Fill the skills gap: 4 tips for moving up the ladder

Do you love your job but wish your paycheck were a bit heftier? Or, are you happy with your current company, but hungry for more of a challenge? One way to give your career a turbo-boost is to gain some extra skills through training and certification.

A human resources director with Professional in Human Resource Management (PHR) Certification, for example, can earn an average salary of $106,338 while those with the Senior Professional in Human Resource Management (SPHR) Certificate, on the other hand, bring home an average salary of $126,839 according to PayScale.com. Capella University offers an online certification prep course for $1,340 — a small fraction of the potential salary increase one could see  upon earning the certification.

"It's very common for individuals to want to improve themselves to maintain their worth and their value in the job market,” says Tech Prep Specialist Brooke Holbrook of the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Career Services Department. “It's in their self-interest to always be looking a few steps ahead in their career, and it's often not as challenging as people make out to be."

Here, Holbrook shares her four top tips for identifying where your skills gaps are, and how to go about filling them.


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Tip 1: Know your organization

"Many companies these days are taking on the 'lean philosophy' to cut expenses," says Holbrook. She recommends that individuals study the organization, and look for the positions that will likely take on greater responsibilities if and when positions are cut. “By expanding your skill set to fit these additional tasks, you can help protect yourself,” Holbrook explains.

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Tip 2: Know where your company is going

"Employees should look at future goals that are outlined in company-wide annual goal-setting meetings," suggests Holbrook. "By reviewing these goals, it's easy for employees to uncover other educational frameworks that will meet these goals.” Additionally, Holbrook suggests looking at competitors to see what's trending within the industry. If there are education needs across the board, employees can often discuss getting up to speed via company-sponsored education, Holbrook explains.

"Gaining such skills would demonstrate to your employer that you are paying attention to their goals and will help fulfill them; it's a crucial step in demonstrating your value."

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Tip 3: Focus on customer service

Holbrook suggests that employees dig into their customer base to uncover any customer service improvement ideas that can be brought to the superiors. The goal here, Holbrook notes, is that employees "can identify where they can help to deliver top-notch service to their customers."

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Tip 4: Find a mentor

Connecting with a professional mentor or becoming active in relevant professional organizations can help employees learn more about the trends within their industry, Holbrook notes. “You will also meet people familiar with the skills and the trade, and someone could direct you to the next skills to bring your career to the next level,” she suggests. “By making more connections in your industry that will give you sound advice you are prepping yourself for a very successful career."

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