Author Topic: Career skills you can teach yourself?  (Read 17278 times)

PhotoBrandon

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Career skills you can teach yourself?
« on: April 05, 2014, 04:43:56 AM »
I'm 29, currently working a low paying ($27k) customer service job with a lot of downtime (3-5 hours a night), really have no experience outside of customer service/retail/admin, and hoping for some advice on how to move past this point in my life.

I don't know if the traditional education route would be financially feasable, as I married into a great deal of student loans ($60k remaining at 5.5-6.65% interest, putting most of my take home pay towards these already) and putting more loans on top of that just seems like a situation we could never overcome.  But I'm open to suggestions anyways.

What I'm really looking for are some ideas on how I might be able to best utilize the downtime I have at work to transition into a proper career.  The most obvious would be coding or web design of some kind, both of which I've dabbled with a bit in the past and found to be overwhelming.  I might be willing to give codeacedmy and other resources a go and trying again though.  Aside from that, I'm at a loss.  Thus this post.

I welcome any thoughts or suggestions.  Thank you!

Indio

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Re: Career skills you can teach yourself?
« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2014, 06:22:30 AM »
Have you tried code academy? Also online schools/education are much cheaper than traditional college learning. I take classes at coursera for fun and I like learning new things, but you can also get certificates of completion for a small fee.

ragesinggoddess

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Re: Career skills you can teach yourself?
« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2014, 06:31:12 AM »
One option is to choose a new career that includes paid training--like becoming an actuary or a teacher in a high-need area. Or try a trade! They pay you to learn during the internship phase, even if it's not quite as much as you're making now, you'd still be greatly increasing your future earning potential. 

CarDude

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Re: Career skills you can teach yourself?
« Reply #3 on: April 06, 2014, 08:29:17 AM »
A pal of mine taught himself Spanish from scratch while going through grad school to become an elementary school teacher. Learned it well enough to pass the proficiency test and get a job as a bilingual teacher before he finished student teaching! So that's always an option, especially since it's not too easy at the moment to find a teaching job in most parts of the country these days.

innerscorecard

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Re: Career skills you can teach yourself?
« Reply #4 on: April 06, 2014, 09:32:23 AM »
Computer science related skills seem to have the highest payoff by far for an ambitious person today. They are in demand for paid employment and they are also the building blocks of countless business ideas that don't take a lot of capital to start and are very scale-able - both "lifestyle" businesses and making tons of money.

I think if we expand the search to "soft" skills then entrepreneurship in general is also quite useful. Buy the same type of in-demand product (iPhone, etc.) and flip it over and over again on some public marketplace. You'll learn sales skills and how to operate a business. These skills seem to scale quite well too.

There are also the trades, but I don't quite know how a given person breaks into them without experience or connections.

Then there are financial/investing skills (valuing companies, modeling, reading financial statements), with which a person who really has a love for the capital markets and investing can network their way into the industry after having demonstrated their value and proved themselves in some way (blogging, investment ideas, etc.). This is probably only applicable to 0.01% of the population. One of those guys was Jacob at Early Retirement Extreme, but I know of others...

SwordGuy

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Re: Career skills you can teach yourself?
« Reply #5 on: April 06, 2014, 12:18:13 PM »
Damn near everyone who starts learning to program finds it overwhelming at first.  By "damn near everyone", I mean 99.9999999%.

That is because, in order to learn to program well, you have to learn to think in a way that is not commonly learned while learning regular life skills.  That process is, frankly, painful.

But after you learn it, you'll look back and ask yourself, "Why was it that hard? It's obvious!"

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

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Re: Career skills you can teach yourself?
« Reply #6 on: April 06, 2014, 01:02:37 PM »
I have no experience in this area, but FYI, you can teach yourself to be an actuary and then take the test.

mulescent

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Re: Career skills you can teach yourself?
« Reply #7 on: April 06, 2014, 01:05:20 PM »
I second the suggestions about coding.  There is a steep learning curve, but once you are launched picking up new languages is easy. 

I would also add applied math, especially statistics, to the list.  People who can analyze data are in high demand, and math is easy to learn from Khan Academy/Coursera/books.

