Skill Development

Aasthan ISET

Developing your skills begins with assessing which skills are important for your desired career development. Read about career skills in the self-assessment section of this website. Speak with your supervisor or manager and other career mentors to identify the types of skills that will help move you forward in your career.

Skill Development means developing yourself and your skill sets to add value for the organization and for your own career development. Fostering an attitude of appreciation for lifelong learning is the key to workplace success. Continuously learning and developing one's skills requires identifying the skills needed for mobility at Cal, and then successfully seeking out trainings or on-the-job opportunities for developing those skills.

Your development should follow the 70-20-10 rule:

70% of your development should come from on-the-job activities and action learning. This can include development experiences like managing a project, serving on a cross-functional team, taking on a new task, job shadowing, job rotation, etc.

20% of your development should come from interactions with others. This includes having a mentor, being a mentor, coaching, participating in communities of practice, serving as a leader in a staff organization, etc.

10% of your development should come from training, including classes, seminars, webinars, podcasts, conferences, etc.

Once you have identified the skills you need to develop to achieve your career goals, your next step is identifying how you will develop your skills. The two main avenues for developing your skills are through the following:

  1. Education and training
  2. Developmental experiences

Education and training can enhance your professional life in a number of significant ways.

  • Completing increasingly advanced levels of education shows your employer that you have a drive and commitment to learn and apply information, ideas, theories, and formulas to achieve a variety of tasks and goals.
  • If you need to acquire subject matter knowledge, education and training is often the most direct way to obtain it in a short amount of time.
  • Obtaining a particular degree or certification may be a requirement for applying for some jobs. Educational requirements are a quick and easy way to narrow down a field of applicants, so if you find yourself competing against others with more education than you, it could be in your interest to obtain the degree, certification, or training to be a competitive candidate.

Education and training can consist of any of the following:

  • Advanced Degrees
  • Professional Certifications
  • Computer Skills Training
  • e-Learning
  • Independent Reading
  • Seminars and webinars through Professional Associations
  • Workshops, Trainings, and Educational Coursework on Campus

Developmental Experiences

While education and training are important to skill development, it is also known that only 10 percent of adult learning happens in the classroom, from books, tapes, or online learning activities. This is often because learning in these formats is more passive. Most adult learning, a full 70 percent, happens by doing. Learning by doing can take place through on-the-job and leadership experiences. 

Following are examples of on-the-job and leadership experiences that can help you develop a range of skills and competencies.


On-the-Job Experience Examples

  • Take on a challenging “stretch” assignment. Some examples:
    • Fill in for your supervisor or manager when they are on vacation
    • Manage a project from start to finish
    • Make a temporary lateral move to another part of the organization
    • Help launch a new business, initiative, or program
    • Help turn around a struggling project
    • Develop a new product or service
    • Teach a process or course to your team or others
    • Run a team meeting or briefing session
  • Seek out critical feedback on how your performance might be improved, then implement a plan to improve your performance.
  • Represent your group at a cross-functional meeting on campus or serve as a liaison between groups on campus.
  • Offer to manage project budgets to develop financial and budgeting competencies.
  • Benchmark other teams that are known for high-performance and/or strong accountability, and create a plan to help your team meet or exceed expectations.
  • Solicit feedback from peers, direct reports, and key constituents regarding a project, departmental program or process that is under-performing. Propose several improvements.
  • Serve as a back-up contact when your supervisor is not available.
  • Take responsibility for writing or reporting on project deliverables.
  • Review your project budget and make recommendations for:
    • Cutting costs
    • Financial strategies that can maximize quality and efficiency

Leadership Experience Examples

  • Serve as a mentor to other colleagues, supervisees, or staff members or help to onboard new colleagues.
  • Lead a project team/manage a group where team members are experts in areas that you are not.
  • Lead a project that requires innovation.
  • Lead a division- or campus-wide project or task force that will have campus policy implications.
  • Assume a divisional liaison role with HR on processes for:
    • Outreach and recruitment
    • Managing people issues
  • Chair a selection committee to fill a position.
  • Speak at a meeting.
  • Present at a conference.
  • Run for a position in a professional association on or off campus.
  • Take on a leadership role in a social, community, or volunteer organization.

These are just some examples of developmental experiences that can help you develop your skills. See additional examples of development experiences in this Experience Inventory handout  (PDF).

The unique experiences that can help you progress toward your career development goals will be created by you, in conjunction with your supervisor or manager. Learning how to communicate to your supervisor that you are open to and desire development experiences is important to getting the opportunity to develop your career skills.

Show openness by being receptive to new ideas and suggestions, by admitting to your need for improvement, and by actively seeking your direct supervisor/manager's feedback. Keep in mind that the end goal is your career development, not the coaching process itself. Even if it's difficult to hear constructive criticism in the short run, if it helps to create development experiences for you it will help your career development as a whole.

Read the steps below for details on how to manage a developmental experience.