How do you upgrade your skill set while working a full time job?

What do you recommend to upgrade your skill set? (time management conference, people skills mastermind, IT training, customer service audit, pyschological assessment, etc)

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Hi Denise,

Very nice question indeed! It made me think back over my life on how I made my decisions at the time. As a person who switched careers completely 4 times in my life so far:

* Fireman
* IT support
* Consultation (IT, business software, mostly)
* Web development

Now I am tackling the 5th career change:

* Transforming to a business owner and director of my own web development firm. I am still a developer at this time, but starting to hand this work off to my in-house team of developers while I strategize about the way forward for my business, and managing it on a daily basis.

I believe my answers below might assist - but might be more philosophical than literally - read and make your mind up yourself about that. Although everything I've learned in my career up to now, a lot of skills from previous jobs are still being used today.

That said, for me, the most important aspect to this is your personal mindset. If you do not have the mindset to be willing to research how you want to develop yourself, or knowing that you will have to burn the midnight oil in order to improve your skill set, you are essentially wasting your time. So - my answer will focus a lot on the psychological part of things - more than the actual doing.

The second assumption I make is that you want to see a drastic change in your current situation. If this is not the case, my answer below is less relevant to you, but will still have some relevance.

So, how do you start this process?

There are a few universal questions that almost applies to every decision of note you want to make. These are WHO? WHAT? WHEN? WHERE? WHY? and HOW? I am following that route in my suggestion below.

Make the decision that you want to see a change. "I want a change in scenery" or "I want an increase in salary" or "I am tired of the current situation I am in, so I need to change it".

Firstly, define WHY you need to change this. Make your case as compelling to yourself as possible. If you do not believe your reasons, you will have trouble going through with it.

Secondly, determine WHAT you want to change. "I want s new career" or "I want to make myself more marketable in my current career". This will help you in setting clear goals for your transformation.

Thirdly, you need to address the WHEN factor. When do you need this transformation to be complete. WHEN do you want to start your new career or reap the higher salary? This is a crucial part to setting your goals.

In the fourth place, addressing the WHO factor is not as straight forward as it may seem. At first glance, you'd think the WHO encompasses only yourself, but it does not. If you are married and have children, you need to consider them as well. Longer hours means less time with family and loved ones. They need to sign off on your idea as well - because without their support, you are in for a tough time (albeit not impossible).

In fifth place, the WHERE factor comes into play. Where are you going to do this? If you decide to study for a new skill, evaluating the institution is very important, as a "seemingly right" qualification from a shady institution will not help at all. If at all possible and affordable, studying at a reputable institution will give accreditation to your new skill/diploma/degree/course. Do your due diligence and research properly.

Finally, the HOW needs to be addressed. Where will I get the money to do this? Once all the research has been done, and I have registered and received my materials, and the timing guides from the institution, you need to work this into your schedule. HOW are you going to structure that your skills and studies get enough of your attention without harming the other aspects of your life?

I would recommend a SWAT analysis of yourself in order to help determine your way forward from where you currently find yourself. When discreet decisions have to be made, a technique I use has saved me a million times: What do I have going FOR this decision, and what do I have going AGAINST this decision. Physically writing them down can give you a quick overview on how to actually make it. When you run the pros and cons over in your head, you tend to not see the full picture.

Hope this gives you some insight into what techniques I have used to change careers, all with moderate or great success, and finally found the one I LOVE: Being the owner of my own small technology company, employing a small team of staff, keeping things tight, organized and fostering a happy business and staff environment.

Kind regards,


I believe all of our experiences prepare us for what we are MADE to do. Our passion will follow what we LOVE.


Hi again, Denise!

Great question! There are a few different ways I've upgraded my skills while working.

I've earned three professional certificates while working full-time over the course of my career, and I have found each and every one has enhanced my skill set immensely, both in a general professional and industry-specific sense. I have achieved each of these certificates online, which certainly helps me focus on the learning rather than the commuting to and from school.

Additionally, whenever I've had an opportunity, I take advantage of seminars and other professional development opportunities in areas of interest or in which I think I need improvement, including Webinars and conference calls. Often these are offered during lunch hour, so you can eat and learn at the same time.

Finally, there is nothing that can compare to the power of personal networking. I have learned so much from my network of professionals in ALL industries. I just have to pick up a phone or shoot an e-mail and I can have an answer in no time. Or I can learn in a bit more detail over coffee or lunch. I try to attend networking groups with members that I think would be great to interact with, refer to and learn from. But it takes time to find those groups and develop those relationships.

None of these are overnight solutions, but they are fantastic ways to enhance what you know when balancing it with a busy full-time work schedule.


Hi Jessica ~ Excellent answer! Most forward-thinking managers want well-rounded staff members and will happily pay for you to upgrade your skill set, as long as 1) there is a budget for workshops/seminars, etc., and 2) you choose something that's at least tangentially related to the work you currently do, so you can make a case for how the training will enhance your effectiveness in your position.

