What Is upskilling? A better way to advance your career.

A smiling person seated at a table uses their laptop to take an online courseImage: A smiling person seated at a table uses their laptop to take an online course

In a Nutshell

Upskilling can help you bridge knowledge gaps in your career with additional education and training. Upskilling can give employees new career opportunities while lowering turnover for employers.
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Change in life is constant, and the job landscape is no exception.

The modern career world is full of major shifts and pivots for workplaces. Not only do industries need to be adaptable, but their people need to be, too. If you’re wondering how you can advance your career and propel your team into the workplace of the future, it’s time to learn about upskilling.

Upskilling is the process of applying additional education or training to expand and develop your current skills. It’s something that you can do for yourself, and it can also be provided to others. 

Some examples of upskilling include taking a free online course to build your analytical skills or completing a management workshop to strengthen your leadership skills. 

It’s good to note that upskilling is different from reskilling, which is when you learn new skills to do a different job.

We’ll review more about what upskilling is, why it’s important and the benefits it can bring (for starters, increased potential net income). Follow this six-step guide to upskill yourself and your team. 

More of a visual learner? Skip ahead to the infographic to learn more.

Why is upskilling important?

Industry-specific technology is evolving at a rapid rate. This can lead to a sizable gap between the skills of an established worker and those required to properly complete their job.

A 2019 report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation found that 74% of hiring managers acknowledge that a skills gap currently exists in the workforce, and this lack of adequate skills is one of the biggest obstacles in hiring.

Upskilling presents one solution to this labor problem, and large companies such as Amazon and PwC have already invested in upskilling programs for their employees.

Upskilling can help both employees and employers benefit from less turnover, expanded growth opportunities and increased work productivity and satisfaction. Upskilling allows individuals to take charge of their own career mobility while employers retain top talent.

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Benefits of upskilling

Upskilling is important across all industries, but what does it do for you? From giving your payday a boost to maintaining healthy brain function, let’s discuss the benefits it can have for your health, your career and your wallet.

Get a raise

Upskilling can equip you with the tools you need to ask for a raise. When you bring newly acquired skills to a conversation with your manager — and can demonstrate how they’ll benefit your company — you may have a solid case to increase your salary or wage.

Plus, if your responsibilities expand because of your updated skills, it’s only fair that your compensation reflects your additional list of duties.

Learn more: See the highest-paying jobs by state

Make a career change

Another benefit of upskilling is acquiring the tools you need to successfully change your career. Maybe your acquired skills will help you secure a promotion or help you land a related role at a different company.

Just keep in mind that when you’re preparing to make a career change, you should calculate potential compensation, have a backup plan ready and know the criteria employers may look for.

It’s important to carefully consider new opportunities and, when possible, to line up a new job before quitting your old one.

Give your work life a boost

Have you ever felt tired or bored by going through the same motions at work? Learning a new skill can give you a chance to switch it up.

Using learned skills can improve your professional outlook by enabling you to feel more satisfied and productive at work, and it also may help bolster your morale and motivation.

Improve yourself

Finally, upskilling may help you improve your health and well-being. Just as it’s essential to preserve an active body as you age, it’s equally beneficial to maintain an active mind.

Mentally stimulating activities such as learning new skills can help sharpen your cognitive skills and memory. Continued learning can provide a cognitive reward, enabling you to reach a sense of fulfillment both personally and professionally.

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Areas to up your skills and earning potential

The skills gap encompasses a variety of areas that range from more technical STEM skills to soft skills. Learn about some of the major areas to upgrade your skills and how they may help you increase your earning potential.

Digital upskilling

In an age where many workplaces are operating remotely through digital channels, digital upskilling is more necessary than ever. Workers with digital skills earn an average of 23% more than those who don’t have them, according to a 2023 report from the National Skills Coalition and Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta..

However, in 2020 the National Skills Coalition found that about one in three U.S. workers had limited digital skills or lacked them completely. Level up your career and earning potential by learning new digital skills.

Digital skills include …

  • Cloud-based software
  • Data visualization
  • Digital marketing
  • Information technology support
  • Programming
  • Search engine marketing (SEM)
  • Social media
  • Software development
  • UX/UI design
  • Web development
  • Video


Statisticians, information security analysts and data scientists are projected to be among the top 20 fastest growing jobs of this decade. Not only are they among the fastest growing, but each occupation’s median salary was at least $95,000 or higher based on 2021 wage information. Help future-proof your career and salary by upskilling in analytics.

Analytical skills include …

  • Critical thinking
  • Data science and analytics
  • Digital business analysis
  • Inductive and deductive reasoning
  • Mathematical modeling
  • Problem-solving
  • Research

Soft skills

While technical STEM skills are in demand, job and wage growth are especially strong for candidates who possess a good balance of both hard and soft skills. Soft skills are those you use when interacting with others and when managing your own work.

