Friday, August 31, 2012

Keep Your Skills Up (or Learn New Ones) FREE And Here’s How

One of the concerns of hiring managers when hiring a person with a recent gap in their employment history, especially when the gap is longer than a few months, is that the candidate may have let their skills atrophy or that they may not have the latest skills.

You can eliminate that concern by keeping your skills honed and acquiring new ones. It does not have to cost you a lot and, in most cases, it will not cost you anything. Just follow these very simple steps.

1) Identify the skills needed

a) Pull five job descriptions for the job you WANT. These job descriptions do not have to be in the town or even in the part of the country you live and want to work. You are not pulling these to apply to; you just need the job descriptions.

b) Going through these job descriptions, identify the skills required.

c) If you have not used these skills in the past few months or if you do not have training in that skill at all, then add it on the list of skills for which you need training. For this example I am going to say you pulled job descriptions for sales jobs and the skill is You can just as easily use the example of financial analyst and MS Excel.

2) Locate the free training

a) Using your favorite internet search engine (like Google) type in “free training” and the topic you identified above. Using my example you would enter “free training”.

b) You will get millions of results for most topics searched. Not all of the results are what you are looking for (like some will be for a free brochure on paid training) but most are.

3) If software is required – get free software

a) If the training you need / want requires software, then using your favorite internet search engine (like Google), type in “free trial copy” and the name of the software. Using my example you would enter “free trial copy”.

b) You will receive a list of sites offering trial copies of the software to download. I highly recommend getting it directly from the vendor of the software. This software will expire in a number of days (usually 30, 60 or 90). You want to make the best use of that time. Do not download the software until you are ready to dedicate time for this training. Upon the end of the trial period the software will expire and you will have the option to purchase.

4) Adding structure to the self-study

One of the hardest things about self-study is having focus. Having a checklist will give you that focus and, as you mark off each topic as completed, you will have a sense of accomplishment. Here is my idea for creating a checklist of topics to cover.

a. Go to the web site for an institution that offers paid courses on the topic you want to learn, example a technical center or training center. This can be located by taking off the word “free” from your first search for training. Using my example “training”.

b. On the institution’s site, locate the course syllabus for the training. This is a detailed list of the topics covered under each course. That now is your checklist for the topics you will learn using self-study. For MS Excel an example would be the topic of pivot tables.

c. As you go through the list on the syllabus, go back into the search for free training and look for the free training related to that topic. Using MS Excel as my example, add the word “pivot tables” so the search is “free training MS Excel 2010 Pivot tables”. Repeat this for all of the topics listed in the syllabus.

No company or industry offers job security any more. Your job security comes from keeping your skills and experience at the top of the market so that YOU are in demand. With free training and access to trial copies of the software, you have no reason not to keep your skills up. Once employed, be sure to consider purchasing and using the software from the companies who offered free trial versions.

Judi Adams
The Affordable and Successful Job Search Coach
Author of “Found a Job Yet? And Other Questions NOT to Ask!”