Staying relevant to updates in your industry can be tricky sometimes. If you aren’t so lucky to be able to attend big conferences, join an expensive training, or make time for networking, it’s going to be difficult to make time to continue sharpening your skills and learning new things outside of the office. It’s like making friends as an adult. It’s difficult, it takes work, it’s necessary, and it takes a bit of compromise. While difficult, it’s not impossible. There are tons of opportunities out there that will allow you to elevate your skill set and stay ahead of industry trends, and allow you to do it on your own time. You’ll position yourself as a thought leader, a source of knowledge, and someone who is adaptable. These are all great qualities that get noticed by the right people. Companies are always looking for ‘what’s next’. Why not invest time in yourself to be the next big thing at work? Read below for some great options on how to keep your skills up to date and gain additional credibility.
Online Degree Seeking Student
So, you decided you want to continue your education and that is great. Pursuing a Bachelor’s or MBA can be daunting and expensive. Quite frankly, not every can manage that kind of commitment or expense. Juggling work, a family and a full course schedule is an easy way to experience burn out and set yourself up for failure. A great alternative is to pursue an online degree through an accredited College or University. This is a great option for those who have time available at odd hours to dedicate to their studies and can work around your own schedule. Usually, these kinds of courses are available part time, on weekends, a hybrid of on and offline, or completely online. Be sure to do your homework on the best option for you, it’s a big investment and is a life changing opportunity. Get as much information up front as possible and talk to their career centers to understand the resources available to you as a student.
Non Degree Seeking Student
You may already have a degree but want to shift your focus a bit. You also may want to learn a new technology or software to ensure you are adapting to rapidly changing tech. Perhaps your goal in seeking additional education is to restart a career after a career break. Whatever the case may be, it may not always entail a full fledged degree. Now, there are so many options to earn a certification in a specialized field helping you to become a subject matter expert. The great thing here is that they can still be earned through recognized and prestigious Universities, but there is no application and acceptance process! I got a non-degree certification from Duke University in an area I wanted to pursue to help me pivot out of my career rut. I would never get into Duke in real life, but it looks like I did since I can proudly state I have a Duke backed certification!
You can earn certifications through an association, like a SPHR, a hard to obtain PMP, or OSHA certificate. While these three examples are vastly different, they just show how many options are out there. Explore your resources and available options and start making lists as it can be overwhelming. If you aren’t pursuing a certification with an accredited College or University be sure you are pursuing a legitimate and accredited associate. Be diligent, check the credentials, and talk to a real person. These programs don’t come cheap and trying to advance your career or pull yourself out of rut is not the time to get scammed and lose money. Look at sites like Cousera to help identify the right journey and platform for you.
When coding and software development bootcamps exploded into the scene in 2011, they were all the rage in hiring. Businesses clamored to get candidates out of these programs because the skills were in such high demand and the market did not produce enough candidates. Now, with the prevalence of bootcamps for every imaginable skill and software, you can find one that fits just what you need to upskill. If you’re not familiar with bootcamps they are typically 3-6 month intensive programs that teach you how to become a skilled producer of whatever type of product you signed up for. They also almost always promise to help you find employment in the field of your new specialty after the end of the program. These are great options if you want to make a career change, or learn a new code. They are almost always targeted to the tech space. The market has become rather saturated with these bootcamps. So again, do your homework and try to connect with people who’ve been through them and get a sense of their experience and success in finding a job. They all have their pros and cons.
Learn As You Go
I can sit here and say confidently I am in a place where I am happy with my job. Recently, I pivoted slightly and like where this career has taken me to this point. I can’t say, however, that I feel like a master of everything to ever exist in this new job. Sometimes, I work in Excel, but I drive it like a beat up Buick instead of the Mercedes it is. I’d absolutely benefit from a one off course on Intermediate Excel skills. Maybe you’re an artist but just can’t quite master this one technique you’ve been practicing, or you want to continue practicing a language, but don’t have anyone to speak to. A great resource for this is Udemy Udemy is a fantastic resource for mini self improvement workshops to help you elevate your personal brand and portfolio. The courses are inexpensive and highly targeted to what exactly it is you’re looking to learn. They pretty much cover every category of self-improvement and learning and they offer it in a practical, approachable way.
Trying one of these options can be risky (probably all except Udemy) because we can’t predict what is going to happen in life and plans can change. Just be sure you are as prepared as possible to dedicate the time and effort to get to the end and successful completion. You are making an investment in yourself and in your future. Take your time and explore all of your options. Map out what you want to get from a program and how you are going to use it in real life. Without a plan, you’ll be flying blind and not be able to apply these new skills. Hopefully, you’ll be able to keep your skills sharp and stay ahead of the trend!