At some point in your career, you might feel like it’s time for you to learn a new skillset or improve your current one. As the working world evolves and businesses adapt to internal and external culture, it’s imperative that employees who want to remain competitive and relevant evolve as well.
Whether you’re trying to find a new role or earn a promotion, evolving your skillset is crucial to your career progression. And with the era of online education coming into focus, it’s easier than ever to realize this goal. From free resources like Khan Academy, to immersive professional bootcamps like General Assembly, your continuing education options are varied.
All you need to do is take that crucial first step toward learning a brand new set of professional skills. Get over that initial hurdle of signing up with a service or setting your own routine and you’ll be on your way to the career you’ve always wanted. Here are some great options to help you get started.
The “go it alone” route
Solo education is becoming more and more viable as the internet breaks down barriers and increases access to information. Free online resources like Khan Academy and Coursera will help you start learning the fundamentals of a new skillset. Inexpensive paid services like Udemy and Skillshare will give you access to professionals who want to share their expertise with you.
Taking advantage of these online resources is as simple as signing up and browsing through a list of courses. Most require only 30 minutes to an hour a day of effort on your end, and will provide a set curriculum designed by industry experts. Their syllabi are designed to take you from learning the fundamentals to putting the skills into practice.
And best of all, many of these education options prepare you for the various certifications in your field that can make you a more attractive candidate for a new job or promotion. So make sure you look for the various certification tests you can do in your field to display your continuing education efforts on your resume. It’s a strong signal of a proactive, career-minded professional.
A more traditional approach to education is still a highly valuable tool for working professionals. Higher-level degrees can help you overcome a few barriers in your career, such as education requirements on job descriptions or mandatory Master’s or higher degrees for promotions.
Traditional education is, thankfully, also moving into the 21st century. Universities are constantly adapting their curriculum and online course offerings for busy professionals who don’t want to quit their jobs just to continue their education. Part time degree paths allow you to earn a diploma while balancing your personal and professional lives by enabling you to learn at your own pace.
This is a nice path for people who want a more rigid learning structure and want to be incentivized and held accountable by their instructors and peers. It is important to remember, however, that this is a larger investment than most other options.
Non-traditional skills-based bootcamps
Non-traditional bootcamps have recently grown into prominence as viable alternatives to traditional education routes. They’re usually less expensive, last only a few months to at most a year, and give the added benefit of small class sizes. More often in recent months, non-traditional bootcamps are considered great low-cost alternatives to MBAs and higher-level degrees.
Bootcamps come in all shapes and sizes and cater to a variety of applicants. Most common are technical bootcamps that teach you how to code. Of those bootcamps, most are broken down by coding language. Some require a high degree of prior knowledge, and others allow you to start from scratch.
There are also bootcamps that teach non-technical skills like sales and marketing. The nice added benefit to these programs is that they teach these non-technical skills with an eye towards also teaching technical competency. So you’ll not only learn how to become a better salesperson or marketer, but you’ll also learn some of the technology and tools driving that industry forward.
One important thing to remember is that currently, bootcamps are not as well-regulated for quality and cost as traditional colleges or universities. It’s imperative that you do your research if you choose to try a bootcamp as a way to expand your skillset. Websites like Course Report and SwitchUp offer reviews and information about programs you’re considering applying to.
A final caveat for these bootcamps is that you get out of them what you put in, so if you want to enroll in one, plan on being 100% dedicated and putting in a lot of effort. Because you’ll be spending a good chunk of money to learn sought-after skills, both technical and non-technical.
Becoming a freelancer
A risky but potentially highly rewarding way to learn a new skillset is to throw yourself into the fire. By becoming a freelancer in your field, you can effectively put yourself in situations where you are forced to learn and adapt in order to get something done for a client.
After all, when it comes to freelance work, you are usually responsible for all aspects of a project from beginning to end. Your work will be judged on quality in its entirety, and you won’t have co-workers or a manager to ask for guidance.
If you are already taking advantage of any of the previously-mentioned education options to evolve your skillset, freelancing is a great way to put your newly learned tools to the test. After all, you learn a whole lot more by doing something rather than just reading or watching lectures about it. Combining the theoretical education with practical work is a great way to cement your new knowledge.
You may find freelance work to be rewarding as a part time side job, or you can use it as a way to gain valuable resume experience if you plan on a career move in the near future.
As the business world changes, make sure you keep up by upgrading your own skillset. This is the best way to become an indispensable part of any team. It’s also a great way to strengthen your resume and portray yourself as a constantly-evolving professional. That drive will make finding a great new job in the future a breeze.