13 cheap online courses that will get you ready for today's workforce

Published: Thursday, September 28, 2017 @ 3:24 PM
Updated: Thursday, September 28, 2017 @ 3:24 PM

The following 13 classes will help teach you the skills you need for the modern workforce Job Interview Skills Training Course HTML Introduction to Spreadsheets and Models Learning Web Analytics Conversational Spanish Made Easy Learn Adobe Illustrator from Scratch Marketing in a Digital World Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills Complete Guide to Drafting a Business Plan Report Writing Made Simple Introduction to Video Editing Secret Sauce of Great Writing The Complete Presentation and

Whether you're looking for a new career, want to score a promotion with your current company or are returning to the workforce, you'll find that employers' expectations can change quickly.

Many jobs require a broad variety of skills, and the more you learn, the more attractive you'll be to prospective employers.

RELATED: 5 smart questions to ask at the end of your next interview

Online classes can help give you an edge, and some are even prepared by the faculty of prestigious universities. And you won't necessarily have to invest a lot of money, since many are free and many others are quite inexpensive.

The following 13 classes will help teach you the skills you need for the modern workforce:

Ace the interview

This course covers what to do before the interview, how to practice common questions, dress for success, follow up after the interview and more.

Job Interview Skills Training Course, Udemy. Free.

Start to code

Since HTML is the foundation of websites, Forbes recommends this class if you're a coding beginner. It helps you learn how to build a personal or small business website and more.

HTML, Dash-General Assembly. Free.

Use spreadsheets

Learning how to use spreadsheets like Excel can help in many careers, such as marketing and management, according to Forbes. You'll also be able to work more efficiently.

Introduction to Spreadsheets and Models, Coursera. Free for ungraded content.

Learn about web analytics

This course, recommended by Forbes, helps you learn about optimizing your business' online presence with social media campaigns and SEO.

Learning Web Analytics, Lynda. Free trial, with monthly subscription plans starting at $19.99.

Learn Spanish

Learning another language can help in many careers, and Business Insider recommends this course.

Conversational Spanish Made Easy, Udemy. $10 (normally $145)

Create graphics

The Muse recommends taking this course to learn basic Adobe Illustrator techniques for creating graphics and then moving onto colors and patterns, perspective and automation.

Learn Adobe Illustrator from Scratch, Udemy. $12.

Market with digital tools

Learn how to use digital tools – including 3D printing, smartphones and the internet – to market your products, according to The Muse. You'll find out more about distribution and setting the right prices.

Marketing in a Digital World, Coursera. Free for ungraded content.

Negotiate like a boss

Negotiation is an important skill in business and life in general. You'll learn how to plan your strategy, use key tactics for success and create a contract in this course recommended by The Muse.

Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills, Coursera. Free for ungraded content.

Create a business plan

If you've dreamed of venturing out on your own, this class will help you learn what investors are looking for in a business plan and how to create one that's thorough and successful.

Complete Guide to Drafting a Business Plan, Udemy. $12.

Write a business report 

From planning to proofreading, this class helps you learn how to craft a business report. Points addressed include essential questions to ask and how to understand the report's purpose.

Report Writing Made Simple, Udemy. $12.

Edit video

Video editing is its own career, Forbes points out, but it's also now used extensively in the content and marketing world. Learn the basics of good editing, including composition, transitions, pacing and editing.

Introduction to Video Editing, Lynda. Free trial, with monthly subscription plans starting at $19.99.

Write more effectively

Whether you're writing a cover letter, a press release or an email, this course (recommended by The Muse) will help you do it better.

Secret Sauce of Great Writing, Udemy. Free.

Give a presentation

If the thought of speaking in a business meeting makes you break out in a cold sweat, take this course, which is recommended by Business Insider. It covers body language, how to create incredible content and more.

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7 ways to avoid talking politics at work

Published: Tuesday, February 13, 2018 @ 7:26 AM

Women are interrupted 30% more than men in the workplace Being constantly interrupted by men, or "manterrupted," quiets women and makes them lose confidence To avoid spiraling into self-doubt, here are some tips to put a stop to interruptions Speak with conviction using words like 'know' instead of 'believe' Use shorter sentences so your breaths in between aren't as long, making it harder to interrupt Lean in and make eye contact Speak authoritatively and don't open remarks with any type of apology Be sur

Remember when the presidential election was over and everyone breathed a sigh of relief, thinking we could all go back to talking about sports and kids, not politics?

