How to Quickly and Affordably Improve Your Hard Skills - America's Future

February 22, 2021

Professional Development

How to Quickly and Affordably Improve Your Hard Skills

By: John Dale Grover

A lot of recent or soon-to-be graduates wonder if they have learned enough to help them land a decent job, especially as the economy continues to recover from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Many graduates know that it helps to have transferrable hard skills such as familiarly with op-ed writing, statistics, accounting, email marketing and so on. Learning hard skills, especially those that are not taught in the classroom, will make your resume stand out in the crowd.

However, there are two perennial problems for students; time and money. You might not have the bandwidth and means to take on a long additional class or to enroll in a formal certification program at an accredited institution. Plus, the final semester of getting your B.A. or M.A. is a trial in and of itself considering that applying for jobs is a full time job. Yet, it is possible to add some additional skills to your toolbox that will not disrupt your schedule or break the bank. Whether you look into them now or later for your future career, here are three paths to gain entry-level exposure to put on your resume.

The first option is the Writing Fellows Program offered by America’s Future. The program teaches the basics of op-ed writing and getting yourself published. AF holds three separate Writing Fellows cohorts in the Spring, Summer, and Fall. In order to apply, you need a resume and two published writing samples of no more than 1000 words each. (If you have written professionally or for your college’s newspaper, those pieces will come in handy for this application.)

As a graduate of the Writing Fellow Program myself, I can say that it’s a great way to learn how to write op-eds and to network. And, if you are already writing, then it serves as an excellent refresher. The fellowship does not cost anything and only requires six online trainings of two hours each. At the end of the program, you will have written a piece and have been coached on how to pitch it for publication.

Another option to gain new hard skills is through taking advantage of LinkedIn Learning. Not everyone knows this, but LinkedIn offers a wide variety of online courses to complete at your own pace. These not only teach you basic tools and new information, but they also come with an official certification you can put on your LinkedIn profile for employers to see. I’ve used LinkedIn Learning myself to gain a certification in Accounting Foundations: Bookkeeping because it sparked my curiosity.

Doing LinkedIn Learning courses at your own pace is a huge advantage to any busy young professional, but it does come at a cost. You’ll have to subscribe to LinkedIn’s Premium Career Plan to have access which comes in at $29.99 a month. That is rather pricey, but if you know you’ll spend about as much on streaming subscriptions and eating out, then you might want to swap them out to get a few certifications tailored for whatever field you’re looking to build a career in.

Finally, your third option is training at the Leadership Institute (LI). LI offers a wide variety of courses from fundraising to activism to communications. They also have a mock TV studio where I attended an On-Camera Television Workshop that taught me the basics of going on local and cable TV. The value of that experience cannot be understated.

LI maintains a whole calendar of what courses they offer and where. Not to mention, LI also has a library of prerecorded online classes. All of their workshops range in cost, with some classes being free and others ranging in price from $10 to over $100.(For instance, their next On-Camera Television Workshop is $60.)

Overall, these three options are decently flexible and range from free to not too expensive. Whether you are interested in them now or a few years down your own career path these programs are always available. If you’re like me, then you will spend some time figuring out what is most helpful in your current job or what can help further your career. Either way, some additional learning can help you get there.