Educate Yourself for Free
Every day we are seeing changes in the nature of work, the labor force, and professional development options. The growth of technology has allowed for many innovations including the diversification of education opportunities available online. The greatest part of this progress is that you are no longer limited to learning based on an academic curriculum provided by an institution and having to pay astronomical tuition costs. There are now options that allow you to learn specific skills and programs that benefit your career path, and some are free (and not just YouTube University)!
There are many things being called into question about post-secondary education in the United States– the primary concern for most people is how to fund their education. There’s a lot of data and conversation happening around the effect of student loans on Millennials, as we are less financially stable than previous generations and unable to make major long-term financial investments such as buying a home. As I recall my own college experience, I had to complete 120 credits of coursework to graduate… I don’t remember half of the classes I took. I always wondered why I needed all those credits when my major only required 36 credits. But education in the U.S. is a business, and that’s how it remains profitable. Luckily, the employment landscape is always changing and the emphasis on college degrees is starting to shift towards skill-based hiring: “A new paradigm for employers with difficulty filling open positions is a shift to skills-based hiring rather than the credential-based model of the past. Many applicants possess skills that aren’t reflected in their work history or educational experience. As more and more workers participate in self-guided learning, the skills-based model will become more relevant.”- Riia O’Donnell, HR Dive. This is great to keep in mind especially if you’re looking to make a career change and are unable/ uninterested in pursuing another degree.
We are lucky to live in a time when new resources are being created every day AND old resources are being refreshed to be more relevant. A prime example of that is the library! While we may think that libraries are becoming obsolete, they can still be a great educational resource. Depending on where you live, your public library system may offer a variety of programs from computer literacy to resume workshops. Not only that, there may be a variety of online databases that you can access with your library card that you would have to pay for otherwise! My favorite discovery of this happened via the Brooklyn Public Library’s learning resources and its connection to one of the best online learning platforms, Lynda.com.
Lynda.com is an AMAZING learning tool with webinars on everything, LITERALLY EVERYTHING! From marketing to digital analytics, there are learning modules that take you from beginner to expert. While the membership to Lynda.com isn’t free, you can gain free access to the site with your library card! If you have a Brooklyn public library card, you can go to the library’s website, find “Lynda.com” under “Learning resources” and log into the site using your library card number. The digital marketing webinars that I’ve taken were detailed and immediately useful. This is just one example, so think outside the box! Check with your local library, college alumni office, or even your job to see if there are any program/resources that you have access to via their membership.
University Courses Online
The irony of the student loan crisis is that many universities are now creating free online course options. You may not be able to get credit for it on paper, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t claim the skills you learned on your resume. Many schools use this as a gateway to recruit students for full-time or certificate programs, as you may be inclined to enroll after getting a sample of their curriculum. Harvard University actual has an interesting variety of free courses available, check them out here:
Small Business Development Centers and SCORE
You may have heard of SBDCs and SCORE Centers if you are an entrepreneur, but even if you aren’t one, they have resources that may still be useful to you. SBDCs often offer free credit counseling, tax prep help, and workshops on a variety of topics including starting a business. SCORE centers offer weekly webinars on topics rooted in small business development and personal finance. If you’re hoping to launch a side hustle that is generating income (and expenses), you need to know what to anticipate and how to document your transactions.
Self-education is a must in this rapidly changing economy. Technology has taken away many jobs through automation, but workers must ensure that they are keeping up with the changes to still be eligible for the jobs that do remain. In most cases, you’re only a Google search away from the tools you need. Always search in your mobile device’s app store for programs that can make your life easier including books and podcasts that you can download/stream. Do not underestimate the value of free books on Amazon Kindle and Audible or podcasts on Spotify and SoundCloud, there are MAJOR gems to be found! For more of my suggestions, visit the business resource page on my website www.melsbutterblends.com/business-resources.
Do you have any success stories from using a self-education program? Share your experience with us in the comments and keep the knowledge going!
More programs to explore:
General Assembly: https://generalassemb.ly/free-online-learning
“Skills-based hiring will shift the marketplace, experts say”
The State of American Jobs