»RELATED: 9 secrets you should keep to yourself at work

Of course, that's not what happened at all: Contentious political conversations abound everywhere, from Facebook to daycare to the corner bar.

But when they spring up in the workplace, awkward can become inappropriate.

Avoiding political conversations isn't always possible, but knowing how to neutrally navigate them is crucial in the workplace.(Contributed by wnyc.org/For the AJC)

"No good comes from it," Alec Beck, a labor and employment attorney at Ford Harrison in Minneapolis, told Inc. "All it does is make people mad."

But staying away from political talks in the workplace is about as easy as keeping it secret that someone put out doughnuts in the break room.

(Note: If you are the one who thinks you have every right to speak politics in the workplace, hold it right there. Not only are Freedom of Speech rights not protected in the workplace, you may also inadvertently be veering into issues of race, gender, age or religion, which are protected by the federal Civil Rights Act's Title VII. )

Still, trying to steer away from political conversations is a win-win strategy, according to Gregg Ward, author of "The Respectful Leader: Seven Ways To Influence Without Intimidation," told Inc. 

He and other workplace and communication experts suggested these tactics for avoiding or defusing political conversations at work:

Buy time. When co-workers are hanging out and someone asks you if you saw the latest news or something an elected official said about a particular issue, "play dumb," Ward advised. "Someone with a strong opinion will go into teaching mode instead of venting emotionally. This gives you time to listen and respond appropriately."

Look for common ground. To give the impression that you're still involved in the conversation, respond in a way that's completely true but still impartial. Ward recommended saying, "I think we can all agree that's a very controversial (or loaded or difficult or challenging) topic."

Be authentic, not transparent. It's hard to work with someone everyday and not mention [recent political developments], Liane Davey, co-founder of 3COze Inc. told Harvard Business Review. But you don't need to get drawn in just because the topic comes up.

"Being authentic doesn't equal transparent," she said. "Don't be a Clinton supporter in the women's washroom and a Trump supporter with your boss, but you also don't need to be fully candid about everything you think and feel."

Artfully shift the conversation toward a neutral subject, Davey suggested, or focus on related topics that aren't candidate specific, like the lack of nonpartisan media coverage. "Speak about the process, not the candidate," she said.

Employ a bit of humor. You may be able to avoid a lengthy political discussion by poking a little fun at the instigator, according to Ward. "If they're a halfway decent person you can look at them with a big smile and say, 'Tell us what you really think' and they'll realize they've gone over the top," he said.

Disengage. If you find that you can't keep your cool, take responsibility for being frustrated and angry, and exit the conversation, HBR recommended. But if a colleague's incessant political talk is both "grating and distracting," speak directly to your colleague in simple straightforward terms that indicate you don't want to talk and you're getting back to work now.

Ward added that none of these tactics will work with a sociopath. "If somebody's a true sociopath what I generally say is, 'You'll have to excuse me -- I have to use the restroom,' and I will literally walk away," he said. "I'm not going to win with that person. They are going to cause an explosion."

So if we're not talking politics, what will we say instead?

When politics have dominated workplace conversations in the past, you may need inspiration to start focusing your non-business talk on something more appropriate (and enjoyable.) The Balance reported on these potential topics:
  • Talk about dogs. Even people who don't love dogs can usually entertain a few minutes of doggie anecdotes.
  • Talk about vacation plans. Whether you're going somewhere fun, just returned or bemoaning that this time last year you were somewhere much more enchanting, your co-workers may like to hear about it.
  • Share recipes. Everybody's got to eat. Share your own culinary adventures (think of it like Instagram without the photo), or ask your colleagues for a recipe you might use for, say, a date night or to take to a potluck.
  • Recommend a restaurant. Extra points if it's near work or great lunch spots.
  • Talk about books, movies or television shows. Everyone can use news of the entertaining. This suggestion does not extend to politicized choices, though.

