Independent Learners: How to Teach Yourself Tech Skills and Ditch the Degree


Personal development should be a major goal in your life, both privately and professionally. While a degree opens a lot of doors for you, many people just don’t have the time or money. In any case, technology changes rapidly, so it’s also important to have hands-on skills that are in demand now. Many employers may be looking at the experience as well as education. The first step in advancing your career is to find a technology that fits your career plans and learn everything you can. Here are some good ways to get started.

Online Learning Courses

You can find online courses that are both free and paid. Even the paid versions will generally be much cheaper than a college course, and you can learn at your own pace. Some are full-length, multi-session courses that cover topics in depth.

Though they aren’t quite as impactful as a degree, you’ll still get some appreciation by listing coursework on your resume. For example, if you want to learn about incorporating JavaScript into your web pages, structured JavaScript courses are already out there that will lead you from fundamentals to advanced skills.

Other Internet Sources

There are additional means to get the knowledge you want online, often for free. There are many tutorials showing the basics for certain technologies. YouTube has millions of searchable how-to videos, including a wide variety of learning various computer skills.

If you’re interested in learning about a specific software, you may find demo or trial versions that you can explore for free. There are also some free open source alternatives that provide access to knowledge bases and user forums.

Make a list of resources where you can get answers. Microsoft, for instance, has extensive knowledge bases online in support of both current and former versions of their products.

Knowledge Subscriptions

Try searching for technical blogs, sites, or RSS feeds addressing your topic of interest. By subscribing to newsletters, feeds, or daily tips, you can get lessons delivered straight to your inbox every day.

Read and save them to a separate folder, and over time you’ll be able to collect quite a body of searchable knowledge on useful subjects like SQL (standard query language) for databases or VB.Net for creating your own desktop utilities.

Find a Mentor

Get to know your IT department. If you’re already employed by a company with a solid IT team, reach out to them. Ask for advice or help with your technical knowledge and projects. You may find that they have extra or outdated software on the disk that you can have or borrow to install and learn from.

Once you have some rudimentary skills, volunteer to help out with technical tasks. Talk to your managers or HR about implementing technical training courses that you need to do your job better. You could also get advice and guidance by connecting with experienced professionals over social media.

Start Your Own Site

You can always manage these ideas by starting your own blog. Even if your knowledge is minimal, having a blog on a particular topic, such as PHP programming, obligates you to read and write posts for your viewers.

You’ll learn a lot in the process. You should also invite questions and comments that help you address specific problems, and establish your own on-site forum so that your more experienced visitors can provide answers. If you set aside a little time every day to coming up with good material and promoting your site, you’ll find yourself consistently gaining expertise, and perhaps a second income.

Even seasoned IT people don’t know everything. That’s why it’s important to focus on a specialty that will open up opportunities.

The post was written by Anica Oaks. Anica is a professional content and copywriter who graduated from the University of San Francisco. You can connect with Anica here

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