3 Steps to Close Your Personal Skills Gap

Conversation about the skills gap tends to run on a broad scale: employers want X, workers only offer Y. But what about if you're one of the workers? Your first goal, then, isn't to solve the world's problems, but to fill in your own skills gap and get hired. Here's how.

mind the gap 

(Photo Credit: Robert S. Donovan/Flickr)

PayScale's recent report on underemployment examined several reasons why workers don't have the jobs the want, or the pay and hours they feel they deserve.

"If you have a skills gap, the most important thing you can do is to fill it in," says Alison Doyle, About.com's job searching expert. "There are many ways to do that even if you are currently employed and out of school. Online courses (including many free ones) can improve the skills you do have and give you a new skill set. If you prefer in-person learning many libraries, school districts, and colleges offer short-term adult learning opportunities."

But before you get there, you need to assess your situation. Here's where to start.

1. Do your research.

Perhaps a hiring manager has given you more than the usual form letter brush-off, and you already know -- in theory -- which skills a specific employer says they're seeking. The important thing here is not to blindly trust the first thing you hear.

Using this information as a jumping-off point, research the job title and employers you're targeting. PayScale's Research Center is a great place to look for specific information about the skills and typical education levels required for job or company.

2. Get real-world confirmation.

Browse LinkedIn, and look for any connections who work in your industry. Ask to pick people's brains about their work and their background. You'd be surprised how often even very busy people will set aside time to help someone who's trying to break into their field ... especially if they get to talk about themselves and their careers in order to do it.

3. Close the gap.

Once you've figured out what's standing between you and the job of your dreams, look for programs or classes to help you bridge the gulf. As Doyle says, there are plenty of free online courses if you're looking to learn to code or to perfect your skills in a particular software program.

You might very well be able to close your personal skills gap without spending a dime.

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