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7 mistakes first-time bosses make and how to avoid them

Published: Tuesday, February 13, 2018 @ 5:18 PM

When you think it's time to leave your job, how do you depart in a way that avoids repercussions? Create a loose transition plan for your boss Envision what you can do to make the transition easier on the team When meeting with your employer, use the "compliment sandwich" method Consider how leaving your job will affect your family Leave under good conditions if at all possible

Kudos! You've moved up the corporate ladder and are on top of your career. That's right: You're now the boss.

However, managing a department, division or corporation doesn't mean it's time to lean back in your office chair and prop up your feet. Yet, this type of lax approach to leadership is often seen in executive positions across various industries and unfortunately ends in employee turnover.

»RELATED: Does birth order affect you in the workplace?

The bigger the title, the bigger the managerial responsibility of ensuring you and your professional posse are meeting company goals and expectations, correct? Not necessarily so. Some bosses are actually better at abusing this crucial role than excelling in it.

Emmanuel Little, director of Georgia’s first and only Call Me MiSTER program designed to train students of diverse backgrounds to become talented teachers, warns about the following pitfalls of making bad boss moves and how to prevent them.

So new business owners, principals, presidents or directors should avoid these common administrative blunders if the aim is to build a loyal, successful team for years ahead:

 

Not leading by example. If you expect workers to put in overtime and interrupt their personal lives to meet project deadlines, show them you're in it to win it with them. Employees appreciate and respect bosses who show up early and leave late along with them, which sets a tone of togetherness. “It’s about practicing what you preach,” said Little, who launched the high school to higher education mentoring program four years ago at Georgia College in Milledgeville. “The biggest way to do that is to model what you want your team to produce, and they will respect you for that. Showing your team instead of always telling them goes a long way.”

 

Not giving credit where credit is due. If an employee is alleviating responsibilities from your plate and doing a darn good job at it, don't steal their contribution thunder by not acknowledging their efforts to make you look good. Make sure you genuinely express gratitude for their dedication to the task at hand, and if higher-ups brag about the results as well, don't hesitate to recognize the one who covered your back. “It’s important to have different ways of recognizing the ones who are producing exceptional work,” Little said. “Lack of recognition could potentially create negative effects in morale and productivity. You want to make sure your team knows that you care, so figure out how you can uplift and celebrate them when they’ve gone above the call of duty.”

 

Not compensating hard workers. Employees who constantly produce undeniable results that bring award-winning company recognition, new business and significant solutions to business problems should know they're valued. Promotions, bonuses and raises show these hard workers their talent and time spent on projects is appreciated and deserves compensation that matches their skill set. “Most of the time decision makers have power over resources, so if you’re that person in your division or office, really consider opportunities to compensate your hardest workers,” said Little, “and that doesn’t always mean money in the pocket. Maybe its paying for them to attend a national conference for professional development, self-care days, gift cards or office birthday parties. They need to know they’re seen as assets, not just workers.”

 

Not considering diverse discourse. Blocking out team members' options, ideas or views to improve office workflow can potentially decrease productivity and morale. Employees may feel as though they don't have a voice or serve as a true stakeholder within the brand. Ignoring simple suggestions from workers that could benefit daily operations or demanding assignments could lead to top performers leaving for better work environments — or worse — a similar position with the company's competition. “Bosses have to be very intentional with placing diverse team members into positions where each one of their voices can be heard,” he said.

“Encouraging them to participate on boards and committees across the company brings intersections of identity to the table and helps account for blind spots in the organization. Greater diversity and inclusion leads to greater success and efficiency.”

 

Not offering advancement opportunities. The more your team members know, the more they can successfully execute roles and responsibilities. Hindering or failing to make employees aware of career advancement conferences or events that will give them elevation edge only stifles their creativity and ability to become influential change agents within the company. Showing your constant support to their growth motivates them to continue to perform well, according to Entrepreneur.com

“Bosses also have to be proactive with putting their team into positions that will challenge and improve their skills,” Little said. “Opening up opportunities for them to grow only strengthens their talent level and elevates the organizaton by keeping everyone on the path of producing the best results possible. So identify your team’s abilities, cultivate those abilities and watch how the team excels together.”

