How to gain new skills while at the same job

Do not be afraid to do more.

In Summary

• Functions with external stakeholders enable you to also gain more skills that will benefit you in your current role.

• Bear in mind networking is another way of recruiting candidates as you get to sell yourself informally.

Edith Tendwa.
Edith Tendwa.

The working environment is rapidly changing, and Covid-19 has added on to this. Organisations have downsized, reorganised functions, and unfortunately even closed.

Employees who have remained in employment need to realise they need to grow their skills whether they remain in the same job or get promoted. Why? To remain relevant, be marketable, and add value for themselves and the organisations they work in. Upskilling yourself is one of the keys to your success in your job and your career growth.

There are many ways to upskill yourself and the following are some of them:

Learn from others

If the organisation has a conducive working environment, then you can learn from others either by working alongside them or setting time aside to be coached by them. This is a very effective way of learning as that one-on-one engagement enables you to get personalised hands-on training.

So, for example, if you want to understand the performance numbers the finance manager or the managing director presents at the monthly staff meeting, you can ask the person who prepares these management reports, or the finance manager themselves, to teach you what the numbers mean e.g., profit margins, PBT profit before taxes, product margins, cost of the product.

This is something I did and it has helped me as an HR practitioner to be able to raise questions as to how the HR function could help increase organisational performance and profits.

Get a mentor

A mentor will be able to assist you, guide you, and support you in your career growth since they have walked the same path as you. A good mentor is key to ensuring a mentee can grasp the skills and tools required for them to advance their careers. They are also there to assist their mentee during difficult situations and to guide them in finding solutions.

I know of an ex-colleague who was mentored by a senior manager and gained so much from this, applying the knowledge and skills they had gained until their potential was recognised as a very good fit for a regional position in another department and they got promoted to the position.

Volunteer to do more

Do not be afraid to do more. Don't just stick to your job description, but volunteer to do more work where you can. This will enable you to learn new areas of the business, upskill yourself and be able to apply the same in your current role.

I remember a time as an HR & Administration Manager I was asked to assist in the retail department and attended an intense 2-week training on managing shops at fuel stations. This training and exposure to a field out of my normal job scope enabled me to gain a better understanding of how to arrange shop layouts to attract customers, how to price items, stock management, and maximising profit margins.

Another classic example was when I worked in the hotel industry as the secretary to the Resident Manager and I volunteered to assist in the hotel's business centre. I learnt how this service was so important to business people and the hotel as an extra source of income. This is where I got recruited as the first local employee for an international oil firm. At the business center, I sent telex messages (these machines are extinct now), typed letters, sent fax messages. This enabled me to interact with so many different kinds of people from all over the world.


You can network internally and externally by attending company functions where you get to interact with your colleagues from other departments and can engage them to understand the work they do, the good and the ups and downs they go through.

Functions with external stakeholders enable you to also gain more skills that will benefit you in your current role.

Bear in mind networking is another way of recruiting candidates as you get to sell yourself informally.

You also get to network by joining professional bodies like IHRM, LSK, ICPAK. These institutions organise various events and training courses throughout the year which help you to improve your skills at work.

As a member of IHRM I have had an opportunity to attend their annual HR conferences. Apart from guest speakers I also got to network with fellow HR practitioners where I learnt HR trends that I could consider proposing to management to implement in my role.

Attend in-house training courses

You don't need to pay anything, so take advantage of the in-house training offered by your employer. These courses are tailor-made to meet employee needs and can range from time management, project management, finance for non-finance managers, basic or advanced excel, and so on.

Online courses

There are so many online courses these days and the good thing is that the course can be completed at your own pace. Remember to choose a course that is relevant to your job or that will enable you to progress to another job. The online courses are either free or you pay a small fee. Take advantage of these, please.

When I was about to retire, I took an online course on entrepreneurship that gave me very good tips on how to set up my business and to navigate around self-employment.

Reading books

Some organisations have set up book clubs where employees are required to read a particular book then provide feedback at the book club meeting. By reading and giving feedback the employee gains more skills that will enable him to work more effectively. As a member of the management committee, I got to read several books like '7 Habits of Highly Effective People' that enabled me to structure my work better and always question if what I was doing was adding value.

Get into the habit of reading books and you will appreciate the benefits of this. If you find it hard to read hard copy books read a book online i.e., use Audible.

Take note please - before attending any training you need to ask yourself:

  • What value is the training going to add to the organisation and to myself?
  • What gaps have been identified that I need to address in my current role?
  • What training do I need to undergo in order to get a more senior position?
  • What resources are there for me to upskill myself both internally and externally?

You must have an action plan on how you are going to approach your training, preferably have an IDP (individual development plan) so that you don't waste your time and company money attending irrelevant courses.

Organisations are looking for employees who can stretch themselves, and are eager to learn so even in your current position show your worth by continuously learning.

My coach, Joanne Muturi, shared a poster with me on 12 skills with high demand in 2021 - copywriting, public speaking, excel knowledge, web development, project management, Facebook ads, coding, SEO/Google Analytics, App Development, UX Design, Social Media Marketing and Photoshop.

All these skills are geared towards organisations finding ways to advertise and promote in the right markets or audience, analysing market trends for business growth.

Additionally, time management (especially in this era of remote work), decision-making, collaboration (cross-functional teams), emotional intelligence, creativity and resilience, adaptability, change management, project management, strategic thinking and conflict resolution are sought-after skills.

In closing, I would like to stress that every employee must take ownership of their professional development and it is their responsibility to engage their line manager to achieve this. So go for it and all the very best!! Trust me it would be the best decision you ever made!!


Edith Tendwa is a HR Consultant with over 15 years experience and is passionate about people. Her motto is to take  clients from success to significance with the services she provides. They include CV and profile rewriting, Interview preparation, cover letters, career guidance for Individuals & recruitment, training & development, performance management for corporates. You can reach her on her Email: [email protected]

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