If you’re looking for an upgrade to your skills and want to open some new doors in your career, there’s plenty of ways to go about it. You don’t have to wait for your boss to give the green light - these resources are all available online to study from home. And now’s a great time to try it.
Maybe you’ve read some of our recommended books on learning and career development. You’re tooled up on how our brains learn, how to navigate company culture, and the importance of having a diverse skillet. You’re ready to get some new skills and experience.
Now you’re ready to pick a topic. Whether it’s specific business skills like coding with Python or writing sales emails, or more generalist topics like finance and accounting, there’s an abundance of helpful content out there ready to give your career a serious boost. Here’s some of the most useful ones available right now.
Study for a qualification
The CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) offers qualifications in HR and Learning & Development. You can study online at your own pace, and get yourself anything from a foundation award to a postgraduate diploma.
The CIM (Chartered Institute of Marketing) offers qualifications in all forms of marketing, with a similar structure to that of the CIPD.
The AAT provides a similar set of qualifications for accountants.
The Open University is the original distance learning master, offering pretty much anything you can study at a university, but done at home.
It's worth looking into whether your industry has an official association for career development like those above; if so, they'll either offer courses themselves or point you towards organisations that do.
You can also study actual career development courses - short courses which teach you the skills you need to thrive, like communicating with bosses, writing CVs, and doing interviews.
Have a look at the options on sites like Reed and commit a few hours to going through them. (Don’t be fooled by the massive discounts - they’re almost always ‘on sale’, so don’t expect to pay more than £20 or so for a beginner course.)
Learn some new skills
These courses are a bit more specific, teaching you the skills you need to either do your job better or find yourself roles in new areas.
Udemy - Online learning for all kinds of technical, creative and business-related topics. Udemy’s courses are almost always discounted, so before you drop £200 on a course, do some shopping around and look for voucher codes and reviews. There are periodic site-wide sales where tons of courses end up with 80-90% discounts, so consider waiting before you buy.
Skillshare is similar to Udemy, but aimed more at creative pursuits, like photography, design, illustration and animation. You don’t pay for individual courses; instead there’s monthly site membership for about £10/month.
Khan Academy is a US-based nonprofit funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It’s a free online school that uses instructional video lessons to teach a massive range of general subjects like mathematics, science, computing, humanities and economics.
Codecademy is one of the most well-known online coding schools, with clever interactive lessons that test you as you go along. Subjects range from web development to data science to machine learning.
General Assembly is a more expensive option, focusing on skills that tech startups are looking for, such as coding, web development, data science, and product management. They have more access to tutors and better relationships with the industry, and so cost more - but their certifications do have a fairly prestigious reputation.
Future Learn has a range of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions around the world. They’re delivered in steps over the course of a few months, and you can learn in your own time while interacting with others studying the same course. You can learn new skills in management, creative arts, IT & computer science, law, teaching, and more.
Avocado Audio is an audio-based learning platform. You download the app to your device and listen along to classes like ‘How to write profitable B2B cold emails’ and ‘How to master business writing’. It’s a different way of learning that means you don’t have to be at your desk to do it. Worth a try - see if it works for you.
Masterclass - this one’s something entirely different. If you want Tony Hawk to teach you skateboarding, or Gordon Ramsey to teach you cooking, head to Masterclass. Site-wide membership is around £180/year, and it’s basically the Netflix of celebrity lessons. You might not get much career development here, but you’ll certainly learn how to impress your friends.
Take some time off
One of our favourite ways of developing your career is to take time away from it all. Whether that’s a week’s holiday to step back and think about things, or a year-long sabbatical, time away from the workplace can rejuvenate your career like nothing else.
It allows you to step back and see the big picture. What makes you happy? What do you find challenging but rewarding? What do you really enjoy doing, and could you see yourself doing it for years to come?
Sometimes the best ideas come to you when you’re not looking for them. Think of all the times a great idea has come to you in the shower, while your mind is just wandering aimlessly. A career break can be the same thing, but on a larger scale. With the freedom to chase your curiosities and just be alive for a little while, you might find some of the biggest revelations make their way to you without even trying.
That said, many people take career breaks with intentional goals, and they can be just as effective. A sabbatical can be used for getting experience in a different field, studying, vocational training, or volunteering. Coming back to the workplace after experiences like these can make for a massive upgrade in your abilities.
We’ve mentioned before the advantages of hiring someone returning from a career break, whatever the stage of career or life they’re in. Sabbaticals aren’t feasible for everyone - you’d normally need to have built up some goodwill with your employer and a decent stash of funds in the bank. But if you’re in the position to consider one, it could be one of the most effective things you can ever do for your career.