How To Build Job Skills Through ‘Adjacency’

Job SkillsAdding job skills to your resume is a critical practice for building your employment security in today’s job market. Adding job skills, though, gets harder to do with companies cutting back on training and not targeting what you need for your career work.

One option is to look at the work being done around you and acquire new job skills. I like to call these “adjacent” job skills — the work happening right next to you.

The way to look for these skills is to examine who gives you work to do (inputs) and what people do with the work when you give it to them (outputs).

An input for a Project Manager, for example, would be a business case. Knowing how to build a business case is a good job skill to have as a Project Manager because it supports that work. It also expands your work capability since PMs often manage building the business case in the first place.

An output of your work could be the input to a co-worker’s reporting work. Creating the reports could add to your job skills, too. At a minimum, understanding the process of building the reports, and knowing what they mean to those who receive them, creates context to your work. Context and knowing how the full process runs is especially helpful in job interviews.

How do you go about getting these skills?

Provide Backup for a Coworker

People need vacations and are gone for events, but the work still needs doing. A good manager has backups for every position so that if someone is gone for the day or a week, the work still gets done.

Look for the job skills you’d like to add to your tool bag, determine who on your team has them, and offer to back them up. You’d have to get trained, plus you’d do the work and produce results from it. Job skill acquired.

Work on Department Projects

Project work is another area where skills can be acquired. You can either accept a role where you would need to learn the skill you want with training, or volunteer to work with a person doing the work skill you want to learn.

Or, perhaps, you take a portion of the work from the person who has the skill and, through interaction, learn more about the rest of the work. Then, the next time a project comes along, you offer to do more of the work based on what you learned from the last project.

The great thing about project work is there are defined roles — and expected results. Working a project using a new job skill will mean your new job skill will produce specific results. That’s great on a resume or a job interview.

Target Your Work

The keys to building job skills are (1) knowing what skills you have, and (2) knowing which ones you need to further your employment security. You shouldn’t just unilaterally add adjacent job skills but, instead, try to target specific skills that will help you improve your work and get the next job.

With employers consistently skills as “requirements” for a job, getting familiar with those adjacent skills offers you a great way to add them to your own portfolio in the job you’re doing now.

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