3 Ways to Expand Your Skillset During the Cold-Weather Coronavirus Months

By Taryn Tacher September 17th, 2020

Will this virus send us into another lockdown? Will it just disappear? Will a vaccine free us soon from its grasp?

Nobody knows. But even without explicit lockdown orders in the coming cold-weather months, you probably won’t be running to bars, restaurants, movie theaters, or any other indoor haunts.

We have just the thing to tide you over in the meantime, and it’s not Netflix or baking: professional development. Now that the world is running in slower motion, that extra time spent at home could be great for learning some new skills.

Take Jessica Benavides Canepa—a journalist, content strategist, and Contently managing editor specializing in travel and hospitality—who’s used the last few months to broaden her knowledge across different verticals.

“The travel and hospitality sector has taken one of the hardest hits during this pandemic, so I knew I had to diversify my skill set in order to continue to earn a sustainable living,” she said. “In the end, I felt that health/medical writing, a sector always in demand, best suited my goals.”

Here are three avenues you may want to consider to make a move that boosts your career:

1. Equip yourself to write about—what else?—health

If there’s one topic always trending, it’s health. Drug trials, vaccines, studies, high-tech treatment—largely COVID-related. Plus, COVID has exposed vast inequities in America’s health system, raising the temperature on an already hot-button issue.

A class like Introduction to Health Writing from Health Writer Hub can give you the credentials you need to start writing about these issues with authority. Canepa chose this course after extensive research because it provided both the most extensive curriculum and flexibility to work at her own pace.

Introduction to Health Writing

Administered by: Health Writer Hub

Price: $379 (classic); $499 (premium)

Walk away with: Advanced CPD (Continuing Professional Development) certification.

Learn how to write health articles, features, web copy, blogs, sales copy, and more. Opt for classic or premium offerings. Both include over six hours of lectures, three video calls, handouts, and weekly assignments. For an extra Benjamin (and change), the premium option buys you personalized feedback from an instructor. The next class begins on September 21.

2. Use your skills for social change

Coronavirus has been like a tinderbox for long-simmering social issues, from Black Lives Matter to climate change to healthcare disparities in mortality and treatment from COVID itself. The fallout is likely to continue for some time as the public grapples with these issues in the political arena. Storytelling for Social Change from the University of Michigan can help you report on these critical topics.

Storytelling for Social Change

Administered by: The University of Michigan (MichiganX)

Price: Free (add a verified certificate for $49)

Walk away with: Storytelling skills that prompt social change (and a verified certificate if you choose).This five-week, self-paced course focuses on how to compose content that promotes empathy, showcases multiple perspectives, and invokes change. You’ll observe performances and interviews with storytelling experts, and produce your own story for social change.

3. Branch out into something entirely new

If you’ve wanted to turn a hobby or talent into a skill you can monetize, now is a good time. And you don’t have to go back to school to do it. Here are three affordable options for graphic design, computer science, and photography:

Graphic Design Specialization

Administered by: California Institute of the Arts

Price: 7-day free trial, $49/month afterward

Walk away with: Graphic Design Specialization certificate.

This specialization encompasses five courses: Fundamentals of Graphic Design, Introduction to Typography, Introduction to Imagemaking, Ideas from the History of Graphic Design, and Brand New Brand. Classes cover foundation of interface design, motion graphics, and editorial design and culminate in a capstone project for your professional portfolio. The full track takes about six months to complete, but you have the option to take just one or two courses if you prefer.

Introduction to Computer Science

Administered by: Harvard University

Price: Free (add a verified certificate for $90)

Walk away with: Computer science and programming fundamentals (and a verified certificate if you choose).

Learn the basics of languages like JavaScript, CSS, and HTML in this self-paced class. Over the course of eleven weeks, you’ll develop an understanding of computer science and programming, as well as concepts like algorithms and web development. If you want to take a deeper dive and learn about database design and scalability, follow this course with Web Programming with Python and JavaScript.

Professional Photography

Administered by: The New York Institute of Photography

Price: $699

Walk away with: Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) designation.

This course covers everything from composition to exposure and lighting across a variety of photographic genres like portraits, nature, and still life. Complete it at your own speed with open access to course materials and video demos. Notably, this course offers one-on-one feedback from professional photographers, as well as discounts on photography equipment and courses themselves—there are 10 in all (travel photography, photojournalism, video making, etc.)—if you enroll in more than one.

Photo credit: golero