One characteristic connecting many of history's greatest minds is a fanatical desire for continuous learning. Bill Gates is notorious for reading Time Magazine cover-to-cover so he can go on to his next activity having learned something new (even if what he learned didn't interest him specifically). Abraham Lincoln – argued by many to be one of the most prolific communicators ever – developed his rhetoric skills in part through impassioned study of William Shakespeare's work. Steve Jobs, George Washington, Ansel Adams, Ray Bradbury, Stanley Kubrick and legions of other American icons also share a common passion for independent skills development outside the traditional classroom setting.
And in the digital age when so many tools exist to help the workforce develop and refine those skills that get jobs, we could all take a lesson from the above-mentioned figures and take some time to educate ourselves.
One excellent resource is SkilledUp, an education startup founded by Massachusetts Institute of Technology alumnus Nick Gidwani that synthesizes thousands of digital learning tools into one easily navigable platform. While SkilledUp is rather broad, for this article Gidwani helped source some of the best resources for building specific skills that are getting professionals hired in 2013.
Let's take a closer look.
1. To learn design, frontend development and UX: Team Treehouse. In an article for CareerBuilder, Susan Ricker writes that design and user experience specialists (professionals responsible for the conceptualization, design, layout and formatting of corporate identity materials) have the most in-demand skills in the creative industry today.
When it comes to developing these skills, Gidwani suggests patronizing Team Treehouse (teamtreehouse.com) – a thorough resource that enables professionals of any experience to learn both graphic design through tools like Adobe Photoshop, in addition to HTML, CSS and Ruby on Rails code. Combining these skills is incredibly powerful as professionals may then manage a firm's aesthetics while also enabling end users to engage in interactive content and modules. "They are one of few training libraries that does everything well," Gidwani says. "Very high production quality, excellent content and support, a great value and everything they do is focused on getting employable skills. The future of online education."
2. To learn backend coding: Code School. According to the Treehouse blog, if frontend development determines what you see when you're buying concert tickets, backend development pertains to where and how your personal information is stored and secured through databases and servers you don't see. It's an incredibly marketable skill needed by virtually every firm. Gidwani suggests those interested in backend technologies patronize Code School (www.codeschool.com) – a tech-skills learning platform that enables users to develop backend coding proficiency by getting their hands dirty rather than studying theory.
3. To learn search engine optimization: Distilled.net. According to a recent study by the search engine optimization (SEO) tech firm Conductor, there's been a 112 percent year over year increase in the demand for SEO professionals who can develop innovative digital strategies that facilitate meaningful online exposure for a brand.
If this field strikes your fancy, Gidwani suggests one of the best resources for upping your SEO employability is Distilled.net – an outlet providing specifically tailored SEO services to help clients generate tangible business value. "The instructors are leaders in their field," he says. "And the amount and quality of content you get is extraordinary. Most importantly, SEO changes constantly and Distilled takes efforts to keep the content fresh. It's by far the best value of any SEO training we've seen."
4. To learn content marketing: Copyblogger. The folks at Google are well aware of sordid digital marketing practices and have made it a salient priority to boost content that's useful, relevant and high quality.
Consequently, it's no surprise that marketing and public relations professionals are ditching traditional mass marketing strategies for hyper-targeted content that builds rapport and provides value for a target group of consumers. If you fancy yourself a writer, frequenting Copyblogger.com is an excellent way to learn the skills that position professionals as experts in the field. "Excellent, high-quality content is where online marketing has been moving," Gidwani says. "This is a critical skill and Copyblogger has the experts and the content. It's also extremely easy to use and take advantage of."
5. To learn email/affiliate marketing and overall online entrepreneurship: Fizzle.co. There are numerous tools that go into launching and maintaining an online business including influencer connection, email/affiliate marketing, content development and of course, sales.
Fizzle.co has put all the resources for interested users to learn and master these concepts with truly next-level support within its platform. "With weekly office hours with the founders to ask questions and an active discussion forum that offers real and meaningful help, Fizzle elevates far above many of their competitors," Gidwani says.
Bonus: Learning people skills (human management, public speaking, relationship building). According to Gidwani, while people skills have immense value in the business world, they are more likely to result in a promotion/upward mobility rather than increase your odds for getting a job in the first place.
However, to develop these skills, the Dale Carnegie leadership courses are industry standard when it comes to refining great leadership tendencies.
Ben Weiss is the digital marketing strategist for Infusive Solutions – an NYC-based IT staffing firm in the Microsoft Partner Network that specializes in the placement of .NET, SharePoint and SQL Server developers as well as Windows Systems Engineers, DBAs and help desk support professionals in verticals such as legal, finance, fashion and media. Connect with him on Twitter: @InfusiveInc or at Facebook.com/InfusiveInc.