|You can learn skills online through free MOOCs.|
Skills help you get, keep, and advance in a job. Skills can also be used for fun, for personal fulfillment, and as hobbies. But how can you learn new skills? I’ll give you 35 ideas in this Shy Job Seeker blog post.
Of course taking classes in person or online is a common way to learn and probably the way you thought of first. Massive open online courses (MOOCs), such as those through Coursera, offer free classes from top universities. I’ve taken three Coursera classes and learned a great deal. Just because the classes are free doesn’t mean they are easy. Be ready to put the time into the classes and do the homework.
Creating a Skill Development Plan
Before I go on, I want to talk about creating a skill development plan. Although you can learn without a plan, figuring out your action steps will put you on a clear path.
- First, decide a skill that you’d like to learn. To discover the skills that are important to a job, see the U. S. Department of Labor's Skills Profiler. Also consider learning or honing a skill that will help you in many jobs, such as writing, resolving conflict, or using computers.
- Next, be specific about how you will learn the skill, including how often you will practice it.
- Third, give yourself a deadline for learning the skill and figure out how to find the time to meet the deadline. Although you will want to continue learning beyond the deadline, a deadline will give you focus and accountability to yourself.
Suppose, for example, you want to learn about negotiation. Here's a sample plan: Take Coursera’s free 8 ½-hour online class on Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills by the University of Michigan. Also add time to view YouTube videos on negotiation techniques. More than 250,000 results come up for negotiation! Then search TED Talks on negotiation, and you will find more options for viewing. Don’t forget to include reading books and magazines. Go to your library or look for e-publications on negotiation; as you can imagine, there are many. Search for blogs and podcasts on negotiation topics and make them part of your learning plan. Also try to identify the leaders on negotiation topics and follow their careers and their social media.
Then put your learning to use, because real-world experience will teach you so much more. Perhaps a local community group is trying to get bike trails built, or a local animal shelter needs to negotiate for more funding. Volunteer your services as a negotiator. Or maybe you can help with negotiation or contracts on a project in your current job. After your eyes are opened to the possibilities for learning, you will see more and more options. As you progress in learning about negotiation, at some point, perhaps rather quickly, you will begin to get it. You will feel you know more than most people about the topic. And you will feel comfortable adding it to your resume.
Learning a New Skill 35 Ways
Here are my 35 ideas on how to learn and develop skills. Some of these suggestions will be more appropriate for the skill you want to learn than others. Use any of the following ideas in your skill-development plan, or come up with your own ideas based on the skill and what it will take to learn it.
- Take classes, in person and online.
- Research everything you can about the skill.
- Use your local public library and talk to the librarian about ways to learn your skill.
- Practice the skill as much as you can.
- Ask someone who has the skill for tips on learning and using it.
- Ask a local American Job Center about the free training and workshops they offer. You may be eligible for career training paid for by Uncle Sam.
- Follow the skill and people who know about it on social media, including Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
- Watch YouTube.
- Watch TED Talks.
- Listen to podcasts.
- Read blogs and websites.
- Read books.
- Read magazines and newspapers.
- Write about the skill, perhaps in a blog.
- Take webinars.
- Use tutorials in books and online.
- Get a tutor.
- Find a mentor.
- Be an intern.
- Participate in a club, group, or meetup focused on the skill (such as Toastmasters for public speaking).
- Go on informational interviews.
- Attend conferences, forums, workshops, and seminars.
- Look for opportunities in your community to learn and use the skill, including local groups, activities, events, and centers; nonprofits; schools; parks; and places of worship.
- Take tours.
- Work part-time.
- Build and make things.
- Help someone.
- Find a friend to meet with regularly on the skill.
- Network with people who can answer questions or provide guidance about the skill.
- Give demonstrations of your skill.
- Join an association.
- Talk with your family about your skill to get their help, ideas, and support.