With tech skills being more in demand and commanding higher salaries than ever before, many of us are attempting to teach ourselves new skills to get ahead. This might include taking online courses, creating your own portfolio of work, or attending intensive boot camps designed for the rapid uptake of skills – be that more general like product management or business strategy, or specific like Java or more recently Python the No.1 skill needed for a lucrative career in software and data.
For many of us, self-teaching is a great way to access a variety of programmes and courses in a flexible way, since it usually be done around a full-time job. Plus, this route would typically be cheaper than traditional degree courses. However, teaching yourself a new skill takes persistence, and it can be difficult to assess where to put effort in to gain the biggest rewards. Furthermore, having taught yourself the basics of coding, or taken a qualification in your spare time is great – but you’ll have a hard time securing a job in that area unless your learning is backed up by practical experience and application in the real world.
So, if you are thinking about self-teaching yourself to a new career in tech, here are some tips to get you started.
01 Play to your strengths
Resist the temptation to learn something simply because it sounds good on your CV. You’re better of focusing on something you’ll enjoy and excel at (you’ll be more likely to stick at it for a start). Think about technical skills that could complement your current job to get started – if you’re a digital marketer, coding is the next must-have skill - for those expanding into web design. And programmatic for those in analytics and PPC.
90% of all people who starts MOOCs (massive open online courses) don’t actually finish them, and if you aren’t seriously committed to your learning, you’re unlikely to get anywhere. Don’t expect it to be easy. Set yourself a goal and timescales, commit to a certain amount of time each month, and consider enlisting someone to study with you for added motivation.
03 Network your way to success
If you’re looking to change careers or develop brand new skills, there’s no more effective way to consolidate what you’ve learned in theory by sharing ideas and learning from those who are already experienced in the field. Try joining meetup groups, theres the latest conferences in digital, AI and Big data, or even reaching out to people over coffee that you think could mentor you or introduce you to a real-world project. You’ll learn lots, and moreover, you’re building your network– essential for career development and progression.
04 Learn on the job
Many companies actively encourage learning in new areas and your employer may have an urgent need for the new skills you’re learning. With business culture being more cross-functional, especially in the start-up environment, there' sever more opportunities to collaborate in projects. Courses supported by your employer or start a new project to apply what you’re learning in your spare time. Gaining experience will help you apply for other positions in the future.
05 Pay for a course (but choose wisely)
Research suggests that those who invest money in a specialised course are more likely to finish it, so if you’re serious about teaching yourself, consider paying for a good quality course or qualification to work towards. There will be plenty of options here so choose wisely – look out for reviews, seek advice from people in the industry, and do your research on different types of accreditation before signing up.