Does Your Career Need Upskilling? Here’s How to Start.

Upskilling Illustration

Upskilling and lifelong learning are synonymous at Babson College, and both are in lockstep with entrepreneurial leadership.

Merriam-Webster defines upskilling as providing (someone, such as an employee) with more advanced skills through education and training, or acquiring more advanced skills through additional education and training.

“Upskilling is not just learning for learning’s sake,” said Babson Executive Education CEO Karen Hebert-Maccaro, “but rather the process of determining where you have gaps or areas of interest that align with your professional path and actively working to fill in those gaps.”

“The act of upskilling will become increasingly core to career success.”

Karen Hebert-Maccaro, Babson Executive Education CEO

Experts from Babson’s Graduate and Undergraduate Centers for Career Development (CCD) agree that students need to upgrade their capabilities and competencies—both hard and soft skills—in order to keep up with the fast pace of change.

Rare and arguably gone are the days when upskilling isn’t both necessary and required regardless of your position, the type of industry you’re in, or where you are in your career.

“To remain relevant in the job market,” said Cheri Paulson, senior director, graduate CCD, “individuals need to continue to ask the question of their relevant strengths and their skill gaps for today and what is around the corner.”

“The world of work is changing and evolving at breakneck speed,” said Donna Sosnowski, director of undergraduate CCD. “No matter what industry you work in, the position and skills required are rapidly changing and being redefined.”

Upskilling Is the New Professional Development

At Babson, upskilling opportunities are aplenty. Hebert-Maccaro points to executive education focusing on four main practice areas: entrepreneurial leadership, innovation, inclusive leadership, and entrepreneurship.

“With the average shelf life of a skill dwindling and the number of jobs in a lifetime moving upward, not to mention the pace of technological and business change,” Hebert-Maccaro said, “the act of upskilling will become increasingly core to career success.”

She also points to some common themes that surface across all of Babson Executive Education’s practice areas. Managing change, identifying opportunities, innovating, growing, and doing so in a way that recognizes the value of diversity, equity, and inclusion are all in-demand skills.

Taking the First Steps

BabsonX, a partnership between Babson and edX, gives learners the option to take online courses in a variety of subjects. These courses can be audited for free, or participants can choose to receive a verified certificate for a small fee.

Another path? Micro-credentials. “We are piloting a badging/micro-credentialing program through Canvas,” Sosnowski said. “Our goal is to expand our lifelong learning options through micro-credentials, available to the Babson community and across the globe.”

Paulson recommends considering Babson’s Certificate in Management (CAM) to try out graduate school courses. With CAM, students take three elective courses before committing to a full degree. From there, the credits can be transferred toward a full degree.

She also mentions how the CCDs, in partnership with the alumni office, offer a series of educational webinars for both graduate and undergraduate alumni.

Where Should You Begin?

Paulson and Sosnowski suggest online courses, access to LinkedIn Learning, and a host of online providers offering free courses such as Codecademy, Coursera, EdX, Khan Academy, Stanford Online, and Udemy.

Hebert-Maccaro advises to self-reflect and gain feedback on locating the gap in your skillset where, if filled, would be of benefit to both you and your team or organization. Then, ask others how to fill that gap.

“Whether it involves volunteering for a project, reading a book, or taking a class, look into how you can go for it,” Hebert-Maccaro said. “You might be surprised at how much an earnest and well-intentioned request for help to expand your skills in an area that will benefit others can generate a tremendous response and willingness to help.”

Regardless of how you get started, take comfort knowing there is a clear connection between upskilling and being a successful entrepreneurial leader.

“The entrepreneurial leader is in constant learning mode,” Hebert-Maccaro said. “They have to embrace the unknown and drive progress. The mindset is essentially one that is willing to jump into the unknown and figure it out, embracing the messy ambiguity of learning to proceed from idea to reality.”

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