Dear Liz, what can I do to increase my skills at work?

I’ve been in my current role at an agency for a few years now and while I enjoy it, I’m concerned that I’m no longer learning anything new. I’d like to increase my skills – perhaps with extra training or a course – but it’s not common practice for employees here to do this and I’m not even sure if there’s a budget for it. How would you recommend I approach this subject with my line manager?

It is very important that you want to keep developing your skills and knowledge and there are lots of things that you can do in this area. You don’t say which skills you want to develop but there is a lot of free resource out there which can fill up your evenings for many years to come!

Ted talks are the best – accessing experts in their areas of expertise is fantastic – favourite ones of mine are Amy Cuddy, Harvard Professor, on body language, Rory Sutherland on Behavioural Economics and Brene Browne on vulnerability. I am sure you will find some new favourites too! Set yourself a simple goal of watch one a week – even you can find 10 minutes for a view.

Massively Open Online learning MOOC is another free resource with content provided by top universities. There are all sorts on there, so take a look and see what you fancy. It is worth checking out to see if your agency has a licence with as there is another wealth of material sitting on there for you to access.

If you don’t like online learning you can’t beat a book and used books on Amazon do not need to break the bank. My favourite at the moment is Creativity Inc, the story of Pixar with some great leadership and management tips as well as being an interesting read. The School of Life here in London also has alternative business related sessions which are not very pricey – storytelling caught my eye (and they are worth following on Twitter too!)

In terms of how to approach this with your line manager I suggest that you need to be clear about the learning and development you are looking for.

A great start point would be to have a review or an appraisal with them or to at least get some feedback on your performance and the areas for development. I would also talk to them about what the agency offers and explore the courses offered by the IPA. Depending on your level, the IPA Foundation Certificate could be a great place to start!

If your agency is an IPA member they are required to complete 24 hours pro rata of continuing professional development so they should have some Learning and development provision in place.

Failing all of the above, speak to folk you admire and ask them for their top tips and reads. You could always get yourself a mentor. It doesn’t always have to be about going on a course!

Last updated 21 January 2022