Don’t expect to stay relevant based on your diploma alone. Here’s how to gain skills you really need to land the job you want.

You’re loveable, capable, and goshdarnit, people like you. Except for maybe your boss, who secretly wishes you were just a little bit better.

If you’re a young and hungry professional, don’t expect to stay relevant resting on your diploma. Even if you have a handful of years of on-the-job experience under your pretty Prada belt, it’s probably not enough.

With jobs getting cut faster than the fat off Heidi Montag’s bum, members of the currently-employed elite need to upgrade their professional cred – and now. It’s too easy for an employer to say “no” – to a raise, promotion, or renewing your contract. So give ‘em every reason to green-light your professional success with a few career upgrades. Here’s how:

1. Do-it-yourself

Sometimes you’ve got take educational matters into your own hands and exercise all the “can-do” enthusiasm you can muster. Living in a world where anything you’d ever want to know is a click of a mouse away makes it easy to pick and choose new skills to learn.

Someone who’s doing it: 22-year old Zoelle Egner recently transitioned from a position as a business analyst at a major retail company to a new role running marketing, communication and digital projects for an after-school provider.

In her new role, Egner has had to brush up on graphic design, public relations and web development skills. She also began following key thought leaders, curators and commentators in her industry, and reads absolutely everything she could get her hands on – blog posts, books, white papers, you name it. “The internet is really my best friend for learning new skills,” she says. “It turns out, if you know where to look or how to search, it’s very easy to find free tools to teach yourself just about anything related to web development and programming.”

You don’t need a new job, of course, to teach yourself new skills. In fact, it’s best to do this before you transition, to help yourself land the job you want.

2. Get an internship

Let’s face it – nobody really wants to schlep coffee and work for free. But all signs and trends indicate that if you put in hands-on hours at an internship (in your field of interest, of course), it may improve your resume and increase your job-finding odds.

And since many companies downsized during the recession, plenty of employers want interns to complete important tasks rather than refilling the decaf drawer.

Someone who’s doing it: Sara Covich was working retail when she decided to apply for an internship at Bicycle Paper, a monthly newsmagazine in the Pacific Northwest. She knew she wanted to wander down the career path of writing and editing and needed some experience. Cycling is also the 31-year-old Seattleite’s favorite sport, so it was a great fit for many reasons. Covich worked as an editorial intern for three months, which didn’t immediately segue into her current position (she first paid her professional dues as a Safety Analyst), but gave her an advantage when the Consent Form Editor position opened up.

3. Create smart alliances

Go out of your way to find yourself a mentor or make friends with someone who’s just slightly more accomplished than you. Sometimes simply having a trusted sounding board and the right connections can help boost your career.

Someone who’s doing it: Before the ink dried on Julie Webb’s college diploma, the 22-year old intern had snagged an in-house copywriter position at Marketing Maven Public Relations. Within six months, she moved to a full-time Assistant Account Executive position.

“This is a great career move for me because I can work closely with my Account Executive, Aljolynn Sperber (a.k.a. “Jojo”), and learn from her as I grow and develop in the company,” says Webb. She believes that by having a mentor, she can learn more about the industry in a hand-on environment with people who care about her success.

4. Go back to school

Sometimes you can fake it ‘til you make it or work with what you’ve got. But in some professional instances, you may have to commit to additional coursework, or perhaps a new degree, to take your career to the next level.

Someone who’s doing it: When Katie Allegretto first decided to get her B.S. in Education at Central Michigan University, she was smitten by the promise of summers and holidays off. (Hello, who wouldn’t be?)

But five years into her career, the 29-year old Bellows Spring Elementary School teacher loves the diversity of her job. “It truly is rewarding when you see everything ‘click’ for a child and you know played an integral part in helping them gain knowledge,” says Allegretto. Now she’s expanding her education by pursuing a Master’s Degree in Reading, which will help her fine-tune her teaching skills to diagnose reading difficulties.

How else are you learning skills that will make you a catch in the workplace?

Charyn Pfeuffer is a food, travel and lifestyle writer and journalist based in Seattle. She can be found on Twitter at @charynpfeuffer.


  1. Stock Photos

    all great pointers. sometimes its also just all who you know, word of mouth goes a long way too… let everyone know you’re looking for a job

  2. Farego

    Help others also for free and maybe you will get help in return and in form of money.

  3. Jrandom42

    Tip number one sounds wonderful, but it’s a minefield, especially in science and engineering. Some things you can learn on your own, but most advanced engineering and science isn’t doable by yourself.

  4. Dana Leavy | Aspyre Solutions

    Great article! With the competition in the job market these days, and even as entrepreneurs, we have to create our own best skill sets. And then we have to sell them! Cheers.

