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5 Ways to Build Your Job Skills Online During Quarantine

Updated: May 29, 2020

By Kenneth Terrell, AARP, May 26 2020

Free and low-cost courses and apps to enhance your career prospects from home.

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended workplaces across the nation with widespread shutdowns and layoffs. And even among those who are working, many are quarantined at home to deter the spread of the coronavirus.

With so much uncertainty in the workplace, now could be an ideal moment to strengthen your job opportunities and career potential by learning a skill or two. Many websites offer free or affordably priced courses that can teach you everything from how to speak Spanish (or any other language) to how to master spreadsheets.

Here are five ways you can build your job skills during quarantine and the websites that will help you do it.

1. Learn a new Language

Being fluent in a second language, especially Spanish, is one of the more attractive skills that you can have on your résumé, regardless of your profession. Learning any language takes time and practice, but it's never too late to get started.

There are several smartphone apps and websites that can help you master your language of choice. Babbel ($6.95–$12.95 per month) lets you choose from 13 languages (Danish, Dutch, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, and Turkish).

Most lessons are 10 to 15 minutes long and use snippets of interactive dialogue and speech-recognition technology to help you learn the language as you would use it in everyday conversations.

Other options for learning a language include Duolingo (free with ads or $6.99 per month) and Rosetta Stone ($11.99 per month or $299 for a lifetime, unlimited membership).

2. Take college-level courses for free

Ever wondered what it feels like to take a course from Stanford or Yale? Coursera (prices vary by course, but many are free) lets you choose from nearly 3,900 online courses from more than 190 influential universities and businesses (including Google) around the world.

Whether you can get college credit or a certificate depends on the course, but the knowledge you gain can enhance your résumé. The range of classes available seems almost endless. For example, you can take a quick free course on Microsoft's popular Excel spreadsheet program from Australia's Macquarie University. Or if you have more time and have taken some college courses but never earned a degree, you might consider the bachelor's degree from University of North Texas that is designed with working adults in mind.

Other options for free or affordable college-level courses include edX and FutureLearn.

3. Give computer programming a try

Jobs working with the technology that makes websites function are some of the most in demand. They can also offer the opportunity to work from home, flexible hours and great pay — the exact benefits that many older adults want.

While it helps to have a knack for computers, it's possible to jump into computer programming from other careers.

For instance, at age 55, one Seattle woman decided to switch from the office administrative work she had been doing for years to computer programming. The website she used to learn coding was Codeacademy (free to $19.99 per month), which more than 1 million people worldwide age 55 and older have turned to.

Another option if you're interested in acquiring programming skills is Udacity (prices vary, though many courses are free).

4. Get an introduction to starting a business

While it's a tricky time right now to launch a business, it could be the ideal moment to work on a business plan and learn entreprenurial skills you will need if you decide to give it try. EdX offers a free Becoming an Entrepreneur course that you can complete in six weeks or less; it can teach you how to identify business opportunities, perform market research and plan your business logistics.

Also consider Daymond John's Tools for Success, as these online courses are free to anyone who registers on AARP’s website. Designed by the Shark Tank star and AARP brand ambassador, they can teach you how to find the best small-business opportunity, how to build your personal brand and how to make the most of your skills.

5. Fix your finances

With unemployment rising, many families are struggling to make ends meet. Coursera offers a free Personal & Family Financial Planning class from the University of Florida that can help you get a better grip on your finances. The course can teach you to manage your budget, handle your income taxes, build good credit and make investment decisions.

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