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5 Ways to Build Your Job Skills Online

Free and low-cost courses and apps to enhance your career prospects from home

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No matter how much work experience you’ve had during your career, it’s always a good idea to strengthen your job opportunities and career potential by learning another skill or two. Many websites offer free or affordably priced courses that can teach you everything from how to speak Spanish (or any other language) to how to master spreadsheets.

Here are five ways you can build your job skills and websites that will help you do it.

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1. Learn a new language

Being fluent in a second language, especially Spanish, is one of the more attractive skills that you can have on your résumé, regardless of your profession. Learning any language takes time and practice, but it’s never too late to get started.

There are several smartphone apps and websites that can help you master your language of choice. Babbel ($8.95–$13.45 per month or $349 for a lifetime subscription) lets you choose from 13 languages (Danish, Dutch, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish). Most lessons are 10 to 15 minutes long and use snippets of interactive dialogue and speech-recognition technology to help you learn the language as you would use it in everyday conversations.

Other options for learning a language include Duolingo (free with ads or $7.99 per month) and Rosetta Stone ($47.97 for three months, $126 for a year or $199 for a lifetime, unlimited membership).

2. Take college-level courses for free

Ever wondered what it feels like to take a course from Stanford or Yale? Coursera (prices vary by course, but many are free) lets you choose from nearly 3,900 online courses from more than 190 influential universities and businesses (including Google) around the world.

Whether you can get college credit or a certificate depends on the course, but the knowledge you gain can enhance your résumé. The range of classes available seems almost endless. For example, you can take a quick free course on Microsoft’s popular Excel spreadsheet program from Australia’s Macquarie University. Or if you have more time and have taken some college courses but never earned a degree, you might consider the bachelor’s degree from University of North Texas that is designed with working adults in mind.

Other options for free or affordable college-level courses include edX and FutureLearn. AARP’s Skills Builder for Work also offers online courses designed to help people 50 and older boost their careers.

3. Give computer programming a try

Jobs working with the technology that makes websites function are some of the most in demand. They can also offer the opportunity to work from home, flexible hours and great pay — the exact benefits that many older adults want.

While it helps to have a knack for computers, it’s possible to jump into computer programming from other careers. For instance, at age 55, one Seattle woman decided to switch from the office administrative work she had been doing for years to computer programming. The website she used to learn coding was Codecademy (free to $19.99 per month), which more than 1 million people worldwide age 55 and older have turned to.

Another option if you’re interested in acquiring programming skills is Udacity (prices vary, though many courses are free).

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4. Get an introduction to starting a business

While timing when to launch a business can be tricky, the time is always right to consider working on a business plan and learning the entrepreneurial skills you will need if you decide to give it try. EdX offers many courses on how to become an entrepreneur. These classes can teach you how to identify business opportunities, perform market research and plan your business logistics.

AARP’s Small Business channel is another resource that can help you get started. The website features articles and videos with tips on how to launch a business, along with real-life stories about people who became entrepreneurs after 50. 

5. Fix your finances

Many families and older adults struggle to make ends meet. Coursera offers a free Personal & Family Financial Planning class from the University of Florida that can help you get a better grip on your finances. The course can teach you how to manage your budget, handle your income taxes, build good credit and make investment decisions.

Editor’s note: This article was first published on May 26, 2020. It has been updated with more recent information on courses and prices.

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