The ultimate guide to upskilling and professional skill development

You want a fulfilling – and sustainable – career. How can you achieve that? The answer is ongoing skill development. In a word, upskilling.

Upskilling refers to learning new skills to improve your performance – and possibilities – in your current career. Continual skill development is a necessity in our changing world of work. But there’s also a lot in it for you personally.

For instance, upskilling could make you more secure in your role. After all, if you’re always staying at the cutting edge of your industry, learning the latest skills and knowledge, your employer is going to recognise your value. You’ll be the one driving innovation and performance.

Upskilling could also mean you move on – and up – from your current job. More skills, newer perspective, extra qualifications – these are exactly the sort of things that make a candidate stand out when applying for a job.

We’ve put together the ultimate guide to give you the information and inspiration to start your upskilling journey.

We’ll cover:

  • Reasons to upskill
  • What is upskilling? And what is reskilling?
  • Upskilling digital skills
  • Human-centric skills
  • An upskilling success story

Reasons to upskill

Man at whiteboard talking to people about skill development

So, once you know what upskilling is, why would you do it? Good question. In some respects, there are as many answers to that question as there are people looking to upskill. After all, everyone’s career journey is unique.

However, there are several aspects about upskilling that are relevant to pretty much anyone. We’ve identified the top five reasons why upskilling is important.

  • Job security
  • Promotion
  • New opportunities
  • Getting a raise
  • Job satisfaction

From futureproofing your current role, to having a more fulfilling working life, upskilling has the potential to make a real difference to your career.

And the good news is that there are several ways that you can upskill with postgraduate study, including:

So upskilling can be a small step – a short course taken to immediately add value to your role, with a specific skill under your belt. Or it could be a longer course of study, to delve a bit deeper. (Although, did you know that you can complete a graduate certificate in as little as six months? True fact.)

And, of course, given that upskilling is a part of lifelong learning, the steps you take can all add up. One course of study can lead to another. Knowledge complementing skills. Skills developed to put knowledge into action.

Read more about the top five reasons to upskill.

What is upskilling? And what is reskilling?

Two people sitting in an office in front of a whiteboard

Upskilling has a counterpart. Another term that is similar but different. Reskilling. You may have heard of that one too and wondered: what is the difference between upskilling and reskilling?

Well, they are distinct concepts, and have separate goals attached to them.

Put simply, upskilling is about learning new skills to improve your performance – and possibilities – in your current career. You’re building on your existing knowledge base to keep yourself at the cutting edge of your industry. Making yourself invaluable to your employer.

Reskilling, on the other hand, refers to learning a new set of skills in order to move into a completely new occupation. That could be because a changing workplace means that your role might become automated and you need to find a way to futureproof your career. Or it could be that you want to make a change to your life and pursue a new path. Either way, reskilling is what you’ll be looking at.

Both upskilling and reskilling are worth considering, depending on where you want to take your career. And with either route, there are ways to build on your previous study – often with credit – so you can get a head start on your next move.

Read more about which type of ‘skilling’ fits your goals.

Upskilling digital skills

Woman leaning against a wall holding a laptop

Our lives intersect with digital technology pretty much from the moment we wake up to the time our heads hit the pillow. What does that mean for the workplace? Well, it means digital skills are in demand.

UNESCO defines digital skills as “a range of abilities to use digital devices, communication applications, and networks to access and manage information. They enable people to create and share digital content, communicate and collaborate, and solve problems for effective and creative self-fulfillment in life, learning, work, and social activities at large.”

Which means they are useful in almost any industry. Digital skills range from basic IT capabilities through to expertise with cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning. Which means that when it comes to upskilling, digital skills can benefit everyone – from closing your current skills gap in your job to moving into another role that is driving digital innovation.

Of course, if you’re going to invest in skill development, it makes sense to focus on the digital skills that will help futureproof your career.

Find out which digital skills are in demand – and how you can get them.

Human-centric skills

two people in front of a drone discussing notes

Digital skills are important tools to have when upskilling, but do you know what is arguably even more important?

Being a human.

There is a lot of automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence happening in the global economy. And those innovations are changing how we work, consume and interact.  The flipside is that employers are increasingly focused on what machines can’t do.

Machines lack the shared social experiences we acquire through our interactions with others. So it’s only humans that have certain employability skills, including:

  • active listening
  • adaptability
  • critical thinking
  • emotional intelligence
  • empathy

And by developing these skills – the things that require creativity, collaboration and connection – you’ll be at the forefront of the future workforce.

Because there are some things that robots just can’t do!

Discover more about human-centric skills.

An upskilling success story

So what does upskilling actually look like in the workplace? What does it feel like when you have taken the step to upskill with postgraduate study – and secured a new role as a result? One that fulfills you professionally, that recognises the skills you already have and that gives you an extra spring in your step when you go to work each day?

Ask Kathy Talbot.

Kathy has been a teacher for almost 20 years. She’s taught students from preschool through to Year 10. And loved every minute of it. Kathy know the unique joys that come with helping children have that ‘light bulb’ moment. Imparting knowledge and seeing students respond, grow, reach their own conclusions, push their boundaries and develop their thinking.

However, being in the education sector, Kathy saw an area of need. So she decided to shift her career to answer it. It didn’t mean leaving behind any of the things that made her love being a teacher. It meant building on them to add another string to her bow – and another way to help students grow.

She enhanced her employability skills with a postgraduate degree, and moved into teacher librarianship.

Read more about Kathy’s upskilling journey.

When you’re ready to upskill, we’re ready

Upskilling is easy with Charles Sturt University. All our postgraduate courses are available online – so you can enhance your skills while you work. And as Australia’s most experienced online university, you know you’re in good hands.

So, what’s next?