Making a career development plan is the first step toward your professional advancement. However, achieving the goals you have set for yourself may seem intimidating, particularly when you consider the potential expense. Extra job training to help you qualify for a promotion, for example, may seem like excellent advice, but the training itself may cost more than you are able to pay.
You may also have a difficult time balancing the additional training time with your current work schedule.
However, these issues do not need to stop you from attaining career advancement. There are many free resources available to help you achieve your goals. You can train and take courses online, as well as using online career sites to research possible career moves and opportunities. Your company may have various free assistance options for employees who wish to improve their performance, perhaps even sponsored training courses. Finding free resources can take a little more effort than those you may pay for, but the money you will save and the opportunities that could result will be more than worth it.
Career Advice Websites
When considering how to develop or advance your career, one of the most important resources to have at your disposal is accurate information. This may include hiring or salary statistics for a certain industry, the qualifications you would need for a particular job or search options for employment opportunities. There are a number of sites that can provide you with these resources and information, made available at no cost. Using these sites can be the best step to take when planning a career move, whether changing jobs altogether or looking for a promotion. Your state may have its own local sites, but the following are just a few examples of nationwide career advice websites:
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides up to date information regarding job salaries, hiring prospects and the type of training you will need for any given profession. They also publish an Occupational Outlook Handbook every two years to help you plan your career future.
- My Next Move helps you assess your interest in various industries and positions, as well as providing information about any job you might consider.
- American Job Centers are based in individual states but operate in a similar manner nationwide, with sites offering advice and employment opportunities. The centers are also available to visit for advice and training.
- CareerOneStop offers many resources, such as advice on changing careers or on entry-level work. You can also use the site to search for jobs.
- NCDA (National Career Development Association) provides information on hiring trends, individual occupations and self-assessment, as well as job search advice.
Workplace Training and Certification
Many companies offer free, additional training to their employees to help them advance their careers “in-house.” This is considered an investment on the part of the company, as they are enabling their employees to gain new skills that will immediately be used on the job. This training might be in technical proficiency, perhaps allowing you to qualify for a specialized position requiring an accredited course. It could be in business skills, such as financial administration or analytics. The training may alternatively be in leadership or interpersonal skills and may include a course in public speaking or customer relations.
If your company does offer these kinds of courses, then this is an excellent resource to take advantage of. The training offered will be tailored for the skills you will need in your workplace, maximizing the potential benefit to your career. In addition to this, the fact the training is run within the workplace should relieve any concern regarding the impact it might have on your work hours.
Online Training and Courses
There are a great number of online courses available for career-advancing skills, many of which are available for free. Your company may have a selection of recommended courses that could benefit you within your current workplace. They may even offer to pay for an online course. Most online education sites have various types of courses, some that cost money and some online classes that are free. While your choice of free courses is naturally more limited, you can still find some excellent opportunities through the following sites:
- Udemy has several very useful free courses, including graphic design and SEO strategies.
- Coursera offers courses in business subjects such as marketing, as well as technical subjects like coding.
- EdX provides online courses from some of the world’s most prestigious universities, including many courses that could help you in the workplace.
- MIT OpenCourseWare offers a variety of subjects including programming and corporate law.
- ALISON has free courses in marketing, language skills and more.
- The Muse offers multi-level courses in career tips and strategies.
- Universities across the U.S. may offer free online courses in various subjects, although this will depend on each university’s online learning center.
To some, mentorship may seem like an old-fashioned concept. However, it is a very popular method of career assistance. A mentor is generally someone who has already experienced some success in the career path you are currently pursuing. He or she will be able to answer your questions and give you advice regarding career advancement, as well as offering feedback and constructive criticism when necessary. This should be a person whom you trust, respect and admire, rather than a close personal friend.
Your company may offer a workplace mentorship program already. However, even if it does not, then you may be able to find a mentor on your own. This may be someone at your company or a professional business contact with whom you may be able to develop a mutually beneficial relationship.
You may also be able to take advantage of “reverse mentoring.” This is especially useful if you are slightly older and need to learn about new systems and technology your workplace is implementing or when changing careers. Generally, younger workers know more about these systems, and you may be able to find one to help train you. In return, you would be able to offer mentorship in other areas, such as business strategies or teamwork skills. This is a resource for you as well as your younger colleague, available to both of you for free.