7 Tips For Expanding Your Skill Set

Virtual assistants come from a variety of professional backgrounds. Some virtual assistants will work with multiple clients on tasks like bookkeeping, scheduling and call handling. Other virtual assistants may focus on building a clientele using a niche skill such as blogging or web design.

Whether you are an administrative virtual assistant or a paralegal, there will be a time when you need additional training to reach your career goals.

Staying on top of your own professional development is vital to be competitive in the marketplace. Many traditional companies require that their employees complete trainings as part of their career development. But as an independent contractor, the choice to learn new skills and the motivation to do so is up to you.

The benefit of being a virtual assistant is that you can choose how and what you want to learn. While many traditional companies offer trainings that offer little value or impact, you can pinpoint exactly what new skills you need to be competitive in your niche. You can even introduce new types of technology that will appeal to your clients.

It takes time and concentration to develop new skills. Even if you are one of those people that wants to dive head first into anything new and exciting, learning is hard work.

I’ve put together a list of handy tips on how to develop new skills without burning yourself out or breaking the bank. These strategies anticipate some of the common pitfalls when we set out to tackle something new.

Be Specific

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard people say they need to learn Photoshop or how to design a web site.

I may be wrong, but most people who want to learn all about Photoshop generally want to modify images (as in – make a photo larger or smaller).

People who want to learn html probably just want a web site they can change up on their own.

Instead of learning the behemoth that is Photoshop, you can take a course on how to modify images for the web. Instead of learning html, you can learn a WYSIWG web program or how to use a Word Press theme.

This is important because it takes less time to learn how to modify an image than Photoshop. So focus on the easiest path to learn the skill. There are courses that can get you going on a WordPress site in a day, for example.

Learn On The Cheap

If you are obsessed with learning Photoshop or coding html, more power to you. But let’s make sure you actually like these skills, first, ok?

Here’s where you want to take advantage of all the cheap courses on the Internet. Udemy is a good resource. Sometimes as low as $20.00, you won’t be stuck with buyer’s remorse if you can’t stand the topic.

If it isn’t an actual university, don’t pay big bucks and don’t sign up for anything with a recurring charge. There are actual universities posting free course content online that you can access.

YouTube is a great resource for free content, also. Once you find a skill you are passionate about, then you can go ahead and invest in more formal training. Until then, try before you buy whenever possible.

Build On What You Know

Most people don’t realize how talented they are. If you’re bilingual you already have the skill to translate. If you’re obsessed with detail you can be a software tester. If you are always rearranging your furniture you may have a future in UX design.

The key is to consider what your strengths are. Time to make a list of what talents you bring to the table and what you enjoy doing. You’ll start to see how you can apply these talents in a new way that can improve your marketability and income.

For years, I wrote process documentation, newsletters and infographics. It wasn’t until I became a freelancer that I realized I had been in the writing business all along, just in a different environment.

When a talent comes easily to you, you may not consider it valuable. However, in this situation, that talent will give you an advantage in learning a new and lucrative workplace skill.

Gauge Your Progress

It’s easy to get frustrated when you’re new to something. That’s perfectly normal.

I’ve been tinkering in WordPress for a decade, easily, and I still get tripped up. You can spend the rest of your life exploring the features of Photoshop and there’s still going to be someone way ahead of you. Learning is an ongoing process.

Set a goal to be a subject matter expert in the skill you are learning and set up time frames to achieve milestones. This way you can track your progress, and you’ll feel confident adding a skill to your resume since you’ll be proficient.

Get A Decent Work Space

Create a work space that’s conducive to learning. This means eliminating distractions and using motivational tools like the tomato timer or site blockers for social media junkies.

I’ve written about this before – creating a designated work space will help you make a mental shift and helps with focus. You’ll be amazed how a couple of hours, fully focused, can accelerate the learning process.

Make Some Friends

Want to be a writer? Do a search on Facebook for writing groups and you’ll have plenty to choose from. You’ll also be able to gain invaluable advice from people already working in the field.

You can even get a mentor to advise you on books or courses to try out to learn more.

When I first started freelance writing, networking was a great way to learn how to market my work and what types of writing to focus on. It also helped me realize it was a lot easier to get into the field than I had anticipated.

The best thing about groups? Getting answers and getting feedback. You’ll have plenty of people that want to connect with you.

Get Out There And Do It

No, nobody cares if the tree falls in the forest. You may design beautiful webpages, but if nobody sees them, don’t expect to get gigs.

This is the point where you to need to get a portfolio online or update your Linked In page.

Once you have a marketable level of proficiency in your skill (translation: no half-assing), tell everybody in your world.

Volunteering your services can help, too. Donate a few hours of your time to update a website, promote social media, design flyers for an event. You’ll build on your resume and gain valuable experience.

And, volunteering just affirms that the world needs you and your talents. So there!

Summary

If you’re stuck in a rut or feel like technology is passing you by, it’s time to hit the internet and start researching some new things to learn about.

Make sure you learn something that you truly enjoy and adds value to your role.

With a few hours set aside and an open mind, you’ll expand your skill set and gain new clients. And when you become a pro at Photoshop… you can show me!

Let Us Help

If you’re interested in hiring a virtual assistant, we can help. Contact us today for a hassle free consultation. We’ll evaluate your business requirements and make recommendations on how a virtual assistant can improve the productivity and success of your business.

Join The Conversation!

What tools help you learn new skills? Share your thoughts below.

Cynda Pike is a content creator for Virtual Gurus. Her likes are literature, neo-classical art, screenwriting and cats.

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