Upskilling: What It Means and How It Can Help Your Career

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Through upskilling, you'll build upon skills you already have and fortify your expertise.

[Featured image] A young professional studies printed charts and data at a desk in front of her laptop and various notebooks to continue learning her craft through upskilling.

As you progress through your career, you may find opportunities to build upon your existing skill set. Over time, these new or advanced skills may be why you move into a management position or take on more interesting projects at work.

As our workforce changes and grows, many government offices are taking notice and creating initiatives to help workers develop and expand in-demand skills. To help improve the training ecosystem in Canada, the Government of Canada launched the Upskilling for Industry Initiative (UII) to match professionals with training and upskilling opportunities.

Although skills development can happen naturally over time, some people choose to actively pursue their professional development goals by upskilling. Likewise, some companies encourage their employees to upskill in order to generate growth opportunities internally.

In this article, we’ll discuss what upskilling means and how you can work toward more advanced skills that align with your career path.

What is upskilling?

Upskilling means learning new and enhanced skills that relate to your current role. Think about it as “levelling up” your skills.

Often, you’ll deepen your knowledge about your role and industry as you gain more experience. Upskilling is typically a more intentional learning process where you gain exposure to that deeper knowledge sooner through skill development courses, certification, or mentorship programs.

Depending on your role, you may find it beneficial to elevate your workplace skills, technical skills, or both.

Upskilling vs. reskilling

Upskilling and reskilling are two terms that tend to be used interchangeably. However, whereas upskilling involves elevating your current skill set, reskilling is about learning new cross-functional skills. With reskilling, you may be able to move into a new role or widen the scope of your current role.


Benefits of upskilling

Often, the benefits of upskilling are tied to company goals. Namely, companies that invest in employee upskilling tend to see better employee engagement and a greater retention rate. In the long run, this can save money by reducing the costs associated with recruitment.

However, upskilling is also beneficial for individuals. Through upskilling, you could:

  • Progress toward goals

  • Remain competitive in the job market

  • Qualify for a promotion

  • Secure a new job

  • Continue self-improvement

How to upskill

The process of upskilling is closely related to the process of working toward your career goals. In fact, you might want to consider your goals as you determine the areas in which you want to upskill.

To get started, compare your current skill set to the skills you need in order to achieve your long-term career goals. Some skills you may already have, while others may be skills you need to develop. Depending on your goals, you can address any identified gaps by upskilling or reskilling.

Tip: To organize your path forward, it can help to write a career development plan in which you outline your goals, skills, and resources, and track your progress over time. Find a free template here.


Here are some ways you can start upskilling (and reskilling) today:

  • Learn about your employer’s available resources. Some companies provide employees with access to career development programs or upskilling platforms, such as Coursera. Ask your People Operations or Human Resources representative about offerings available to you.

  • Seek out relevant courses. No matter what you’re trying to learn, there is no shortage of courses you can take to upskill. You can find relevant courses online or at a nearby college, whether you want to learn about well-being, global financial markets, or negotiation skills. Browse popular free courses on Coursera.

  • Earn a certificate. For an enhanced credential, consider enrolling in a certificate program. Typically more labour-intensive than an individual course, a certificate can enhance expertise in a particular skill set or knowledge area.

  • Work on a project. If you prefer hands-on learning, take on a project that enables you to practice the skills you’re trying to build. You may be able to join a project at work, or you can start your own outside of work. Over time, your projects can become part of a cohesive portfolio.

  • Find a mentor. As you figure out the areas in which upskilling can most benefit you, it can help to connect with a mentor who has achieved the level of goals you’re working toward. A mentor can provide one-on-one guidance as you progress.

  • Consider in-demand skills. Skills in emerging fields like cyber security, digital technology, and clean technology can open access to job opportunities and strengthen your resume.

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