How online courses helped me change career path

Bring on the nerdy blog post! I’m a big fan of learning, which you can do in so many different ways. You can go to school, and then on to university. You take the vocational route, practise and refine the skills you’ve acquired. There are books and articles to read, films and (Ted) Talks to watch, people to discuss ideas with.

Sometimes, and this happens to the best of us, you find yourself distracted and unmotivated at work, dreaming about that career as a full-time artist or NASA scientist or glamorous Instagrammer (who’s with me?!). Some of these jobs/lifestyles might be ‘slightly’ unattainable or ask for a huge commitment on your part, but more often than not they might not be as unreachable as you think. So how do you get from A to B if you don’t have the right skills or experience?

I could paint you the prettiest picture right now, with all the glitter and confetti added on top, but if you want to make a big career change or follow your dream(s), it is going to take a lot of work, time, and effort. Yes, there might be those who get lucky, or make it seem that way, but most of us have to grit our teeth and plough on. Let’s illustrate that with a quote, shall we?

“Understand that no one–especially folks who are truly successful–simply coasts from achievement to achievement. The most accomplished people in the world fail and fail big. That’s how they learn so much and grow so quickly and become so interesting and wise.” – Michelle Obama

A few years back I was working as a Project Manager. But what I really wanted to do was more communications work. It’s just… I didn’t have the experience, the knowledge nor skills to work in that field. So what could I do? I figured that not having a degree in comms shouldn’t limit me. Communications is an ever-changing and evolving field, so there had to be enough information online to learn more about it.

I’d heard about Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) a while ago and was quite keen to  find a course to kickstart my comms knowledge. MOOCs are often free and there’s a vast wealth of different topics out there. The most important thing however is that you pick a topic you’re really interested in. Years ago I started an online course on coding – I cannot even remember what type of coding. I just remember thinking that it would be something useful to know. Unfortunately ‘useful to know’ wasn’t good enough of a motivation, and I never got past that first lesson. So make sure you pick a topic you’re truly interested in – you’ll spend a fair bit of your own free time on completing such a course, so you better pick something you are likely to complete.

Search and Social Media Marketing for International Business

The first MOOC I completed was Search and Social Media Marketing for International Business by the University of Salford. Quite a mouthful, I know, but actually this course was quite basic and ideal really for a beginner like me. It guides you through the different channels available (a bit outdated now but still) and also covers topics like copyright.

Content marketing: newsletters

If you’re on LinkedIn you might be aware that the premium version gives you access to a large number of online training courses. I know you have to pay for the premium version but once in a while LinkedIn offers one-month free trials. Use this opportunity to pick (at least) one of the courses (formerly part of Lynda.com before it was acquired by LinkedIn) and complete within said month. I did ‘Content marketing: newsletters‘. At this point I had been able to move into a comms role, so it wasn’t groundbreaking, mostly an overview of what I already knew, but good to refresh and it came with some useful examples.

Community Journalism

There are loads of MOOC platforms out there like Coursera, Udemy, edx, … . One I like a lot is Future Learn. I enrolled for their ‘Community Journalism‘ MOOC by Cardiff Uni. It took me a good while to complete because of my busy work schedule – I completed lessons where and when I had time, but definitely worth the while. Numerous examples, both theory and practice plus multiple opportunities for interaction with the course instructors and other students.

HTML5

After moving back to Belgium at the start of 2018 I worked as a content manager. Sat in a team with developers, I wanted to kickstart my coding skills so I took on HTML5 on w3schools. It was recommended to me by one of said developers, and if you want a good, clear and easy way to learn more about HTML, CSS, Javascript, … then I thoroughly recommend having a look at it. You always get theory bits and then examples to have a go at it yourself, which is quite useful.

Introduction to Graphic Design

in spring 2019 I found myself on the lookout for another job, but most of the roles I looked at and applied for required graphic design skills. Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign where HIGH on my list, but it takes an investment, both time-wise and money, to learn them. And then LinkedIn came around with there offer to use LinkedIn Premium for free for a month. Of course I took the leap and entered this course to get a better understanding of what you can do with the three tools. 

SEO Essentials

SEO is quite the buzzword, but how do you properly apply it to your website work? It’s a question I asked myself, but whilst working at an ngo there are always a lot more pressing things to do. And then Covid-19 came around. The wonderful people at Moz made this course freely available, so I buckled down to finish as many classes as I could at the weekends. 

If you didn’t get it yet – I’m a fan of online courses, and of learning in general. It’s also a great excuse to get (a) new pretty notebook(s). In any case, I’d recommend you to have a look around, there are so many different topics you can learn about! But think it through and pick one that motivates you and is realistic for you to complete, so you stay motivated until the end.

What online course are you currently doing?

Other ways I enjoy learning (and so might you) you can read about here:

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