Strengthening Your Skill Set

Rapid changes in todays economy and workplace require a focus on updated skills.

After assessing yourself, seek feedback from someone who knows you well and who can give you an honest critique. You can also go to the American Society for Training and Development Website (www.astd.org), where you can receive professional development through Webcasts, workshops, online publications, and certification programs.

Our experts identified two skills you should be working on, regardless of your industry, to keep abreast of change.

Embrace technology. Technology will increasingly affect how business is conducted, regardless of the industry. As companies continue to look for new ways to reach consumers, social networking and viral marketing will require new types of marketing and operational expertise. Take classes at your local community college, consumer electronics store, or online Webinars. And set up a Facebook, LinkedIn, or Plaxo account. Once you are on the site, go to the help section and view tutorials on how to best use their tools.

Also, Joe Watson, CEO of Without Excuses and Strategic Hire in Reston, Virginia, recommends that professionals visit The Information Technology Association of America (www.itaa.org) to learn new skills in business development and market forecasting in areas such as the Internet, telecommunications, software, electronics, and service-based industries. “People who have a broad array of skills tend to be more complete decision-makers, because they have the capacity to evaluate different data points,” Watson says. “This site provides you with the analytical reasoning skills that so many employers value.”

Pick up a foreign language—or two. The ability to speak multiple languages is increasingly becoming a required skill to better service a wide range of international customers. “As the world becomes smaller, the need to know multiple languages becomes paramount,” says Dwight Miller, business and career coach for Bottomline Business Services. “Soon, understanding Arabic, Farsi, and Chinese will become increasingly important and valuable.”

A fast way to pick up an additional language, besides using technology-based applications such as Rosetta Stone and signing up for a class at your local community college, is to book a trip and spend three to four weeks with a family that speaks only the language you want to learn, suggests Miller.

This article originally appeared in the November 2009 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.

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