July 28th, 2015
Learn New Skills at Little to No Cost
Thinking of picking up new skills or improving the ones you have, but don't have a lot of money (or time) to spare? Don't give up just yet—where there's a will, there's a way! Here are some ideas to help you get started on your quest to learn.
Blogs are fantastic for on-going sources of information. Some post about news in the industry while others offer tutorials, tips, and other important resources. Best of all, they offer all this for free! Searching for various topics will likely you bring you to a few fast, but searching social media may also reveal what sources others are using as well. What sources do other people follow and retweet? Those are the ones you'll want to pay attention to. The comments section may even provide opportunity for Q&A with the professional who wrote the piece, or discussions with others in the industry.
Think of podcasts as talk shows specifically geared to a specific industry or topic(s). They are typically about an hour long, and if you're looking for a career change, they can be fantastic for gaining insight in the industry. Podcasts are great for keeping up with what's new and upcoming, as well as getting a sense of public opinion on the issues. If you're time is limited, try listening while on your commute or working out.
Forums / Online Communities
Joining a community full of fellow professionals, or aspiring professionals, can do a lot for you. They provide a place to ask questions, get feedback, and network. If you're an introvert like me, online is much easier for testing the waters and communicating than in person. There's no shame in lurking and absorbing what you read either, which makes forums great for gathering knowledge with little commitment on your part. However, I do strongly encourage participating in at least one community. The one-on-one quality of help you can get is incredible, and so are the variety of people you'll find.
If you're willing to spend a little money, there are websites where you can pay for access to lessons, videos, and more. My personal favorites are Treehouse (programming) and Lynda.com (everything under the sun), both of which are $25 a month. For the quality of knowledge and support you get, it's money well spent, and you can stop anytime. You can learn at your own pace, and apps are available to continue learning on the go. You can watch a class while on your lunch break, walking on the treadmill, chilling at Starbucks...whenever and wherever! (As long as there's wi-fi, that is.) Plus you have a like-minded community learning the same things to help you when you're stuck.
At the end of the day, you're still going to need to put knowledge to practice. (And don't forget to share it for critiques!) Can't afford the software? Look for an open source alternative. For example, a popular free alternative to Adobe Photoshop is GIMP. When starting out, focus on mastering the basic concepts and fundamentals. Then when you get a chance with the real thing, you just have to learn keyboard shortcuts and toolboxes. Practice makes perfect! Look at work created by others and try to figure out they did it. With code, break down a sample script line by line to understand how it works. Play around, have fun, and embrace the process of trial and error. (Don't forget to take notes or bookmark important information when studying too!)