Identifying skills and upskilling

Learn what skills you have and want to develop, and how you can gain the skills you need for jobs you’re interested in.

Types of skills

Employers look for a mix of:

  • hard skills, or job-specific skills. You may get these from formal training or experience 
  • soft skills, which include transferable skills like teamwork, communication and problem solving

Identify your skills

To learn what soft skills and hard skills you’ll need for jobs you’re interested in you can:

  • check the job description
  • take a look at our job profiles
  • talk to people you know about their job

To identify your skills and decide what skills to develop, you could:

  • think about what you do in your current job
  • reflect on your past education and work experiences
  • think about the skills you’ve gained in daily life
  • talk to people who know you well outside of work, for a different perspective
  • write down a list of strengths and areas you’d like to improve
  • take our skills health check to see what strengths you have

Improve your skills

Improving the right skills can make you a better candidate for the job you want. New skills may even take you in a completely different career direction.

Work on your skills gaps

You could work on improving your:

Courses and training

You could gain new skills by doing a course, an apprenticeship, or learning on the job. 

For help deciding your next step and whether further training is for you, you can speak to an adviser. You could also contact your local:

  • colleges
  • library
  • training providers
  • Jobcentre plus

Taking a course does not have to be a full-time commitment. There are flexible ways to learn like:

Find an online course

Use The Skills Toolkit to access free, high quality courses to help you build up your skills.

Explore free online courses

Volunteering and work experience

Volunteering can help you to develop new skills and get useful work experience. It's also a good way to support your community and help others.

You can find out more about volunteering from:

Find local volunteer centres through the National Council of Volunteer Organisations (NCVO). You could also try organisations like Citizens Advice.

Teach yourself

You can learn new skills and build your knowledge on your own. You could:

  • use ‘teach yourself’ style books and CDs
  • listen to podcasts from professional organisations
  • watch videos online
  • join online communities for specific skills, like cookery or motor vehicle maintenance
  • watch educational TV and radio programmes
  • download skills apps on your mobile or tablet

Make a career plan

Set yourself some ‘SMART’ goals when deciding your next steps. These should be:

  • specific
  • measurable
  • achievable
  • relevant
  • time-bound

With these in mind, you can create a plan of action. Think about the time you can give to your goals, taking into account your:

  • personal circumstances
  • work and personal commitments

Concentrate on a job or qualification which is achievable for you and your skill level.

Be flexible with your career plan

Develop your plan with a long term aim and short term goals so you can break up your time. You should think about all the different routes you could take to get to your career aim.


If you are looking at nursing as a career, you could volunteer or work in healthcare or home care.  This will help build experience working with people in care.

Your volunteering and work experience opportunities may not be the exact role you want to do. But relevant experience and training will make your job applications and CV stronger.

For example, you might want to work with disabled people. You may only be able to get work experience in elderly care. This will still give you relevant skills that are transferable to the area where you want to work in the future.

Update your CV with new skills

Keep your CV up to date by adding any new skills and how you gained them. This can help you to tailor your CV to the job you want.  

Our CV advice can help you get started.

Related content

Developing your soft skills

Volunteering advice

Ways to get work experience

Speak to an adviser

You can call 0800 100 900 or use webchat to speak to an adviser.

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  • 10am to 5pm Saturdays and bank holidays

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