 

Not holding oneself, unproductive employees accountable. Slackers always rub diligent workers the wrong way, according to a piece on how to be an effective team by Fast Company. When the boss and colleagues habitually communicate that meeting deadlines and achieving goals is not a big deal, it only says to those who take their position seriously that the organization is counterproductive to career and company growth. “Bosses need to outline and articulate clear expectations,” said Little. “If you can’t hold yourself accountable, how can you expect any type of accountability from your team? So set straightforward expectations for everyone and eliminate gray areas. That’s why assessments like annual employee evaluations are critical to track the team’s progress.”

 

Not operating with a humble heart. Employees lose interest in know-it-all bosses quickly. Let's face it: Information and the way companies do business changes every day. Some bosses welcome novel strategies to reach brand objectives; others deflect it and would rather stick with what they know — even if it's not working. From the newest employees to veterans, it doesn't hurt to pick their business brains to learn modern or unconventional approaches to increase output and improve the company culture. “Bosses have to remember: It’s not about you,” Little said. “The mission of the organization is bigger than you. The best leaders want to create teams that help sustain organizations and initiatives long after they’re gone. You want to stay connected to the mission/vision of the business, advancing it and not your ego. So if the team has solutions to make the organization better, listen to them.” 

 

 

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Character traits you wouldn't believe give you an edge in your career

Published: Wednesday, February 07, 2018 @ 11:41 AM

Consider these seven strengths of introverts at work Introverts are insightful and empathetic Introverts are self-motivated Introverts are team-oriented Introverts speak with intention Introverts are writers by nature Introverts aim to please Introverts are quiet, but effective, leaders

Are you one of those anal-retentive employees? It's OK. Be honest with your professional self.

»RELATED: How to recover when you’ve majorly messed up at work

Maybe you constantly bug co-workers about due dates as if they didn't already know or are a super stickler for how team members use company supplies. And that's not always a bad thing, right? 

Believe it or not, some perceivably annoying on-the-job characteristics can become more effective and gain approving reviews from higher-ups, according to psychology and career experts.

Here are a few character traits that might be giving you an edge in your career:

The crisis communicator. This personality always freaks out about office events like deadlines, new hires, resignations or company shifts. This person doesn't like assignment surprises or getting out of his comfort zone.

If you're this type of worker: Whenever real emergency situations arise, you're the perfect person to panic for the entire team. The other good thing is that employers will always know how you genuinely feel — instantly gaining your gut reaction to tackle and execute the tasks at hand. 

In a Psychology Today article, emotions expert and author Alice Boyes shared that these worry wart ways are at times advantageous because anxious workers usually have Plan B and C prepared. 

The polite pushover. This personality is never combative and will work no matter the chaotic office conditions.

If you're this type of worker: Employers can trust that you will consider everyone's feelings, backgrounds and rationales. You’re always respectful of others, which often leads to transformative benefits for the entire team.  

The negative Nancy. This personality finds loom and doom in every move the company makes or when collaborating with certain co-workers on team assignments.

If you're this type of worker: At least your boss and/or colleagues know what you're thinking. And bluntly bringing awareness to company cons can help improve morale and productivity. And when projects don’t turn out as expected, you’re less likely to become upset, according to social psychologist Kate Sweeny, who was cited in a Society for Personality and Social Psychology article.

The office overachiever. This personality will go above and beyond the call of duty time again and typically doesn't take "can't" attitudes lightly. 

If you're this type of worker: Employers can definitely count on you to pick up the slack of procrastinators and keep senior leadership in the know about inefficient, time-wasting workers not worthy of their positions.

Tim Eisenhauer, co-founder of Axero Solutions and the first company intranet software, Communifire, told Inc. Magazine that these are usually your “big idea” folks who push production to new heights. 

The manic micromanager. This personality nags and helicopter parents the daily activities of people and projects within their direct supervision.

If you're this type of worker: Yes, this overbearing demeanor is irritating, but employers appreciate your unwavering devotion to meeting goals, conserving resources and paying attention to operational details. 

How do you think tech expert the late Steve Jobs built Apple into a powerhouse? 

