How to Make the Most of Online Courses to Boost Your Career

More than 200 million people lost their jobs over the course of the pandemic, and with coronavirus variants on the rise and new Covid cases swelling, it’s possible that businesses that started hiring may cut back or stop hiring in order to follow new guidelines or save money.

While this is certainly a global crisis, it’s also an opportunity for you to close the gap between where you are now and where you want to be, professionally.

“Many job seekers focus on getting degrees that take significant time and money,” says Madeline Mann, a career strategist and founder of Self Made Millennial. “What is better in today’s world is to take online classes for the sake of building highly marketable skills.”

The first step is to create a career roadmap, where you decide what kind of job, promotion, or career you want to pursue. Think about short-term as well as long-term goals. There are no right or wrong answers, and you can always change your mind. Clarity is power, however, so having a desired outcome will help you move in the right direction. Next, research the job market to find out what’s available that matches your interests. After that, explore the qualifications of those positions to identify any gaps in your knowledge and skills. If you need help, this course from FutureLearn can help you build your roadmap, and this one from Coursera can help you learn those skills.

“Skills are the new currency,” says Hari Srinivasan, vice president of product management at LinkedIn talent solutions, which also offers online career training. “So we are addressing the pressing need to re-skill by helping job seekers and students better understand the skills they have and to gain new skills, and by helping companies take new approaches to hiring.”

Skills You May Need and Where to Get Them

Every job requires both hard skills—technical things you’ll use on the job—and soft skills like communication and organization. And any new job, promotion, or opportunity you take will require a combination of both.

Hard skills are acquired through classes or professional training. For example, consider courses in search engine optimization, bookkeeping, cybersecurity, quality management, computer programming, video editing, social media management, marketing, computer science and web programming, graphic design, and accounting. Usually these skills are specific for your field of work and are defined by diplomas, certificates, or degrees and can be measured.

In contrast, soft skills are individual traits and personality qualities that are displayed through your reactions, work habits, and relationships. Courses in problem solving, caring for others, creative thinking, decisionmaking, public speaking, effective communication, conflict resolution, critical thinking, stress management, persuasion, leadership skills, emotional intelligence, teamwork, negotiation, and professional networking can help you build them. These skills can’t be easily measured, but they can be taught and learned. Even better, so many of them are available to learn for free, from experts willing to share their experiences.

“Online learning platforms can now provide limitless opportunities that enable professionals to step up in the workforce and progress their careers with greater confidence,” says Justin Cooke, chief content and partnerships officer at online training firm FutureLearn. “It’s all about empowering professionals to recognize the skills they already have and make the move into areas where they can continue to use and develop those skills.”

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