Top soft skills

Here are some top soft skills companies look for, according to LinkedIn:

  • Management
  • Communication
  • Customer service
  • Leadership
  • Project management

Other soft skills

  • Creativity
  • Persuasion
  • Collaboration
  • Adaptability
  • Emotional intelligence


Leadership is a skill that is valued in management positions and is necessary both in times of success and times of crisis. Employers often look for instances of leadership in work experience or extracurriculars when evaluating candidates.

If you aim to reach a management position, leadership skills will be important to your resume. Cultivate the leadership qualities that are necessary to up your earning potential today.

Leadership skills

  • Commitment
  • Constructive feedback
  • Decision-making
  • Delegation
  • Diplomacy
  • Motivation
  • Resilience
  • Risk-taking
  • Transparency
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Budget-friendly upskilling resources

Browse some of the following online resources for free and budget-friendly ways to start learning new analytics, leadership, digital and soft skills.

Upskill yourself and your employees in 6 steps

Now that you have an idea of areas to upskill in, start by following these six steps. Each focuses on tips for your own career as well as tips for helping your team.

Step 1. Identify your goals

The first step to upskilling is identifying your goal. Begin by asking yourself what you want to achieve in your career.

Maybe you’re in an entry-level position and want to be promoted to a senior role, or maybe your long-term vision is to work your way up to CEO. Whatever your personal, professional or financial goals are, keeping them at the forefront of your plan is important to achieving them.

Tip for upskilling your team: Ask each team member about their immediate and future career goals. Focusing in on these will help you plan a long-term course of action.

Step 2. Find your knowledge gaps

With your goal in mind, it’s time to figure out your knowledge gaps. To do this, you can browse job descriptions for your desired position and figure out which required skills you don’t currently have.

Alternatively, you can use your network and ask a mentor what skills they look for in a viable candidate for your desired position. Once you find your knowledge gaps, you can plan what you need to learn.

Tip for upskilling your team: When it comes to upskilling, every employee will have different gaps to fill. Conduct a skills gap analysis to see what each member can improve on and merge that with their career goals when planning the next step.

Step 3: Formulate a plan

Once you know your gaps, start planning how you will fill them with education and training. Remember to evaluate different avenues for learning based on your budget. You may not need to shell out the money for an expensive boot camp if you can learn from free videos online or purchase an affordable book to teach yourself.

After researching how to learn or acquire your skill, make a SMART plan — or a plan that consists of specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound objectives.

Adjust your plan based on what you can realistically accomplish in your everyday life. A good plan has multiple SMART objectives that help you reach your goal. Here are some examples.

Formulate a plan

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Good upskilling objective

  • I will spend X hours a day/week [learning method] for X amount of weeks/months to learn [skill].


  • I will spend two hours a day watching instructional videos for eight weeks in order to learn HTML.

And …

  • I will spend five hours a week practicing my HTML for four months in order to gain practical HTML skills.

Tip for upskilling your team: When planning to upskill your team, use the resources your company already has or help create some. If you don’t have many internal resources, look into creating a company budget or individual career development budgets for employees to learn on their own.

Step 4: Learn new skills

Once you have an upskilling strategy, it’s time to get to work. Learning takes time, dedication and consistent application of your knowledge. Try to have fun along the way, and don’t be afraid to seek out help. Remind yourself of your end goal throughout the process in order to stay motivated toward achieving it.

Tip for upskilling your team: Equip your team with the necessary tools and resources to get the learning done. Provide help from mentors or peers when necessary. Offering financial support or incentives can help motivate people and bring you a positive return on investment.

Step 5: Act on your new skills

It’s time to put your new skills to use. Begin with low-risk ways to test them out first. Try contributing some of your newfound knowledge in a meeting or offer to help a team member who uses your skill but currently has a lot on their plate. If you apply your skill well, you can impress your team and open yourself up to more opportunities in the future.

After testing your skills, you may feel confident enough to make bigger moves. Think about asking your manager for more autonomy on a project or even about expanding your work duties. If you successfully demonstrate the worth of your valuable new skills over time, you can work on negotiating a promotion or a raise.

Tip for upskilling your team: Once an employee has upskilled, give them ample opportunities for flexibility and career growth. Consider offering the chance to rotate positions and transfer their new skills or open up a discussion about role enlargement.

Step 6: Stay adaptable

Upskilling is not a one-and-done mentality. You never know what new knowledge gaps might pop up in your skillset or how your career goals may change over time. Staying adaptable by constantly learning is the key to growing with evolving technologies and industries.

Tip for upskilling your team: Create a culture of learning by offering year-round training and development opportunities.

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