the best arena for such endeavours, with problems arising daily that need solutions. You should find these opportunities readily available if you work in a large business with plenty of IT challenges. You can also put your name forward for contributing to a project or task within an IT team, with the caveat that you’re working on developing this skill. An employer will likely put you with a more experienced team member but should ultimately allow you to apply a newly developing ability that will benefit the business and you.
Explore available IT roles today
Are you looking for that next tech role where you can apply your growing knowledge and skills? You may want to find an organisation that values what you bring to the table today and can foster your development for the future. If that sounds like you, head to our IT jobs for the latest roles across New Zealand.