Identifying skills and upskilling

Moving forward in your career can be daunting if you have a gap in your CV and feel you need to improve your skills.

Help identifying your skills

Employers will look for two different types of skills:

  • soft skills - also called transferable skills are the type you pick up through life experience, like communication
  • hard skills - are necessary skills for specific jobs and are gained through work, learning or training

When identifying your skills and deciding what skills to develop, you should look at what soft skills and hard skills apply to the job you want.

To help you identify your current skills, you could:

  • think about your current situation - what job or experiences have you had and what skills did they include
  • talk to people who know you well personally - an outsider's perspective can help identify what skills you have
  • write down a list of strengths and areas you’d like to improve
  • take our skills health check to see what strengths you have

How to improve your skill set

Improving your skills set can help you develop your CV and may help you decide on what career path you want to take in the future.

You may find skill areas you need to improve, like:

Think about your education and employment history and any training you have had. If you have identified gaps, you should look at how you feel about further training or a new work experience or volunteering opportunity.

For help deciding your next step and whether further training is for you, you can contact the National Careers Service. You could also contact your local:

Make a plan and set goals

Set realistic goals

If you have not been employed for a while, you should be realistic when setting yourself goals and deciding your next steps. You should focus on a job or qualification which is available and accessible to you and your skill level.

You can gain new skills by:

  • doing some work experience
  • taking part in courses and training opportunities
  • volunteering

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

You should think about the time you can give to your goals, think about how it will affect your:

  • personal circumstances
  • work and personal commitments

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 getting to your career aim.

You should bear in mind that your volunteering and work experience opportunities may not always be the exact role you want to undertake. But the more relevant experience and training you have, the stronger your job applications and CVs will be for the future.


If you are looking at nursing as a career - a good suggestion to look at is employment or volunteering in care to build experience working with people in a health/home care setting.

Or you might want to work with people with disabilities but can only find opportunities to work in elderly care. You'll still get relevant work experience to help you apply for roles with your preferred client group in the future.

Update your CV with new skills

The benefits of taking volunteering and training opportunities are that they can:

  • fill a gap on your CV
  • prove to an employer your are keen to learn and develop new skills
  • show educational providers that you want to learn more
  • help you develop skills that are relevant to your job choice and make your CV stand out

Your CV is something that has to be kept up to date and tailored to every job that you apply for. Make sure that you add your new skills and experience as you develop them. Our CV advice can help you get started.

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