Nicely stated Jessica!

Well put comment Jessica.


In my experience there are really only few ways to upgrade your skill set.

#1 - Practice, a lot. Whatever you want to learn, start doing it. Get in there and mix it up in whatever time and opportunities are available. As you begin, you will find extra time, support, and skill.

#2 - Hire a coach. Reading and studying in class is great, but chances are you can't see your own skills objectively. I believe true growth comes from teachers, coaches and mentors that can see our behavior with an unbiased view and give supportive feedback.

#3 - Learn & Study. Several people have mentioned this, but with the Internet your opportunity to learn is limitless. You can download ebooks, take online courses, watch Ted talks, join support groups or enthusiast communities. As long as you have a thirst for knowledge, there is no reason to ever stop learning.

Just remember that learning alone will not make a change. Long-term growth and a pursuit of excellence requires repetitive action, reinforcement of your new knowledge and skills.


There are several ways to do this. The most effective and stress-free ways are to tie your professional development goals directly to your companies' mission, vision and purpose. If you can effectively who show how upgrading your skills tie directly to the organizational goals, you can easily integrate your professional development with your personal business commitments.
Some examples:
1) Submit abstracts and presentations to the technical conferences, seminars, and expos. When you are selected as a speaker - you get into their conference for free AND you can bring back sales leads to your company.
2) Include your manager into your individual development plans. Make your manager a co-conspirator in your career goals.
3) Take full ownership of your career. Take online eCourses, attend professional association meetings, interview the heroes in your field of interest, get a mentor.
I have several online courses that cover a host of professional development tools. If you are interested in more ideas on how to better integrate to keep a satisfying work life balance, let me know. In the meantime, you can find some online ecourses at


Hi Denise,
In your case, I recommend stepping back and looking at your business plan. Based upon what your business mission is, what you're trying to achieve or accomplish, and what you consider your drivers for success, go through what I call your SWOT analysis (your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats). Based upon your analysis, identify what gaps you have, and based upon what gaps you want to address first (considering certain factors like customer needs, market demand, risks to your business, timing, budget, etc), you can make some informed decisions on what skill sets you may want to upgrade and over what time frame.

Hope this helps...

Best Regards,
- Guy A. Catalino, CMC-


#1: During full time work in Marketing I took one MBA class and then I took two and it was over before I knew it.

Second way: Take the number one business book each month and read it.

#3: Another: Go to one business lecture each month or networking event.

#4: Force yourself.

#5: Have and kept a schedule.

#6: Good luck


Good question Denise, but I don't think this only applies to working full-time it applies to EVERYONE! The first step I think is one people most frequently forget because it requires deep introspection, what is it that you'd like to achieve next OR better yet ultimately in your life? Once you understand the answer to this question then you can determine the skills that you require in order to get there. Make time on your calendar to work on those skills and DO IT! It's the same process if you're a student just getting started or a CEO of a company! I hope this is helpful. - Dino


I recommend what I'd call on-the-job-training. Learn things you need to do for the jobs you are tackling. That way you get to apply things as you learn them, and the learning will take root deeper.

Want to learn something that's not part of your current job? See if you could get assigned responsibilities that would include the new skill. Perhaps find an internal mentor for such skills. With IT, for example, you could take a course at a local community college, or a MOOC, and then apprentice with your in-house IT expert.

As you learn a new skill, teach others what you've learned. Also document it--create the user's manual. This helps you internalize it better. And it demonstrates to others that you have the skill, so that you are more likely to be promoted to a job that takes advantage of it.


Ms. Mock,

Although the skills set development is a long term benefit for the employee, my first choice would be what does that fetch my employer? So I ask myself these questions:

a - What is the constraint for the function I work at - Is it a skills issue?
b - What skills set would I require to focus on?
c - How soon or what is the urgency?
d - Has my hiring manager agreed that I need this?
e - Have I quantified the ROI for the function through this investment?
f - Is this ROI acceptable for the function and my manager?
g - Get sponsored and set time on and off work to get trained.
h - Register online for such a skills course.
i - Find a local expert in this skills area to be mentored if necessary.
j - Apply the skills and bring the ROI for your function/employer.

Skills and other expertise gain during employment is not an entitlement but an empowerment that we need to leverage appropriately bringing value for our employers as a FTE.


Dr. Shree


Focus on what you're good at and what you need to be good at and hand off the rest to people who are experts in their respective fields.

It's good to have top-level knowledge of what's happening outside of your scope of work and knowledge, but unless you have a ton of time to dedicate to learning new things, you should focus on what's most important to your bottom line.

The value of having knowledge has plummeted (just google everything!), but knowing how to make that knowledge work for you is the key to success in market.

The moment you put this approach to use, you will see significant changes in how you feel and if you focus on your main skill, people will come to you for an expert opinion as well!

Hope that helps!

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