How to Expand Your Marketable Skills

resume on a laptop
resume with marketable skills

The Importance of Marketable Skills

Staying marketable in a competitive job market is no easy task. You compete with a diverse group of experts who come from a variety of backgrounds. Indeed, trying to stand out in the crowd can feel like a daunting task. However, it’s important to remember that you bring just as many unique skills, talents, and attributes to the table as your peers. Don’t get caught up on other candidates’ alma maters and abilities. Instead, focus on why you’re a great fit for the role and company.

If you don’t yet meet the qualifications for your dream job, don’t worry. That just means it’s time to invest in yourself and expand your marketable skills.

Truly, it’s up to you to decide to diversify your skills. Maybe you want to pursue management or marketing. Or perhaps you’re going after a highly sought-after position. Regardless, you must seek out opportunities to improve your marketable skills. There are a variety of resources you can use on your journey. Today, you can jump on the computer or your phone and find countless free videos, articles, and forums.

Expanding your skill set can make you more appealing as you apply for a new job, seek a promotion, or negotiate a raise. Below we will go over our top ten ways to become more marketable.

Top 10 Ways to Become More Marketable

There are many paths you can take to improve your marketability. For example, you can pursue on-the-job training, self-study, and formal education. Some people need the structure of a classroom or the accountability that an instructor provides. Others need a mentor or coach to motivate them, while self-motivated individuals can pursue a new skill independently.

Whatever your learning style, you have a variety of options for self-improvement. However, your first step needs to be self-reflection. Basically, where are you now, and where do you want to see yourself in a few months, years, etc.?

young professional working in a coffee shop

1. Assess Your Current Skills

Your first step should be a self-assessment of your skills, weaknesses, and current position. You may be missing something that will boost your resume. Notably, think back to your former jobs, roles, and education. Is there a responsibility you had in your previous position that is relevant moving forward? Or did you study a unique elective that gives you an advantage over your peers?

Thoroughly evaluate your job and educational history. We all think about including Excel proficiency, communication, and problem-solving skills. Indeed, these are staples on almost everyone’s resume. Consider if there is anything unique that you can include. For example, were you the one your coworkers called when dealing with difficult customers? Did your boss know they could count on you for unique ideas? Even if these tasks weren’t an official part of your job description, they’re indicative of the abilities you possess. Make sure you’re not selling yourself short.

On the other hand, make sure you’re evaluating your weaknesses. Is there a generic skill on your resume that you don’t actually have? Maybe it’s time to improve in that area. Similarly, you may find that you used to be proficient in one field, but your training is now out-of-date or irrelevant.

Self-assessment is a vital first step to expanding your marketable skills. Once you’ve got it out of the way, you must construct a plan to move forward.

2. Consider Your Goals

So, why are you expanding your marketable skills? Your reasons and goals determine what step you take next. For example, if you’re an entrepreneur, you’ll need to consider your customer base and market to determine what skills you should pursue. Someone looking for a new job will need to research the market their applying in and learn what quality candidates look like. On the other hand, an employee looking for a raise should consider their specific manager and company value.

Basically, what makes you “marketable” is relative to your field and company. So, once you have a good idea of where you stand, you need to then evaluate where everyone else does. Some skills will translate across all industries. Notably, soft skills have value regardless of your position.

In the end, you’ll need a plan that matches your goals. Thus, you should compare your self-assessment and your research. What will it take for you to reach the finish line?

3. See What Your Company Offers

Some businesses offer on-the-job training or classes to build specific skills. For example, companies with a strong focus on customer service may provide their own or will help pay for communication or mediation courses. Managers that encourage upward momentum will be happy to give you the chance to learn about new positions and departments.

Check your employee handbook and company website for educational opportunities. Additionally, make sure you ask your supervisor what’s available or if they could show you the ropes on a certain task.

Notably, make sure you’re clear with your intentions. If you want a promotion or a raise, ensure you’re not giving away free labor. Additional responsibilities should mean a new title, increased pay, or a promotion. Indeed, performing managerial duties means a managerial salary. It’s up to you to communicate your plans ahead of time.

Often, the training your company offers aligns with its vision and values. You won’t have to worry if it’s worth it – if management provides it to employees for free, they want people to take advantage.

Also, don’t be surprised if a smaller company has fewer training opportunities or clear upwards paths. When you work for a small business, departments are less defined. That doesn’t mean you can’t move forward – your course will just look slightly different.

networking event

4. Build Your Network

Building a network is recommended for any professional, regardless of their field. There are two main reasons you should start networking as soon as possible, especially if you’re still in college.

First, your network may be seen as a benefit to your company. Consider how many businesses rely on their professional connections. They get access to new clients, employees, resources, software and new technologies, business partners, and more through you. You can bring them many opportunities as well as knowledge through your network. For example, if a hair stylist leaves one salon for another, their loyal customers will likely follow. That means increased traffic and clients for the business.

On the other hand, you benefit from your network in various ways. Not only do you get access to opportunities such as jobs and promotions, but you also benefit from their resources. Your connections may post training seminars, informative articles, and new techniques. In the end, you may discover unique skills and the opportunities to pursue them from your network.

5. Upgrade Your Current Skillset

Some of your skills may be out-of-date if you work in an evolving field or haven’t pursued training for a while. Notably, certain methods, science, and technology can change every few years or even every couple of months as studies are conducted.

