8 min read

Whenever your plans have to change for reasons outside your control it’s obviously frustrating.  However, if you find yourself with some unexpected free time, there are ways to make this into a win for your career development.  

You can choose to focus in on an existing strength and really master it, or take a chance and go for something completely new.  If you already have a specific career path in mind, it makes sense to choose strategically and work on something which is on employers’ wishlists. Job adverts similar to your future goals are an excellent source of inspiration as they list what’s genuinely in demand, or try Prospects job profiles which include a section on skills required.  

For those more open-minded about career options, there are plenty of skill areas that are almost universally welcomed by employers.  Anything that enhances your communication, teamwork, organisation or IT skills will prove useful in any workplace.  The best news is that there are plenty of learning resources you can access for free that can really boost your profile.


Online courses

To give a flavour of the kind of learning you can access online here are some examples to get you started:

Google Digital Garage:  At this link you can discover a range of free digital skills training via an online learning platform. This platform provides individuals with a tailored training plan.

Microsoft Learning:  Here you can gain a wide range of Microsoft technical skills and be rewarded with role-based certifications.

iDEAIf you want to get really technical you can take a course in coding and gain certification too on this site.

Open University:  You have probably heard of the Open University (OU) but as well as paid for courses they offer an extensive range of free online courses covering virtually every subject you can possibly think of.  You can also set up a personal learning profile to keep track of what you have achieved.

Facing Facts: This site offers online courses that focus on hate crime.  The Facing all the Facts project is funded by the European Union Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme and has been included to demonstrate the diverse range of online courses available.

The Skills Toolkit - Via the National Careers Service website you can access a range of free courses to help you learn both general and more specialised skills in areas such as digital marketing, business and finance, coding and personal growth. 


What are MOOCs?  

MOOC stands for 'massive open online course'. Originating in the US, MOOCs are now widely available, typically free, easily accessible and completely online courses. They offer you the opportunity to study with a range of providers, including top universities around the world. Whilst they don't always lead to a formal qualification, they do allow you to gain knowledge in a wide range of areas. You might use a MOOC to develop career skills, prepare for further education, or to explore a new interest. One of the advantages of taking part in a MOOC is the large community of learners you are likely to be a part of, meaning that there will be support available. This will also include educators delivering the courses themselves. 


In summary, MOOCs are free courses online that can accommodate large numbers of learners. Here are examples of some providers: 

FutureLearn: This site offers courses in a wide range of subjects.  A lot of the content has been developed by universities and is good to build professional skills, connect with experts and for personal interest and development. 

Coursera: This site collaborates with over 200 universities and companies to offer a range of courses that aim to develop your skills, enhance your employability or gain a specific qualification. It's great for business topics, for example, PwC's introduction to data analysis and presentation skills.  

edX: An American-based site, but hosting a wide range of courses from computer science to business management and from engineering to humanities. edX is one of the major providers of MOOCs offering over 2500 courses and collaborating with a wide range of international universities and organisations. 

Udacity: Specifically focused on the skills required by major technology companies, Udacity offers industry-based programmes developed by names such as Google and IBM. Whilst free access is limited, if you are looking to enhance your skills in specialist areas such as programming and development, artificial intelligence, cloud computing or data science, there are a range of opportunities available.


Online Language Learning 

Language skills are invaluable in any profession and are even essential for some. Speaking an additional or multiple languages can demonstrate to employers that you are a good communicator and problem solver. It also shows that you are culturally aware. As we continually evolve our digital connection to the world, it has never been easier to 'test the waters' when it comes to learning the basics of a new language. Whether you are a complete beginner or someone who is looking to brush up their current language knowledge, there is a great range of free online courses available to develop your skills . A few popular options to start include:


Duolingo: Game-based approach to learning more than 30 languages. Unlock new areas as your skills improve. You can start as a beginner or if you're a little more advanced, take a test to skip the basics.

Memrise: This app uses fun, proven memory techniques that are based on real-life language. Native speakers are used in thousands of video clips to ensure a more authentic experience of language learning.

Busuu: Become part of a social community and learn through interacting with international native speakers to support your speaking and writing. The course offers a variety of ways to teach and test your learning from teaching units, set exercises and games. A limited free trial is offered to new members.

OpenLearn Language Courses: Host of free language courses offered by the Open University. Range of course levels and lengths available. Similar language learning opportunities can also be found via FutureLearn and Alison. 


What next?

Whether your priority right now is learning to boost your career skills or simply following your interests, if you want to think more about where those skills and interests can take you there are lots of resources to help you explore different options on our web pages or you could try a quick quiz to kick start your journey to that perfect career

Alternatively, contact the Careers and Employability Service via email: careers@port.ac.uk if you want to talk things through with an adviser.