Six free online skills you can learn now to further your career

To be a success in the modern workplace, you've got to be comfortable with constantly learning. The nature of jobs these days has changed so much from even one generation ago. Then, you became qualified for a job, got it and spent your life working in relatively the same way. Nowadays, technology and information are progressing so quickly that our jobs are changing all the time. Teenagers who are currently gearing up to sit their Leaving Cert are working towards jobs that may not even exist in the future.

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To future proof yourself, you've got to always be upskilling. It may seem like a disadvantage, this necessity to be constantly learning new things to keep fresh. But the reality means higher workplace satisfaction, chances to make yourself more attractive and valuable to potential employers (and higher wages) and being exposed to fresh ideas and concepts all the time.

One thing that holds many of us back from embracing this idea of 'lifelong learning' is the cost. How am I going to afford constant courses, lessons, assessments etc. to stay in the loop? It's an added pressure that most of the already highly strung workforce can do without. But the answer, like everything else, lies on Google. There are literally millions of online resources to upskill in popular subjects, and many of the best among them are free.

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If you have a specific area in mind to upskill in, have a quick search and you'll be sure to find a resource that works for you. But if you're just looking to learn skills that are generally useful to your career, our picks below are often viewed most favourably among employers. They work for a range of job areas, they can be used as standalone skills to freelance with and are also just really interesting areas to learn about.


Some people believe that being a good writer only comes down to talent. But honestly, talent only accounts for about 10% of the writing - the other 90% is the hard work that goes into perfecting it. Copywriting is an essential skill these days, and if you get good enough at it, you can easily find freelance work writing website copy, e-commerce copy and lots of other content.

The biggest necessity when upskilling in copywriting is practice, so make sure to start a blog or a journal and take some time every day to perfect your skill. To hone your technique, sites like Udemy, and Open2study  offer free courses in writing great copy, and sites like Copyblogger have hundreds of articles from accomplished copywriters on how they do what they do.


If you work in e-commerce, or you own your own business, constructing a functional website is a key skill to have, and it all starts with coding. Even if you're a right-brainer (intuitive and creative, as opposed to left-brainers being more logical and mathematical), don't be put off by the reams of numbers and symbols - coding is just like a language, and once you learn how to speak it, you'll be flying.

The demand for coders these days is through the roof, so taking a weekend off from Netflix and spending a few hours learning its ins and outs will be hugely beneficial to your career. Plus, women in coding are having a moment and it's never been a better time to be a woman in STEM. Your first stop to learn? Codeacademy. Its free version has hours of lessons to make your way through, including HTML, CSS and designing and deploying a website.


Photography and Photoshop

If you run any type of website, or work for a creative industry, learning the ropes of photography and Photoshop will stand you in amazing stead in your career. Taking your own stock photos, making graphics for social media and knowing the ins and outs of operating a camera will have you stand out from the crowd hugely.

Starting out, this great list of lessons from Lifehacker is a useful introduction to photography and finding your way around your camera. Moving onto Photoshop, the best place to learn is from the horses' mouth - Adobe themselves have hours of video tutorials on the many functions of its editing software, that you can always refer back to when you're having an issue.

Social Media Marketing

OK, granted, social media marketing is not just one skill. There are so many things to learn within social media marketing that are useful for a business, and getting to know the area is essential. When it comes to social media marketing, e-books and articles are your friends, since there are new developments happening all the time.

Sites such as Hubspot and especially the Social Media Examiner are holy grails for getting news about the latest features and ideas on how to use social media to your advantage. When it comes to ads and paid content, Facebook themselves offer their Blueprint Academy to learn about generating leads and managing ad performance.

Also, don't underestimate the usefulness of each social platform's analytics – they're usually incredibly user-friendly and can tell you a lot about what performs well and what needs work on your social media.


A New Language

Not only is it often cited as a great way to keep the brain moving, learning a new language is a brilliant skill to have at work. Dealing with international clients or even translating work can be really lucrative, and it's pretty much a guarantee that you'll never regret learning a new language. Depending on which language you're interested in, there are plenty of free resources to learn, but a personal favourite is Duolingo. The mobile app focuses heavily on repetition and gamification, which are great for drumming a language into your head, and it can be used any time you have a free minute. Dedicate your morning commute to it every day and watch your confidence build.


You've created all this amazing content with your new skills – now you need to make sure people find it. SEO (or search engine optimization) is central to any business with an online presence, and if you have any skills in perfecting SEO, you'll be in your boss's good books for sure. Google, through their Analytics Academy and Digital Garage, offer incredibly user-friendly and understandable content and moves at a pace that really suits beginners to the area.

It's an added bonus that, at the end of the courses, you'll be certified by Google themselves in that subject, which is a nice touch to add to the C.V.

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