|  June 22, 2014

Learn a new skill and become a better candidate

Being unemployed (or in a job search that is taking forever) is obviously not an ideal situation. We’ve talked about some of the silver linings before. For me, the biggest silver lining is that you have the time and ability to learn a new skill.

Whether it’s picking up a skill related to the jobs you’re applying for, gaining a hobby, or just further exploring an interest, learning something new will keep you motivated and make you a better candidate.

image via Hannes Beer

image via Hannes Beer

When thinking about education, we generally associate it with a cost (generally a hefty one), a big time commitment, and a somewhat burdensome enrollment process… but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Recently, quite a few new tools and communities have emerged that are making learning easy, accessible, and inexpensive (or free!) Below are a few of my favorites.


I love this site! I am a member ($10/month) but you can also pay per class. I’ve taken a Marketing course and a Copywriting course so far and I think it’s fantastic. Next up, illustrator, photoshop, and photography.

What I love about Skillshare is that you don’t need to have a PhD to be a teacher. You just have to know your stuff and be an expert in your field. Want to learn screenwriting from James Franco? Done. Get an intro to Excel? Easy. You get the point, there’s lots of diversity in terms of topic and teachers.

All classes are now online and you can actually take classes along with other students who interact with each other and upload projects. If you want a free month to try it out (which is plenty of time to get a few courses under your belt), use this link.


When I first discovered Skillshare and was reading about their founders, I learned that they were actually inspired to create the company after watching a Ted talk – which is the next site I want to point you to.  Ted is an organization “dedicated to ideas worth sharing” (as they put it).  On their site you can find Ted “talks” which feature some of the most intelligent and interesting people discussing the things they are most passionate about (on video, for free).

There are videos you can sort through on various topics.  While these videos won’t necessary replace learning about a topic through a “course”, they will provide you with some really interesting information and will make you more well rounded in terms of the topics you know about.  Two of my favorite TED talks are: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are & How Great Leaders Inspire Action.


While I’m not currently a member of Lynda, my friend Maxie swears by it. They have a huge offering of classes (almost 3000!) across many different topics. What’s nice is that you can usually watch the first few “chapters” of a class to see if you like it before you have to pay for a membership.

They also have iPad and iPhone apps which makes learning on the go super easy. This link gets you a 7 day free trial if you want to check it out.


This is home to largest library of free online courses.  Schools including Stanford, Yale, and MIT have published courses on iTunes U and they are extremely robust.  I am honestly amazed that this even exists.  You can find anything from past Ted talks to an entire course on Ecosystems to an Intro to Computer Science.  We’ll be exploring some of the courses here over the coming weeks and will keep you posted on any we recommend.


And don’t forget about good old YouTube. Just because there are videos entirely devoted to sneezing pandas does not mean you can’t learn really valuable stuff on it. I’ve watched tutorials on how to do some advanced functions in Excel to learning what the buttons on my camera mean. There is SO much content. While it’s not curated the way the Lynda or Skillshare classes are, there is really great free stuff on YouTube if you’re willing to do a little exploring.


Having resources like this at your fingertips makes it so easy to learn a new skill.  If you have been unemployed for more than a few weeks, your interviewer is likely to ask how you’ve been spending your time. I can say with confidence that they will be very impressed if you’ve spent your time learning new things, exploring different topics, or picking up a new skill.  Being curious, being hungry, and being willing to constantly learn, are all seen as extremely positive qualities and they will help land you a job.

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