Three Ways You Can Tell It’s Time to Upskill

As an individual working within a commercial market place you need to be sure your skills stay relevant. Some people are lucky and their organization provides a steady diet of professional development opportunities. But this is the exception rather than the rule. To get ahead you must take control of your own professional development. Here are three ways to know that it’s time to push yourself into new learning areas.

1. Personal Frustration

You feel frustrated or flat and the thing you’re most looking forward to is a holiday

Your mind and your body don’t lie. Being stressed at work is one thing. You might be going through a busy period or time of transition.

But there is a different kind of feeling that comes with being under-stimulated or bored. Another way to look at this is that your career is a series of ascents (where you learn new skills, get a promotion, change jobs or retrain) and plateaus. After an intense period of ascent we all need time to settle into a new plateau.

But spend too much time without pushing yourself ahead and everything about work will start to feel flat. Signs you’ve been stagnant for too long include:

  • clock watching
  • getting easily distracted
  • reduced ‘care’ factor about regular tasks
  • lack of motivation

Change doesn’t always have to be huge. You may be ready to start applying for new positions or going for that promotion. But it may just be time for a short course or for you to initiate a new project. It can even be an internal project (such as launching a series of staff team building activities).

Depending on your relationship with your supervisors or managers, bring up your desire for some new stimulation, learning or added responsibilities. You’ll probably find you get a positive response and will be viewed favourably for taking the initiative.

2. Accidental Inertia

Any regular work activity has been in place for one year or more without review

This happens to all of us. Once we settle into routines usually it is only external forces that will make us shift. Unfortunately these forces often come in the form of a crisis (at worst) or an unpleasant wake up call (at best).

Take a look at the regular tasks you perform each week. Brainstorm this quickly and include EVERYTHING. You may have heard of the 1{54c12dad2cc2b53ae830e39915b1a3e70288dbcbbeb8bbf8395437c5dc3c512c} rule – a lot of coaches use this method, whether in sport, business or any other competitive arena. It means you can make significant positive changes by implementing just 1{54c12dad2cc2b53ae830e39915b1a3e70288dbcbbeb8bbf8395437c5dc3c512c} improvement every day.

If you were a business I’d ask if every one of your systems can be clearly linked to commercially valuable outcomes.

As an individual you can apply the same question. Can you link every activity you do to a commercially significant aspect of your role or tangible commercial outcome for your employer? Areas to look at include:

  • time management
  • communications
  • client liaison
  • administration tasks
  • internal tasks and processes

If you are doubling up in any area or tasks are taking longer than you know they should, make it your goal to start some 1{54c12dad2cc2b53ae830e39915b1a3e70288dbcbbeb8bbf8395437c5dc3c512c} improvements. It could be as simple as setting a time limit on checking emails each morning or doing all filing at one set time each week.

3. Professional Jealousy

Someone younger, newer or less experienced than you is moving ahead

This is a tricky area and one many of us don’t like to admit to. But there is no stronger motivation than the uncomfortable feeling that someone else is getting opportunities instead of us.

You don’t need to turn this into a competition with others at your place of work. Ultimately we are only ever in competition with ourselves. If someone else’s progress has triggered a sense of envy or being left behind – it is about your own development and your own sense of where you want to be versus where you are.

The key thing is to identify what it is you want and to be specific. It’s likely you don’t literally want somebody else’s job. It may be important that you:

  • initiate new projects or ideas
  • step up into greater areas of responsibility
  • deepen your knowledge of a particular aspect of your industry
  • become a thought leader
  • increase the value of customers you bring in

If any of the above resonates with you it’s an exciting time. Feeling stale with where you’re at or simply knowing you are ready to move on is an empowering place to be. Don’t be afraid to name your goals and be specific and to take risks in order to get what you want.

Ricky Nowak is one of Australia’s most referred and well known professional Speakers, Executive Coaches and Consultants specialising in Leadership Development. A published author in the field of Leadership, Ricky is also only one of eighteen Australian Stakeholder Engagement Coaches accredited by Marshall Goldsmith, a Forbes Thought Leader.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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