Keep up on trends and updates by regularly researching your field and interests. Audit the skills that have been on your resume for a while or that you don’t use often. Additionally, you may find that the software you use is now considered obsolete. To stay relevant and be effective in your industry, train yourself on new technologies or pursue formal training. You should also inform your companies of any trends or updates you find.

6. Work on Soft Skills

To improve your general marketability, you should consider soft skills. Soft skills are abilities that aren’t learned through on-the-job training but accumulate over time. Notably, you may have seen articles that state that many companies are looking for new hires with exceptional soft skills.

Businesses want employees with strong communication, conflict resolution, and time management skills. They seek candidates who already have these traits as they’re difficult to teach or cannot be taught through traditional training. Indeed, a communications course will give you the language you need to communicate within the office, but negotiation skills take years to build. Similarly, time management techniques often take months to become routine.

So how do you focus on building soft skills? Mainly, you must be intentional. You’re not going to become an expert in conflict resolution by spending one lunch break watching YouTube videos. You also cannot create conflict so that you can practice resolving it. Instead, put in time each week to improve your soft skills.

7. Follow What Interests You

You may wonder, what if there is no obvious path for me? Maybe you haven’t figured out your ideal job or work environment. Perhaps you’re seeking your first “real” job. If you’re feeling lost, you may need more research to figure out what’s out there. Or, if you’re comfortable where you are for the time being, consider pursuing your own interests.

Notably, some skills are more profitable and desirable than others. But that doesn’t mean there’s no reason to pursue them. You may get additional benefits from the courses or training. For example, creative writing doesn’t just apply to stories and poetry: it improves your general writing and communication skills. Indeed, individuals with bachelor’s degrees in English or creative writing tend to wind up in communication, human resources, and marketing positions. Becoming more skilled in any field makes you unique, memorable, and more marketable.

Additionally, while the skill you pursue may not be relevant to your specific field, it has value in other ways. Namely, not every step towards personal development needs to be for your career. You are not your career; pursuing your interests helps you develop as a person and professional. Secondly, you may find another field you’re more interested in.

Some fields are exceptionally hard to break into. They don’t have many open positions, and you must “know someone” to get an interview. Where better to meet that someone than in forums of like-minded people and professional courses?

professional artist, marketable skills

8. Consider Management or Leadership

Alternatively, if you’re unsure where you want to go, you could try improving your leadership skills. This skillset is highly sought after and makes you more marketable. Furthermore, there are several paths you can follow with these abilities. For example, you can specialize in a field such as project management. Or you can take the next logical step at your company as team manager.

To name a few traits, a great manager will have strong leadership, strategic thinking, organizational, and delegation skills. However, you should consider what makes a great leader and build your abilities to match your vision.

You will find that there are many educational options for leadership. Colleges offer certificates, degrees, and relevant training. Notably, many management positions require some degree of higher education. Your job may ask that you have anywhere from your associate’s or up to an MBA. Make sure you know what you’ll need to achieve your goals.

9. Take a Course

Once you know what skills you want to improve, it’s time to figure out how to achieve your goals. Do you have the self-motivation to figure it out with online resources and videos? Or do you need a professional course? You have a few options when it comes to enrolling in a class.

First, you can try skill-sharing sites like Udemy. The types of access publish lectures and information for many topics. These courses are much cheaper than enrolling in a university – and may even be free. However, there are two downsides. You may not get much or any feedback from the expert. And any certificate you earn will not be accredited. Accreditation matters if you need a credential for your current or future employer.

An accredited school has undergone an evaluative (and ongoing) analysis to ensure all programs are legitimate. In simpler terms, experts from outside the college confirmed students weren’t being scammed.

This credential leads us to our second option: enrolling in a college-level or equivalent course, such as trade school. Notably, these programs will be more expensive than Udemy, and not all qualify for financial aid. However, these certificates are valued by many employers. You’re more likely to receive a promotion or raise with an accredited course.

Regardless of what type of course you attended, professional training courses help you become more marketable. Additionally, they help flatten the learning curve. Learning on your own is difficult. Taking a course can expedite the process.

10. Continue Your Education

Alternatively, you might consider returning to school for a degree. Many upper-level positions require candidates to have a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Some companies may allow you to use experience to bypass the education requirement if you’ve been in the industry long enough. Or they may offer to cover part or all of your tuition.

Indeed, before enrolling in a university, you should take three initial steps. First, know what degree the position normally requires within and outside your company. Your business may have lower requirements than usual. While this benefit may sound great now, consider what happens if you decide to find a new job. Will you be able to enter an equivalent role? Or will you be forced to take a step backward?

Next, ask about the alternatives we mentioned. Will they help pay for tuition? Finally, decide if that level of education is right for you. College isn’t right for everyone, and that’s okay. Maybe you’re not ready to invest that time and money now.

 A degree helps professionals become more marketable in a variety of ways. Not only do employers see proof of the time and effort you put into improving, but you gain many additional skills through college. For example, graduates have improved research, writing, and communication skills versus the average person. People who attended college also hone their critical thinking abilities. All-in-all, a college degree is a great investment.

lecture hall of a college

Final Thoughts

In the end, there are many ways you can become marketable. You may simply have missed skills to add to your resume. You can pursue self-study and growth by using online resources and practicing at home. Alternatively, formal routes may increase your odds of getting the job or promotion. It’s up to you to decide what path works best for you.

Lakewood University offers a variety of accredited online programs. From certificate programs to project management and on to an MBA, you have many options for growth. If you’re interested in learning more, don’t hesitate. Reach out to our admissions department today!