Re-education is Key
The ideal time to upgrade your skills or learn new ones is when you’re employed. However, many of us feel that with the demands of the office and home there’s no time for that. Then we lose our jobs and are panic stricken when we read the laundry lists of requirements for positions and think of how quickly our severance package will run out.
Try to negotiate a re-education allowance as part of your package. If you can’t, investing your own money pays huge dividends. Confidence is priceless.
Those extra courses enhance your resume too and prove you’re a continual learner.
Get Those Basic Skills ASAP
My previous workplace used a dedicated word processing system – no Word, no Excel, no Powerpoint. Knowledge of MS Office or similar programs is a given these days. I went surfing and discovered I could do
a) An intensive week-long course in a college downtown for several thousand dollars
b) A three-month online course through George Brown College for $360.
As I live in the outer suburbs of Toronto, I decided online learning was the way to go. My self-taught husband was stunned when I started my day at 7:30 a.m. with zero knowledge of Excel and that evening was confidently compiling complicated spreadsheets.
Experimenting with learning new skills on your own is a prized trait but when time is critical, structured learning followed by playing and practice is the way to go.
Web Writing is not Like Traditional Writing
My previous job entailed writing for a financial database and annual publications. I was confident about my writing skills, spelling and grammar but suspected writing online content had different rules. I was correct.
- The length of sentences and the written pieces themselves should be short.
- Layout is crucial – use white space, lists, and bolding (judiciously).
- Your content must include key words (search engine optimization) so your piece has a high ranking when someone is surfing the web for your topic.
I learnt this plus where to find writing work and how much to charge through another three month online course, this time through Centennial College. The feedback I received on my writing was invaluable and I’m using those skills as I blog here.
Assessing Online Course Instructors
Both those courses were offered by reputable colleges. Centennial also offers courses through a syndicator, LERN, which creates and resells online programs to educational institutes and shares the fees. I posed many questions to LERN about their educators.
I decided against studying Business Research, but had such interesting correspondence with the instructor – a professor at a bricks and mortar university in Arizona – that we plan to go out for coffee when I visit the state next! When I challenged the teacher of a negotiation course on how she would deal with dirty tactics as I’d Googled her and seen she was a Buddhist, I received an impassioned reply. Online doesn’t mean impersonal.
Taking courses also provides structure for your day and deadlines, ensuring you keep on your toes for when you finally snag that new job.
When many of us think about being an entrepreneur, we visualize a Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, a techie working 24/7 from his garage or dorm room while pizza boxes and dirty socks pile up. We think “brash”, “risk taker” or “businessman”. The classic books on the subject e.g. Michael Gerber’s Awakening the Entrepreneur Within seem to support that view.
Books to Give You Courage
There is a kinder, gentler way, however. Chris Guillebeau’s deservedly popular “The $100 Startup” http://100startup.com/
- supplies a variety of interesting and doable case studies
- provides financial information including startup costs and cash flow
- demystifies entrepreneurship and encourages people to try it
It’s a good, surprisingly enjoyable read and a pragmatic guidebook.
Barbara J. Winter’s “Making a Living Without a Job http://www.joyfullyjobless.com/making-a-living-without-a-job/ is also an excellent resource for the intimidated entrepreneur. She points out that
- At the beginning of the 20th century, most people were self employed
- Self employment is not the consolation prize (“Laid Off Workers Forced Into Self Employment`)
- You could end up doing something you love and enjoying benefits like flexibility.
Both authors have turned their subject matter expertise into seminars that have afforded them the freedom to travel.
The Writer as Entrepreneur
The Poynter Institute for Media Studies www.poynter.org and the Donald Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism businessjournalism.org offer a treasure trove of resources – many of them free – for novices and experienced writers. Don’t write off the Donald Reynolds site because you’re not a business writer; there are many webinars, self guided courses and readings about journalism in general.
As the introduction to their “The Business of Me’ ” course states:
Whether you’re working in a mainstream news organization or striking out on your own with a blog, news site or freelance business, we’re all media entrepreneurs these days.