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December 22, 2022

How Online Learning Can Prepare You For A Career Change

With a new year approaching, you may be thinking about making a career change. The good news for job seekers is that 2023 will continue to see a tight labor market. That means workers will still have the upper hand when demanding higher pay, better benefits, remote work options and other perks. When it comes to […]

With a new year approaching, you may be thinking about making a career change. The good news for job seekers is that 2023 will continue to see a tight labor market. That means workers will still have the upper hand when demanding higher pay, better benefits, remote work options and other perks. When it comes to career advancement, it will look less like “climbing the corporate ladder” and more about focusing on a nonlinear approach.

When preparing for your next professional move, it’s critical to identify areas for growth and development. That’s where online learning comes in. Online courses allow you to engage in affordable, asynchronous learning that can catapult you into a more fulfilling job or career.

Recently, I spoke with Betty Vandenbosch, Chief Content Officer at online learning platform Coursera. During our conversation, I learned about the most in-demand courses worldwide, how to navigate a career change and success stories that will inspire you to take the plunge.

Top ten courses worldwide

The most popular courses at Coursera in 2022 largely tie to job-relevant skills in business, tech and data science, including:

  1. Foundations: Data, Data, Everywhere – Google
  2. Foundations of Project Management – Google
  3. The Science of Well-Being – Yale University
  4. Foundations of User Experience (UX) Design – Google
  5. Technical Support Fundamentals – Google
  6. English for Career Development – University of Pennsylvania
  7. Ask Questions to Make Data-Driven Decisions – Google
  8. Programming for Everybody (Getting Started with Python) – University of Michigan
  9. Learning How to Learn – Deep Teaching Solutions
  10. Financial Markets – Yale University

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How to navigate a career change

It can be challenging to break into a new industry or career. Vandenbosch offers these tips on how to make a smooth transition:

Test the waters

If you’re considering a career change, the first step is exploring different courses. “You’ve got to find something that you’re truly interested in, Vandenbosch says. “The beautiful thing about the Coursera platform is you can audit anything. You can try anything for free to get a sense of what the course entails."

Take soft skills courses

Vandenbosch then recommends investing in “soft skills” like problem-solving, critical thinking, leadership, communication and negotiation. “We have a leadership course at the University of Illinois that's affiliated with an introductory certificate,” Vanderbosch adds. “So the certificate teaches you the technical skills, the leadership course teaches you the soft skills and together you've got what you need.”

Get hands-on experience

The last step is to acquire practical knowledge. Learners can enroll in guided projects to get hands-on experience with a specific tool or skill on Coursera. These sessions can typically be completed in under two hours and include instant access to pre-configured cloud desktops containing all the software and data needed to complete the project.

Career change success stories

The first step in accomplishing anything is believing that it’s possible. That’s why career change success stories are so powerful. For example, Vandenbosch shares, "There are so many stories of people with degrees in music or English literature who come to Coursera, take a certificate and then move into a tech job and make, maybe not the first week, but a six-figure salary very quickly.”

Here are a few real-life examples:

Kara Gooch, a single mother, juggling multiple jobs to support her three young children, found herself hitting a wall when it came to breaking into tech. Without a degree or relevant experience, she turned to professional certifications, which gave her the tools to upskill, land an apprenticeship and eventually get her dream job as an analyst at Accenture within a year.

Patricia Ehrhardt was looking to learn how to code and possibly move into computer programming. However, she knew she didn't want to spend money on traditional education, considering she still had student loans to pay off. So, after searching online, she signed up for Programming for Everybody (Getting Started with Python) and was able to make a midlife career change.

Peter Barker wanted to switch to a career in software engineering after almost 20 years in scientific programming. After completing two certification courses and posting them on his LinkedIn profile, a recruiter immediately called him for an interview. He aced it, and they made him a job offer the next day.

Vandenbosch cautions that online learning involves more than just watching a two-minute YouTube video. “Just remember, you have to invest in yourself,” she says. “There are lots of resources that provide good information, but it's not learning. At Coursera, we focus on quality, we focus on learning, and we focus on the best universities and companies in the world. That's how we believe learning happens.”

Article written by:  Orville Lynch, Jr.
Mr. Lynch, a member of the legendary two-time Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame Award winning Lynch Family. Mr. Lynch is a nationally recognized urban media executive with over 20+ years of diversity recruitment and serial entrepreneur with numerous multi-million dollar exits.
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