How to Improve Your Professional Skill Sets For Little Money

books.jpgWith the start of the new year it is time for new years resolutions. High on your list should be improving your professional skill sets. Learning a new skill or improving on an existing skill will benefit you for years to come. One of the least expensive ways to improve and increase your skills is to read good books on the subject.

Some of you may be job hunting or at risk of losing your job during these tough economic times. Adding to your skill sets will make you a more appealing candidate. Perhaps you are looking to move up in your organization. Improving your skills will allow you to demonstrate your value to the organization and open new doors of opportunity.

First you should determine what skills you want to develop. There is no sense in wasting time or money on a skill that will not benefit you. Do you need to improve your presentation skills (who doesn’t)? Would you benefit from becoming more productive? Do you need to work on your interpersonal skills? Examine your job or a job you want and determine what skills you need to develop.

Here are some suggestions of best selling books to help you improve your skills.

Presentation Skills

Ranked #1 on Amazon in Running Meetings and Presentations.

Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery (Voices That Matter) by Garr Reynolds.

After an introduction on presentation in today’s world this book takes you through the steps of of making great presentations. From preparation, to design and then delivery Presentation Zen shows you how to improve your presentation skills.

“Please don’t buy this book! Once people start making better presentations, mine won’t look so good. (But if you truly want to learn what works and how to do it right, Garr is the man to learn from.)” Seth Godin Speaker and Blogger Author, Meatball Sundae “Garr is a beacon of hope for frustrated audiences everywhere. His design philosophy and fundamental principles bring life to messages and can invigorate careers. His principles of simplicity are as much a journey of the soul as they are restraint of the mouse.” Nancy Duarte CEO, Duarte Design “Presentation Zen is just fantastic. Best of all it’s not another recipe book about “how to make slides” — this is about re-imagining how your entire presentation will work together as a persuasive and integrated show, from conception through delivery. Awesome.” Merlin Mann 43folders.com

Personal Productivity Skills

Ranked #1 on Amazon in Time Management and Business Life –> Health & Stress

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

David Allen is the personal productivity guru. This best selling book started a personal productivity revolution with a zealot following of GTD advocates. Nowadays we are all asked to do more with less. Becoming more organized and productive will make your life far less stressful.

The one-page flowchart of the Getting Things Done system is worth the price of the book alone. In part 1 of the book he explains the “Art of Getting Things Done”. In part 2 he shows you how to practice stress-free productivity. In part 3 he shows you the power of the key principles, the collection habit, the next-action and outcome focusing.

“It’s possible for a person to have an overwhelming number of things to do and still function productively with a clear head and a positive sense of relaxed control. That’s a great way to live and work, at elevated levels of effectiveness and efficiency. It’s also becoming a critical operational style required of successful and high-performing professionals”

Negotiating Skills

Ranked #1 on Amazon in Management & Leadership > Negotiating and # 3 in Skills

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher

Negotiating skills? Think about it. Getting a resource for a project, getting the best deal from a vendor, even getting someone to do something can end up being negotiated. We all negotiate every day at work and in our life. With our spouse or our kids. Wouldn’t you like to have better negotiating skills when you go to buy a car? This classic book improves both negotiating and communications skills.

“We all spend vast amounts of our lives trying to resolve differences with others, whether within the family, at work or during daily life. Yet most people haven’t a clue how to negotiate effectively. The methods of principled negotiation aim to achieve amicable resolution and mutual gains, deciding issues on their merits rather than by haggling from opposing positions. These are simply, effective strategies which anyone can use, even if those they are negotiating with are more powerful, won’t co-operate or use ‘dirty tricks’.”

Management and Team Leadership Skills

Ranked #1 on Amazon in Management & Leadership > Management Science

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni

So much of what we do today in IT involves teams. Being an effective team leader is an essential skill. This book is about teamwork and the problems and conflicts that often prevent groups of people working together from achieving their goals.

The five dysfunctions covered in the book are:

  1. Lack of trust
  2. Fear of conflict
  3. Unwillingness to commit
  4. Avoidance of accountability
  5. Inattention to result

When you look at this list you can quickly see how these dysfunctions apply to teams, but also why it is a best selling management book. These are all issues a manager deals with and must learn to overcome to be effective.

Commit to Improving Yourself

Like any new years resolution improving your skill sets takes time and commitment. Commit yourself to reading 1-2 hours per day in a skill you need improvement on. You can not master a skill by reading a book. You must practice the skill daily and learn how to best use it for your benefit.

I am a big fan of continuous improvement, especially when it comes to improving myself personally and my skill sets. There is always a better way to do something and we should never stop looking for them. If you want a new years resolution that you can stick with and will offer you benefits for years to come, pick up some good books, read, learn and improve yourself.