BlueHouse

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Re: Career skills you can teach yourself?
« Reply #8 on: April 08, 2014, 04:03:13 AM »
You mention that you are in customer service, but what industry?  CustSvc exists in every industry, so it should be easy to translate what you do now into doing something similar in an industry that interests you and that has potential for growth and options.  For instance, if you're in retail now, that environment isn't conducive to sitting at a computer and taking online courses, so start by finding a customer service job that will afford you some down time to learn while you're on the job.  Once you can fit in an hour or more per day, then more opens up.
Here's an option:  program planning and scheduling. Low barrier to entry. No degree needed unless the company only hires grads. You can teach yourself well enough to get a job in a few weeks. You can get good in a year. You can be great (with a lot of extra study on your time) in a few years by learning from the vast experience that so many others are willing to share.  In my area, the pay works like this:  1st job:  40-75k; 2nd job with 1 yr experience: 100-115k.  But then it kind of stagnates and doesn't get much higher unless you add something else to the mix (such as unusually strong communication or organization skills)
If interested, you can pm me and I'll lay out the plan for you.  I did this for a friend in a similar position a few years ago. He had to move, but in 6 weeks he went from 0 to 75k and in 13 months he jumped to 110k+5 weeks vacation.  This requires hard work and a spark from you, but it sounds like you have that or you wouldn't be on this board.

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Career skills you can teach yourself?
« Reply #9 on: April 08, 2014, 06:25:45 AM »
I thought about coding myself, but I don't think I can stand sitting at a desk long enough.

$27K is quite low for full-time sales/customer service. If you're good at it, you should be able to find much higher paying positions, especially if you're willing to accept the instability of commission.

I pull down almost $20K working 14 hours a week. Granted, I've been in my field 8 years, so I've got some established clients, but not very many.

I prefer more active, hands-on work, so I'd vote for trades. Plumbing, electrical, or welding are higher paying, but carpentry is the easiest to parlay into full-scale remodeling. And the details you learn in carpentry make it that much easier to learn the other trades.

OldDogNewTrick

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Re: Career skills you can teach yourself?
« Reply #10 on: April 08, 2014, 06:56:59 AM »
My college drop out son pulls in 65k a year doing coding, (2-3 years experience). He is completely self taught. My sister, also self taught .net developer, has her own work at home company. These solutions are for people good at math.

Check out Mike Rowe's website.....he focuses on good paying,skilled jobs that require no college degree. Many of them require a sort of apprenticeship while learning. Math skills not necessary, but most of them are labor intensive.

Currently in retail? Can you sell? You can make more than all the above if you have the skills. Start with a Dale Carnegie course. No college required. Or math. But, like athletics, you can either do it or you can't. Find out.


RetireAbroadAt35

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Re: Career skills you can teach yourself?
« Reply #11 on: April 08, 2014, 07:55:29 AM »
Rather than make more money, you could move somewhere with a lower cost of living.  You could do that call center job from Mexico and probably increase your savings rate quite a bit. 

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/520/no-place-like-home?act=2

(joking, kinda)

What are your hobbies / interests / skills? 

the fixer

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Re: Career skills you can teach yourself?
« Reply #12 on: April 08, 2014, 08:04:32 AM »
I was thinking recently how the most important life skill you can learn is to be self-driven. If you need a supervisor around to tell you what to do all the time or bail you out when you run into trouble, that person hovering over you will always cost money that your employer can't pay to you directly. In retail, the equivalent would be managing the whole store; why can't you do that? The store's manager is the one being paid that extra money you want to make because you need him/her to keep everything running for you. Learn to run it yourself: budgeting, hiring & managing employees, marketing, and sales metrics.

If managing people is overwhelming there are freelance gigs in other fields, such as coding or some trades, that can work well, but many of the principles are the same just in different proportions.

Coding is not a panacea by the way; if you don't have a good grasp of the above skills you'll never be able to work on your own, and you won't be able to command the high 6-figure salaries you hear about.

PhotoBrandon

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Re: Career skills you can teach yourself?
« Reply #13 on: April 10, 2014, 05:40:58 AM »
Thank you for the responses everyone, they are very appreciated!

To clarify, my rather vague "customer service" position is working the overnight shift at a hotel.  When I started here everyone I interviewed with had started from the bottom and worked their way up, which I found promising.  Since I was hired the company restructured and promotions from within became the exception rather than the norm, and I've been passed over enough that I'm ready to move on.  The advantage of the job, as mentioned before, is that it does afford me at least 3 hours of downtime a night in which I could learn a new job skill or two to transition my way out of here.

Really this is something I should have done years ago, just got too comfortable with the easy job that paid well enough to get by.  Anyways, on to the responses!

BlueHouse, I am most interested in your response, expect a PM momentarily!  But because I like responses, let me go through the rest.

Coding: 
I have now completed 7 lessons on Codeacademy.com, have found them to be rather straightforward and well laid out.  I'm a bit more confident this is an area I could do well in given time, practice, and the right learning resources. 