    • Charyn Pfeuffer

      Thank you! I agree, everyone is responsible for making “it” happen and how you decide to carve our your path is up to you. Cheers!

  5. Hannah

    “nobody really wants to schlep coffee and work for free.”

    It is actually against the law for this type of internship to exist. Interns must be paid, or their work must be educational.

  6. Kassandra Smith

    Your method of including a real-life example of someone following each tip is quite effective. Other methods that may also work: 1) Start a blog or guest-blogging on an established site to build your case as an expert in your field; 2) Create informational PowerPoint presentations and post them to SlideShare where anyone can access your piece; 3) Develop web casts, podcasts, and instructional videos to post to the web; 4) Join an industry or professional association, informal happy hour group, or a group of interest and attend as many networking events as possible; 5) Mentor a student

    • Jrandom42

      Blogging about something doesn’t make you an expert in anything. You’ve got to go out and actually do things, make the mistakes that newbies make, learn from those mistakes on what to do properly, and why it’s necessary to do things a certain way. Once you learn that, then get into the inner workings of whatever you’re working on, understand why things are constructed in a certain way, how to take advantage of them to make other activities easier and simpler, and then break it, learn how to fix it and make it better.

      Only then are you on the journey towards being an expert. You can blog about the journey to get there, but blogging itself won’t make you anything other than a clueless newbie who will be ridiculed, called out on you so-called expertise, beaten down by stump-the-chump questions and pilloried by the true experts, who will then label you as a liar, fraud, fake, charlatan, and an object of scorn.

      Don’t believe it can happen? Just read

      • Alex Dogliotti

        And how exactly would be able to blog about something without researching, reading, talking to other experts and learning all the time? Isn’t that building up your expertise?

        • Jrandom42

          You can research, read, talk to experts til you’re blue in the face, but I haven’t seen an expert who ACTUALLY HASN’T WORKED HANDS-ON WITH THE PARTICULAR TECHNOLOGY

          An expert actually does things with what he’s supposed to be an expert on. If he doesn’t, all he knows is the theory, not how it actually works in real life.

  7. Just saying..

    I like the examples, but the thing about Brazen is that all these articles are so generic and vague. No offense to the writers, who have jobs here and are putting out the work that Brazen expects, but there is never anything eye-popping about the advice that Brazen gives. Rather it is recycled by Brazen, Yahoo, any college or university career center, careerbuilder’s newsletter, etc, etc. Yet I still read them thinking that something new might catch my eye. In a nut shell all these career articles are this: 1) network 2) network 3) write excellent resumes and cover letters 4) network 5) educate yourself somehow 6) sell yourself by networking 7) keep trying and don’t give up!!!

    • Alex Dogliotti

      You know what? I still think Brazen is the best career website around. And I’m not saying it because I wrote here a couple of times. I read a lot of blogs about career and I’m with you 100%. Careerbuilder, Careerrealism, Yahoo and many others are exactly as boring as you say (i.e. If you can’t write a half-decent CV or cover letter, you’re not even employable today). I still think some of the stuff here is quite peculiar. I see a glimpse of the change that’s happening in the social era.

      • Jaclyn Schiff

        Alex, thanks for your support! We definitely try to keep things interesting and useful around here and appreciate your participation!

    • Jaclyn Schiff

      Hey, thanks for the comment. I’m co-managing editor of Brazen’s blog and definitely appreciate the feedback. We try really hard to provide advice and spotlight trends here that are out-of-the-box, new and interesting. But we’re also pretty careful about being sensational — that won’t help anyone! I read a ton of other career blogs and I love the approach our writers take to topics like networking, resumes etc. A lot of places do cover these topics, but our goal on Brazen is to present them in the most interesting way possible while giving you great tips to promote your own success.

      I welcome suggestions for other topics to cover and would like to hear more about what you’d like to see on Brazen. Feel free to reply here or drop me a line at

  8. Gopalan Gayatri

    I’d like more tips for the high tech world. Also internships here typically involve writing code, running simulations (grunt work for your mentor) – making coffee? How quaint 🙂

    • Jrandom42

      You actually got to write code and run simulations? All I got to do was document code, debug it, and maintain legacy code.

    • Alexis Grant

      I like this idea, Gopalan. Will see if one of our writers is interested. Thanks!

  9. Support

    Nice blog to learn the skills in demand.

  10. Support

    Nicely written

  11. Michelle

    Really like the real-world examples in this article – it increases the credibility of your point. There are so many self-motivated options out there for career improvement, if we’re interested in acting on them. I once heard Jon Lovitz tell about his pivotal moment…when he was feeling at the bottom of his game, someone asked him, “Are you willing to do what it’s going to take to get the results you claim you want?” Powerful words.

  12. Devika

    Great post, good tips.
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