Being a lifelong learner is one of the best ways to stay engaged in your job, whatever field you’re in.
There are a lot of ways to exemplify curiosity and a penchant for learning new skills: meeting regularly with your boss, attending professional development days and taking classes to hone a professional skill.
It has become more accessible and easier than ever to take courses to elevate your professional expertise. There are endless online resources to peruse, so it helps to be deliberate before diving in.
Julia Quirk, SPHR, a 10-year veteran of the HR industry and senior HR manager for TriSalus, recommends being practical and strategic about honing your professional talents.
“Look at the skills needed for your industry and the jobs you’re interested in,” said Quirk. “I recommend starting by first doing some research about what will actually be impressive to people in your career field, and then seeking out professional education opportunities from there.”
Quirk noted that digital classes and certifications are some of the best ways to boost your resume and grow in your current position. Here are some of her topic picks for online learning platforms.
Coursera works with over 200 leading institutions and companies worldwide to provide courses on topics ranging from data science to personal improvement. Partners like Yale University, IBM and Google provide outlines for more than 3,900 courses.
Coursera is free to join and nearly all of its courses can be accessed at no cost. The catch here is that to take a course for free, you’ll be using the “audit” function, which means no grade and sometimes no official certificate is offered — but all the knowledge and coursework is. Some classes on Coursera are paid-only and will generally set you back about $50 per month.
Coursera also gives you the opportunity to see how a particular course benefited other students, breaking down what percentage of past students either started a new career after taking a course or got a tangible career benefit from it.
Google Skillshop is one of the classic online learning platforms. The technology behind Google Ads, Google Analytics and more is powerful, and mastering it can benefit nearly any line of work.
Google Skillshop provides learn-at-your-own-pace courses to help you become an expert in Google Ads, Google Analytics, Google Marketing Platform, Google My Business, Google Ad Manager, Google AdMob, Authorized Buyers, and Waze. All courses in the skillshop are free.
Most options are videos, slides and quick quizzes that build into a final assessment. A certificate is awarded to passing students and is usually valid for 12 months.
LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com) offers a free one-month trial before charging $30 a month as part of a larger LinkedIn Premium subscription.
LinkedIn Learning provides thousands of programs covering topics such as marketing tactics, mobile app development and how to use Photoshop. The courses are generally self-paced, with a LinkedIn Learning certificate awarded on completion that you can display on your LinkedIn profile.
And, with LinkedIn Learning, the classes are taught by top leaders from diverse backgrounds: Guy Kawasaki, Ben Long and David Rivers are just some of the highlights.
One of the good things to come out of 2020 was the abundance of college courses made available for free online. While some universities have always offered a select few classes for no-cost online access, institutions like Yale and MIT expanded their libraries last year.
MIT offers free online programming not just on computer science, but also biology, race and ethics, accounting and more.
Yale also makes numerous introductory classes accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Last year, Yale made one of its most famous courses, the Science of Well-Being, available for free on Coursera. This class dives into the meaning of happiness.
Stanford is another university offering public access to many of its courses for free. The university breaks down its offerings into four main categories: Health and Medicine, Education, Engineering and Arts and Humanities.
It’s important to note that very few of these courses offer an official completion certificate or degree, but they’re still impressive to complete and are a strong addition to a resume. Other prestigious institutions like Harvard and Dartmouth also offer free online classes.
Udemy is an online learning platform specifically designed to help you bolster your professional skills. Although Udemy courses can range from $10 to $200, one resourceful way to access these classes is through your public library.
Hundreds of public libraries across the nation offer Udemy courses for no cost with just a library card. And if your public library doesn’t have a connection with Udemy, you may be able to get a digital library card elsewhere and still take part in all that Udemy has to offer.
Udemy offers more than 130,000 classes (boasting the world’s largest selection of courses) on topics like Python coding, piano playing and digital marketing.
When a course is complete, the student receives a digital badge and certificate they can affix to their LinkedIn profile (and that should be included on their hardcopy resume, too).
Quirk offered some final advice about positioning these certificates and course completions on your resume: “Recruiters skim really fast,” she said. “Make it as easy as possible for recruiters to see the skills you have so they can line them up with the job description.”
Be sure to use keywords on your resume so screening software doesn’t pass you over.
Quirk advised putting the skills you gain from a course in the top part of your resume, but putting the actual course certifications lower down along with any other educational achievements.