07/24/2012 05:53 pm ET | Updated Sep 23, 2012

7 Ways to Pick Up, Practice or Perfect a New Skill

By Linda Descano, CFA®, President and CEO, Women & Co. and Managing Director and Head of Digital Partnerships, North America Marketing, Citi

Frequently, when I'm engaged in a conversation about developing a skill, the solution most often suggested by the employee looking to develop said skill is to "attend a training class." Granted, training classes have a role to play in one's development, but there are other ways to develop new skills in the workplace that may yield collateral benefits.

Rather than pontificate on what ways I believe work, I turned to the members of Connect: Professional Women's Network, a LinkedIn community powered by Citi, for their points of view. I learned valuable insights from Julie Conner, Andrea Dale, Hillary C. Emer, Margie Kennedy, Kara Klein Thornton and Lanelle Lanton. Of course, you can read the entire discussion by clicking here, but you know me, I can't let useful information go unshared. So I've curated these helpful ideas into these seven ways to pick up, practice or perfect a new skill and increase your visibility -- and network -- while doing it.

1. Take a class at a community college.

2. Find a volunteer opportunity that will enable you to get hands-on experience in an area of interest.

3. Develop a list of experts in the area you want to develop and read their blog, subscribe to their e-mails, visit their website, read their tweets and/or listen to their podcasts daily to learn how they are enhancing and promoting that expertise.

4. If your employer has a searchable directory of experts, use that to find an expert in the area that you are looking to develop and arrange a time to connect.

5. Find a mentor to advise and guide you on developing a skill. Look for someone with the expertise, trait or behavior you want to emulate.

6. Shadow a person that works in your area of interest to see firsthand the day-to-day tasks and challenges as they are, not as you imagine them to be.

7. Form a networking group for professionals in your area of interest in your community, city, or company -- or tap into an existing one.

And if you're a manager who's looking to develop their employees' skills, Andrea Dale shares her tip for getting your team on board. Andrea suggests, "When asking your staff to invest the time and energy into learning a new skill, give highly credible reasons to believe outside of your own opinion... and illustrate how to implement highly specific actions directly applicable to their industry, work and corporate culture."

About the Author:
Linda is President and CEO of Women & Co., a service of Citi that brings women relevant financial content and thoughtful commentary. She also serves as a Managing Director and Head of Digital Partnerships for North America Marketing at Citi. A recognized expert on the topic of personal finance, Linda is also the featured contributor on and, for which she serves as their women and money expert. Her writing, tips and commentary have appeared in countless publications including: Huffington Post, MORE Magazine, American Banker and MSN Money to name a few. She is the recipient of a 2011 Luminary Award from Womensphere® and was the New York recipient of the 2009 Corporate w2wlink Ascendancy Award.