The Power of Upskilling: Taking Control of Your Professional Growth


For far too long, I’ve been putting the blame on external factors for my lack of personal and professional growth. It was always easy to point fingers at the environment, the people around me, or even my financial situation. But guess what? Nothing much happened when I took that approach. Ah, the blissful ignorance of being a fresh university graduate in my early twenties, thinking I had everything figured out and that life would magically fall into place.

Oh, how I wish I could have seen into the future, where more than 15 years later, I’m still trying to figure out this crazy thing called life. It somehow makes less sense now, but also a whole lot more sense in its own twisted way. It’s a mind-boggling paradox.

When I started my first job as a qualified midwife, I had this grand plan of where I’d be in a decade. Fueled by passion, I dreamed of running my own private practice or managing a birth center in Johannesburg. But less than six years later, there I was in Cape Town, despising my job and desperately seeking a way out. I won’t delve into the details of why I felt that way, but what I want to highlight is how limited my view was when it came to my own ability to change my situation.

Growing up, I never witnessed an entrepreneurial environment. Both my parents worked for companies, and while my mother had a private practice, it wasn’t exactly a startup but more of a lifestyle choice. So, I never really considered taking risks or exploring opportunities beyond the safety net of being an employee. I relied on my work environment to guide me and signal when I needed to upskill. If the job sent me on courses or training, I’d gladly participate to accumulate those CPD points. I’d attend seminars or conferences related to my field and pursue further studies in midwifery, all with the aim of gaining more experience and qualifications. But if none of those options were handed to me, I’m not sure if I would have taken the initiative myself. It’s a sad reality, and it’s hard to believe that it was once my own reality when I reflect on it today.

So, what changed?

I did. The environment stayed the same, the opportunities remained unchanged. But when I hit rock bottom in my nursing career, experiencing a nervous breakdown in the middle of resuscitating a newborn and nearly passing out on top of the baby, I knew I had to GET OUT. Something clicked in me, and I finally realised that if I wanted to bring about change, I had to take responsibility and upskill myself.

There are numerous paths one can take, but I went all out and pursued an MBA degree, ensuring that I never had to return to nursing. Looking back, I can nostalgically appreciate my previous profession, but there’s absolutely zero desire to go back to that environment. I discovered my entrepreneurial spirit, and the fire within me burns bright.

But why am I sharing all this background?

It all comes down to upskilling oneself. The moment I decided to take charge of my own future and enhance my skills, things started to change.

You see, when you make the effort to upskill, those around you inevitably take notice of your newfound expertise. They start reaching out to you for help in areas they lack. Your employer might even realise your potential and contribute to your further development, but the key is that YOU need to set that wheel in motion.

So, let’s talk about the benefits of upskilling yourself. Here’s what I’ve learned from personal experience:

  1. Learning new skills opens doors you never even considered.  Putting up my hand to sell company products on Takealot when it seemed like a very boring task to those around me. Well, it turned out to be incredibly useful. Not only did I familiarise myself with the retail space and e-commerce, but I also stumbled upon web design. I kept learning (Udemy has been a game-changer for me) and ended up saving thousands by building my own personal websites. Not a bad result, if you ask me.
  2. The world is constantly evolving, and the skills you have today might not be relevant tomorrow. To stay ahead of the rest and keep up with the ever-changing landscape, continuous upskilling is crucial. It could be as simple as reading up on the latest trends or watching educational YouTube videos. So, instead of mindlessly scrolling through Facebook during your downtime, why not switch to scrolling through a LinkedIn feed? The information is all around us, and it’s almost unacceptable to say, “I don’t know how.” It’s like my grandmother saying she doesn’t know how to do a WhatsApp video call. The truth is, it’s not about knowing—it’s about wanting to LEARN.
  3. Upskilling sets you apart from the lazy crowd. Those who refuse to invest time and effort into improving their skills will be left behind. “Lucky” is just a different spelling of “dedication” and those who apply it, reap the rewards
  4. Upskilling might be your ticket to job security. With the threat of AI automation looming, simply relying on “lots of work” won’t cut it anymore. AI integration and tools are boosting productivity, which means you need to shine and showcase what you’ve got. When the choice is made, it’s up to you to ensure you stand out.

Now, let’s not forget about the benefits of upskilling your employees.

While the responsibility lies with individuals to enhance their skills, employers can also reap significant rewards by investing in their workforce. Let’s explore a few benefits:

  1. Improving your employees’ productivity and efficiency. When your team members acquire new skills, they become more capable and efficient in their roles, ultimately benefiting the overall productivity of your organisation.
  2. Boosting your employees’ motivation and job satisfaction. When employees feel valued and recognised for their individual growth, they’re more likely to remain loyal to the company. Even with a smaller salary, the notable personal and professional growth they experience makes it easier to be content.
  3. Increasing customer satisfaction and retention. As your employees upskill, they gain a broader skill set that allows them to provide better service to customers. Satisfied customers are more likely to stay loyal to your brand and recommend your products or services to others.
  4. The world is evolving rapidly, and businesses must adapt to stay ahead. By encouraging upskilling within your organisation, you foster a culture of innovation and adaptability. As your employees gain new knowledge and skills, they become better equipped to identify opportunities, embrace change, and think creatively to solve problems. Upskilling cultivates a growth mindset that enables your workforce to navigate shifting landscapes and seize emerging trends, keeping your organisation agile and competitive.
  5. Upskilling your employees often involves providing them with opportunities to learn and collaborate with others. Whether it’s through workshops, training programs, or mentorship initiatives, upskilling promotes interaction and knowledge sharing among your team members.
  6. By upskilling your employees, you ensure that your organisation is prepared for the future. By equipping your workforce with the necessary skills, knowledge, and adaptability, you’re building a resilient team that can navigate changes, embrace emerging technologies, and seize new opportunities.

The above is not exhaustive but merely a starting point. Life is a journey of learning and growing from what we have learned.

When you wake up in the morning, ask yourself what can you learn today that you didn’t know yesterday and never stop WANTING to learn.

-Liz Füzy

More blog posts