Personal development should be a part of your life – every, single day. But there’s a more serious reason for personal development other than satisfying a primal need to be better: unemployment has never been higher, and the only hope you have of avoiding it is staying on top of the game. Any game is fine – just pick one and be good at it.
People argue that training costs money – but to improve technical skills that just isn’t true. You can improve your technical skills without paying – assuming you already have internet access that is, which is a pretty safe assumption to make if you’re reading this. So read on: here are 5 ways you can improve your technical skills today without spending a penny, dime, centime, lire or euro.
Take A Free Online Course
Having paid through the teeth for a university education – the content of which I haven’t used at all in the 10 years since graduating – I was skeptical about how much real world value could be gained from a free online course – especially when you don’t even get a degree certificate at the end of it to put on your resumé. But I was pleasantly surprised by my first foray into Coursera with the Gamification course I took last year: the lectures were stimulating and genuinely useful; the tests were quite difficult and the written assignments were indeed a challenge. I actually learnt things! I passed – along with my coworker Tina – with a top grade, and have constantly made use of that knowledge in many aspects of my job since.
My point is: forget your pre-conceived notions that online courses are too easy to be useful, and only for students in developing nations who can’t afford university costs. They’re for everyone who want to genuinely better themselves in a challenging and stimulating way. Coursera offers a wide range of course topics – just check out their list of courses starting soon to find one that interests you.
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We cover a lot of ground here at MakeUseOf, and it’s not just cool websites and tools. Over the years I’ve written countless WordPress and programming tutorials. I’ll let you in on a little secret: everything I do in my daily job was learnt over the years by reading online tutorials and just “having a go”. I didn’t learn web programming at university, I didn’t pay for a course in jQuery or PHP – I just started making websites one day, and ended up here.
I made this 15 years ago as an experiment in auto-generating HTML files from a structured directory of plain text files, using Perl programming. Fun times. Seriously, this was the height of cool at the time.
I can’t possibly list all the websites I’ve relied on for technical tutorials over the years, but here arejust a few of my favorites specifically on web development:
And these MakeUseOf articles will get you started:
- 10 Websites to Help You Learn to Code Online
- 3 Resources to Learn Android Application Development
- 10 Websites to Make You a Photoshop Ninja
- Top 5 Sites to Learn CSS
- 6 Free Sites to Learn PHP
First, a true story: I failed English in junior high, and my understanding of English grammar used to be quite pathetic – until I got a job teaching English. No joke – now I can easily explain the subtle differences between future perfect progressive and simple future progressive - in Japanese – a language which has no future tense. My point? No matter what your level of technical knowledge: teach others what you learn, and your own learning will be stronger for it. Apart from forcing yourself to understand something at a level required to teach, it solidifies your own learning. There may be some points you weren’t entirely clear on – trying to explain them to someone else will often make them crystal clear.
So how to go about teaching others? The easiest way is to start a blog, which leads me nicely on to my next point. But most communities would love to let you start some free evening classes – there’s no shortage of willing students looking to better themselves in some way.
My free WordPress Beginners Guide should help with this. You’ll be strengthening your own learning as well as practicing concise, technical writing skills in the process. After a few years, you might even find yourself with paid writing work. Use the opportunity to learn by experience – PHP programming and WordPress customization, for a start. Becoming an expert is nothing more than learning the skills and practicing them.
I hate that term – but socializing with fellow geeks is not only great for the simple reason of getting out and having some genuine human interaction – it’s also a good chance to find a mentor, acquire new skills or teach your own skills to others. Of course, not all social interactions should be sought out on purely selfish grounds, but they should certainly all be considered opportunities. But where do you ask? Try these for a start:
- Linux (or any other OS) user groups in your area or campus
- Blogger meetups
- Conferences and trade shows
Fact: nearly all job positions are filled through a personal recommendation, not blindly emailing your CV to a million different companies. The people you meet may very well change your career forever.
Improving technical skills is a journey – whether you choose to meander down it over the course of a few years, or focus single-mindedly on reaching the end – is of no consequence. The point is to start, to make the choice of becoming better at something – and never let your learning stagnate. Do you have any more tips or advice to offer your fellow readers? We’d love to hear them in the comments.
Image Credit: ShutterStock – self improvement