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How to recover when you’ve majorly messed up at work

Published: Wednesday, February 07, 2018 @ 1:24 PM

We like saying yes to our superiors, but agreeing to do too many things leaves us overstressed and overworked Saying no will provide you with the time and energy to focus on the work that will move your career forward Say no at work when you are assigned a task that does not fall under your job description Be straightforward and not dance around the subject Say no when it is going to set a precedent that you aren't comfortable with Anticipate the other side's tactics and consider saying no in private Whe

To err is human and every human's workday is full of the easily-corrected, quickly forgotten type of mistakes. But when you screw up big time on the job, you're facing a much more difficult challenge.

»RELATED: ‘no’ could be your magic word at work

"If we make mistakes in our personal lives, we can cope by working through it with the people closest to us," noted LinkedIn influencer Ilya Pozin, founder of Ciplex. "But if we make a mistake at work, we often jeopardize our professional reputation. And your professional reputation is essentially the foundation upon which your personal brand rests."

No one's saying you meant to lose the client, forget the materials in a city far from the presentation, wreck the tow truck or accidentally send a blistering email about your boss to the whole office. And if everyone quit immediately after making a big mistake at work, most people probably wouldn't have jobs for long.

The better option: bounce back. "It is in your best interest to limit the damage from a mistake and, most importantly, learn all you can from it," noted John Caddell, analytic services leader at Nexidia, posting at 99u. 

After a blunder at work, employ these seven tactics from Caddell, Pozin and other management and workplace experts to rebound from your screw up.

Step back and breathe.

This first step is essential, according to Pozin.

"It can be easy to get worked up over our own failings, but we can't internalize self-hate when we make mistakes. Don't take action until you assess the situation and take a moment to clear your head. "Even if the problem is big, being overly stressed or anxious impedes your ability to think clearly and bounce back quickly," Pozin added.

Assess.

Once you've settled down a bit, take the time to map out what went down during your mistake, University of Minnesota management professor Alfred Marcus told Entrepreneur. Think about what went wrong and why. "Don't rationalize it away," Marcus said. He also suggested asking a mentor or friend with an outside perspective to keep you accountable.

»RELATED: 5 of the most toxic co-workers and how to deal with them

Foster a sense of urgency.

Don't let your mistakes simmer, however much you'd like the whole situation to disappear without any effort from you. "Work mistakes aren't the end of the world," Pozin stated. "Still, healing mistakes does require action on your part. Own up to your mistakes sooner rather than later if you want continued trust from your higher-ups and fellow employees."

Own your mistake.

So you feel like circumstances were against you, or somebody you were counting on failed you, or you were having a bad day? Too bad, Caddell said. "According to Justin Menkes' wonderful book Better Under Pressure, truly great leaders don't blame others when things go wrong," he noted. "They instead have a high 'sense of agency,' which is 'the degree to which people attribute their circumstances and the outcomes they experience to being within their own control.'"

Put aside any urges to place blame on others, even if it's convenient and might go over with the rest of your work group, Pozin advised. "This will only worsen your situation, and can lead others to distrust you in the future."

Offer a fix.

"Healing work mistakes means being proactive about coming up with a solution," Pozin advised. "Offer a few solutions to your boss, manager, or co-worker, but be open to their feedback, too. If you've gotten yourself into a mess, you may need help to get out of it."

Avoid the temptation to be a "quiet fixer," added Caddell. "Mistakes often have side effects, and pretending that it didn't happen is dangerous."

Take a lesson from former Toyota chairman Katsuaki Watanabe. "If problems are revealed for everyone to see, I will feel reassured," he told Harvard Business Review. "Once problems have been visualized, even if our people didn't notice them earlier, they will rack their brains to find solutions to them."

Apologize.

Make it a real apology, Caddell advised, like, "I'm sorry I caused your group all that downtime." Avoid apologies that sound "lame and self-protective," he added. Don't say, "I wish it hadn't happened," for example.

Address the root cause.

Make it a habit to systematically reflect on your mistakes and you'll soon see patterns in your performance that contribute to the errors, Caddell advised. "And once you realize that, you are well on the way to fixing that pattern."

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