Five ways you can get ahead in your career from home and on a budget.
Learning a new skill can be one of the most effective ways to change careers, land a promotion, or build a fulfilling personal or professional life. Many people took on the challenge during quarantine (about 75% of you) and with the explicit goal of finding a new job.
Employers are increasingly relying on a candidate’s skills to determine ability, prioritizing them above previous job titles or industry. Want to level up your job search and get hired faster?
Whether you have downtime this holiday season to get ahead in your job search, or you’re just looking for any opportunity to beef up your resume, here are five ways to improve your skills without a huge investment.
Take an online course
You don’t have to be enrolled fulltime at a college or university to access formal classes anymore. Many universities and schools offer free online certificate programs, introductory courses and other opportunities to learn more about a subject. From Harvard courses to sites like Coursera and Skillshare (which also have paid memberships), there’s something for everyone.
Plus, many library systems have partnerships with platforms while providing their own classes. Sign-up for a library card, and typically, using your library card number, you can access plenty of free resources.
Related reading: 5 steps to improve your skills at home
Engage with your industry media
Speaking of library cards, use it to check out books, magazines and other media to learn a new skill! Many libraries offer digital versions of books, as well as audio books, if listening is your thing.
Books can help you learn a new skill, strategy or technique. Gain insight on a topic through a podcast or find links to helpful resources in newsletters. No matter what industry you work in, there is bound to be chatter on skills, work environments, pressing topics and more. Find it and engage with it.
Volunteer or pick up a new hobby
Volunteering has been shown to be a very effective way to add valuable experience and skills to your resume. It shows you are engaged in your community and value helping people, you can say you’ve practiced your skills (when landing internships and jobs are hard), and you’re also able to learn new things, which is great for when you’re trying to switch careers.
Nonprofits and community groups need folks from all backgrounds to help further their causes. You can sit on the board and advise a nonprofit, write grants, run their social media, provide financial or legal counsel – opportunities are endless. Find groups near you to see what volunteer needs are available.
And, don’t forget a tried-and-true method, get a hobby! Looking to improve your writing or creativity skills? Take storytelling classes or start learning to draw. Want to demonstrate focus or attention to detail? Even activities like yoga or sewing can help you learn and demonstrate those skills.
This doesn’t have to be as bad as it sounds. Because everything went digital in 2020, you’re not confined to the limitations of your location, or even your industry. Maybe you’ve been interested in jobs that aren’t very abundant where you live, or you’re tired of the standard “shove business cards in faces” of your typical networking events. With online events, there is nothing to hand out, no standing around trying to make chit chat – there are usually activities, agendas and guided discussions. You never know who you might meet, the resources you’ll gain (like ebooks or other tools sent to you) or the information you’ll learn.
Plus, practicing professional social skills is always a bonus.
Practice – and publicly, if possible
Learning graphic design or sewing? Post your progress on a professional Instagram account.
Improving your writing skills, taking a new class or tackling a new project? Start a blog and participate in the discussions happening in your industry.
Find ways to put your progress out there so that when it comes time to apply to jobs with your newfound skills, you have a wealth of work to show off and real experience you can draw from.
Related reading: How to reskill yourself in today’s workforce
Keep your candidate profile updated with not only the skills you’re learning, but the links to your progress (like a blog or social media accounts), making it easy to be found by employers and for them to get the full picture of your professional experience.