By Mark Anthony Dyson
Do you work at home, but yet, feel your skills are becoming dull? It depends.
According to Flexjobs recent survey* of working mothers, 64% feel they are more productive at home.
Yet, many work-at-home (WAH) professionals feel challenged to keep up with trends and to learn the new skills necessary to stay employed and well-paid.
Like your work, you can also do this important learning at home. Professionals need continual skill refreshment to remain productive for their job and add value to their work and career.
I like to share the resources and tools I used. These helped my career growth and sharpened my skills:
Most organizations provide continuing education online via streaming or on-demand, making it accessible around the clock. Depending on the organization, an additional charge occurred by the user, and possibly, not included in the membership cost.
You can also check to see if the organization put last year's webinar or teleconference on YouTube for free. Depending on the industry, last year's information is useful after a year or two.
Niche podcasts and vlogs (video blogs) are often part of an industry organization's library for members. Podcast directories and libraries house many subjects from different angles.
Most smartphones have a place to download and store podcasts and vlogs so you can listen anywhere. As I mentioned, creating and hosting a podcast not only a closer network but also learning opportunities.
Work with other WAH professionals who are keeping up with industry trends on articles, videos, and online presentations.
If you are older, work with a younger peer who knows how to use online tools. Older workers would benefit working with younger professionals to help remove the "too old" stigma.
Younger professionals will learn how to apply and present knowledge and gain knowledge about many aspects of successful careers from older professionals who have learned from (sometimes painful) experience..
There are non-profit organizations who work with professionals to pilot their new but unpolished skills. There's often a significant learning curve, and it benefits both parties.
The generosity environment breeds people will vouch for the value of your abilities. It's an excellent way to get a few recommendations and endorsements on your LinkedIn profile and give your profile additional visibility.
Maya Angelou once said, “When you learn, teach. When you get, give.” It's easier to become fulfilled today once you start helping others become fulfilled.
Training others is more than just passing the time with billable hours. Training is purposeful when you're passing on to others what has fulfilled you.
Meetups are a great way to curb the feeling of being on an island. Events are a great way to get feedback on innovative ideas you would value.
Every social interaction is a networking opportunity. Church, hair salon, barbershop, or the cleaners are all networking opportunities. One piece of advice or one person can change the trajectory of your efforts. Don't waste an opportunity.
All you need is a local library card to access digital and audiobooks. Libby is a free app available on iOS and Google Play.
You borrow and return books from your library using your app for all transactions. You access the books like you do at your local library.
YouTube is useful for audiobooks. I found and listened to Chris Voss's book Never Split The Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It for free. You can find older classic business and career books there.
Toastmasters is just one way to polish a skill that crosses many platforms. Getting the advance certifications encourages you to master this highly useful transferable skill.
Certification programs also provide networking opportunities, both online and offline. My training certification process and short practice added valuable insights into my writing and consulting with job seekers.
There are many parallels in the way people approach fitness and job search. I'm sure there are many other similar parallels of interest to sharpen your skills in working from home.
The competition will test what you know and exploit what you don't know. Failed to place?
Get the training and then come back for the win. Contests can help familiarize yourself with the cutting edge of trends. The competition also will bring out the best of your access at that time.
When you do place first, you can use the accomplishment to promote you, your services, and expand your brand.
All of these services have mobile apps you can use anywhere. Udemy often offers classes at a 90% discount, so it's worth watching for the offers. Theses on-demand classes are available anytime.
There are several forums and Facebook groups I belong to as it helps my perspective of my industry. One is a writing group, and the others are with career professionals as part of a larger organization.
It doesn't hurt to pay to join these groups although you may find some for free. The paid groups motivate you to get value because you paid to do so. I belong to a couple of free ones. They don't offer the cost as the paid ones. But everyone's experience is different.
Small, local professional associations may exist as well as local chapters of national and international organizations. These can be great sources of learning in seminars and professional certifications (in person or recorded), even emailed newsletters.
You may also find opportunities to join association-member-only social media, like a Facebook group, where insider information may be shared. These groups can be excellent sources of information about the local market for your work plus opportunities to learn and a great environment for the networking that helps you remain employed.
Just because you’re a WAH professional doesn’t mean you have only to use the tools an employer tells you to use. If fact, your best career advancement and tool sharpening strategies is on your dime.
Forge forward and increase your marketability to its full potential because an employer will only provide what is necessary for them. You own your future. For me, podcasting has created a networking ecosystem, and even if no one listens, I’ve talked with hundreds of professionals in my industry. Many of them follow trends, and some are innovators who pointed to other resources to enrich my learning.
Mark Anthony Dyson a career-advice writer and consultant who loves helping people discover their ideal career. His award-winning blog and podcast, "The Voice of Job Seekers," has provided job-search advice since 2011. Follow and connect with Mark on Twitter (@MarkADyson) and LinkedIn. To read more of Mark's articles and listen to his podcasts, visit his website: TheVoiceofJobSeekers.com.