How to Identify the Skills You Need to Advance

Whether you’re gunning for a promotion to project manager, or just want to expand the scope of your current role, you’ll likely need to master a collection of new skills in order to advance your career to the next level.

The hard part is figuring out which skills will take you where you need to go. Yes, you might spot some of the required technical skills by studying job postings for your desired position—but even the most detailed job posting won’t mention factors critical to success, such as building consensus among team members. You’ll have to discover those things on your own.

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Here are five ways to identify the hard and soft skills you need to close your personal skills gap and score that new position.

Study Emerging Issues

Landing a promotion usually depends on your ability to show you have the right skills, strategies, and execution to solve relevant problems. Only by understanding the biggest issues that face your future team can you identify the skills and experience that lead to success.

“Naturally, you want to follow IT analyst firms like Gartner,” said Kari Mirabal, founder of JuMar Services, a career coaching firm based in Tulsa, Okla. “But if you really want to know what’s going on, you need to talk to users. Get involved with local users groups, read blogs, trade publications and attend conferences to get a handle on the current problems and where things are headed.”

Shadow Top Performers

Observing the day-to-day activities of people in your desired role can help you decipher how they allocate their time and effort, as well as the skills they use to practice their craft. This will help you separate the prerequisite competencies from those you can learn on-the-job. And since your ultimate goal is to close the gap between your current state and the one you want to reach, be sure to shadow a mover and shaker—not someone who is behind the curve.

Study Interview Q&As

Behavioral interview questions are designed to explore a candidate’s ability to identify, analyze and solve pressing problems by applying their talents, experience and competencies. Studying interview questions and the answers provided by experienced pros can help you identify the situations you’ll face and the competencies you’ll need.

Acquire Certifications

Acquiring certifications for technologies and methodologies associated with a higher-level position, such as Lean Six Sigma or ITIL, can help you identify and address skill gaps. Rubbing elbows with other aspiring professionals in boot camps and classrooms is another great way to see how you stack up against your peers.

Find a Mentor

A mentor who’s already traveled the path can help you identify the skills you need to move up the ladder. Experts recommend that mentors be at least two levels higher than their protégés; that will ensure a necessary breadth of experience to challenge and push the pupil to new heights.

Hit the Market

“To get a handle on your strengths and weaknesses, force yourself to hit the job market every now and then,” advised Maribal.

Throwing your hat in the ring and asking for feedback is a great way to assess your aptitude for promotion. After all, who would know better than a recruiter or hiring manager about what it takes to land a particular job? Considering that most IT recruiters will gladly give you a free skill-gap analysis, reaching the next level may be a whole lot easier than you think.

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