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Looking for a Career Change? Here are 5 Skills You Can Learn Online

Amy Bergen

woman coding at computer

If you’re job hunting or looking for a new line of work, adding to your arsenal of marketable skills can be a huge help. Not only will employers find you more compelling as a candidate, you may discover an interest or talent you never knew you had.

There are resources for all levels of involvement, whether you’re learning a few basics or committing to a full-on, multi-week virtual class structure. And each skill can be practiced and (nearly) perfected online—a huge bonus in the COVID-19 era.

1. Coding

Best for: Data analysis, website development, app creation

Nonprofits need data and technology experts to keep their businesses thriving. If you like interpreting symbols and solving problems, learning a programming language may be right up your alley. Start with one of the more common coding languages, like HTML, CSS, Python, and JavaScript.

Codecademy is one of the best known free coding resources for newbies. Classes range from introductory to advanced, so you’ll have plenty to choose from. Free Code Camp has similar offerings, and after you’ve had some instructional time, they’ll even set you up working on volunteer projects for nonprofits.

2. Graphic design

Best for: Web design, social media, marketing, publishing

Since websites are often an organization’s first point of contact with the public, their visuals have to look good. If you’ve admired a unique logo on a nonprofit brochure or paid attention to the image quality in photographs, you might have a designer’s eye.

Online learning marketplace Udemy offers free graphic design tutorials along with a fee-based introductory course. For a more formal approach, sign up for the graphic design certificate program at Coursera (most of the class materials are free to access, but there’s a fee to enroll in the Coursera program).

3. Grant writing

Best for: Development, fundraising, donor relations

Maybe you’d rather work with words than images. Grant writing is a specialized skill that’s pretty valuable in the social impact space.

Nonprofit Ready, which provides education on all kinds of nonprofit management topics, has free grant writing courses for interested professionals.

If auditory learning is your style, GrantSpace by Candid has free videos and an audiobook on the art of grant writing. You can go more in depth by taking one of GrantSpace’s many courses on specific proposal writing techniques for a fee of around $25 per session.

4. Search engine optimization (SEO)

Best for: Social media, marketing and promotions, website development

People need to know an organization exists before they can access its resources. And these days folks use the Internet to hunt down what they need. That’s where search engine optimization or SEO comes in. In a nutshell, SEO makes a website easier to find through a searching tool like Google.

The thorough—and free!—beginners’ guide to SEO from Moz is a great starting point. Google offers its own extensive starter guide for SEO newbies. Even if you have a little SEO experience, best practices often change as the Internet changes, and a refresher course will keep you up to speed.

5. A new language

Best for: Education, translation and interpretation, international opportunities, working with diverse populations

Fluency in a foreign language opens up a lot of career doors. That’s true despite COVID-19 restrictions on travel; hundreds of languages are spoken in the United States, and you can teach and tutor students around the world through virtual programs.

The free app Duolingo is a great jumping-off point to learn basic vocabulary (it can be especially helpful for learning languages with new characters, like Chinese or Arabic). To take your learning to the next level, you’ll want a more intensive program. Pimsleur, a good app for learning conversational skills, costs around $20 a month. The tried-and-true Rosetta Stone site is around $12 a month and gives you more classroom rigor for your money’s worth.

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Have you explored any of these skills on your own already? Head to our Facebook page to tell us what resources worked fo you!

Amy Bergen

Amy Bergen is a writer based in Portland, Maine. She has experience in the social impact space in Baltimore, Maryland, the educational museum sphere in Columbus, Ohio, and the literary world of New York City.

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