In my research I've read that the biggest area codeacademy is lacking is in theory.  I know there are some good free intro to computer science classes floating around out there (including one from Standford University) for the basics, does anyone have any further recommendations for resources?  I imagine that if I want to turn this into a viable job skill, I need to know not just how to do it, but the why as well.  I would also appreciate any other books or other learning resources to supplement codeacademy.

Also, anyone have any estimates on a timeline from self-studies to being reasonably able to enter the field?  I can rather comfortably commit 10 hours a week to this just in downtime at work, and it wouldn't be a huge stretch to double that.  Also curious on the logistics of how to transition from self-study to landing a job, and what type of job that might be.

Actuary
This is also an interesting idea, and one I never would have even considered given I had no awareness of its existence.  I have a good head for numbers and Statistics might have been my favorite math class I ever took.  I think coding might be a safer field to pursue, but not counting this one out either.  If anyone has gotten a job as a self-taught Actuary, I'd love to hear about it! 

Trades
This is something I looked into a few months ago.  Talked to someone at the local plumbers union and someone at Seattle City Light about apprenticeships.  There is a bit of a wait list in either case, which I could live with.  However, I'm really not very good with my hands.  I love the idea of getting paid to learn something, and if I decided to go this way I think I could be ok at it with enough time and tenacity on my part, but I'm not sure its something I could ever really excel in.

Sales
A few people mentioned sales positions.  I have some aptitude here and did well when I worked retail, but I also find it very stressful.  I'd do it over what I'm doing now, but I like any of the above options much better.


Thanks again all!  I love the community here =)

LibrarIan

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Re: Career skills you can teach yourself?
« Reply #14 on: April 10, 2014, 06:39:05 AM »
I also vote for coding, but I have another suggestion as well. Computer certifications can help you land jobs doing work in IT that aren't specifically coding related. For example, at the library I used to work at the woman who was the systems technician wasn't formally educated in IT work, but she had a handful of certifications she gained after studying up on her own. I don't remember all of them, but I know she at least had the A+ cert and a number of various Microsoft certs. For some areas of IT, these look good on resumes and could get your foot in the door. Your local library may carry study guides on these certification exam (mine has a guide on the CompTIA A+ certification for example).
« Last Edit: July 16, 2014, 06:57:34 AM by LibrarIan »

Rebecca Stapler

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Re: Career skills you can teach yourself?
« Reply #15 on: April 10, 2014, 07:42:10 AM »
If you can take to coding, then I think that is the way to go! My husband had a similar situation in his career, and while his colleagues would watch movies during their downtime at work, he tinkered away at learning Excel, then Visual Basic, and then moved on to Python. He devoured the books that explain these particular areas, but also used some of the free online MIT classes.

He hadn't really intended to switch careers or teach himself how to code. He approached it from a problem-solving standpoint: He saw X problem and wanted to code a solution, so he used whatever language he was working with to devise a solution. That taught him a lot, and he moved from project to project (which also built a portfolio). When he changed to a job that had less downtime, but a lot of rote tasks, he then devised programs to do the tasks for him -- and had more downtime at work! ;)

It took him 3 years of this, probably 10 hours a week, to land a coveted programming job as a web developer for a major website. But I think you could land an entry level job more quickly than that.

At this point, 5 years out, he's ready to change jobs again and the salary range is $100-$140k for his skill set (he is also an attorney, so I think that bumps up his salary possibilities); he could charge $100-$150/hr as a freelancer to code within his specific skillset, if he wanted to go that route. 

Gerard

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Re: Career skills you can teach yourself?
« Reply #16 on: April 10, 2014, 08:08:02 AM »
You mention a concern that your online stuff won't give you any/enough theoretical background. I'm in a different field, but if I was trying to help somebody get up to speed on theory on their own, I'd suggest they find and read the course outlines for theoretical courses at a few universities (often available online), get the textbook (a used one, or even a previous edition, will do), and read it. And here's the important part: do every single exercise in every chapter (you may remember from your stats course that people who didn't do the exercises were fine for a week or so, then fell behind). That's what I did when I switched disciplines between my MA and my PhD. Read textbooks, I mean, not fell behind!

OldDogNewTrick

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Re: Career skills you can teach yourself?
« Reply #17 on: April 10, 2014, 08:32:45 AM »
https://github.com/

Start coding personal projects and let everyone take a look. Kinda like posting on these boards.

You learn by doing in coding.

The entry tests your future employers will give you are predicated on how much code you can deliver without using Google. :-)

jpo

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Re: Career skills you can teach yourself?
« Reply #18 on: April 10, 2014, 08:49:42 AM »
In my research I've read that the biggest area codeacademy is lacking is in theory.  I know there are some good free intro to computer science classes floating around out there (including one from Standford University) for the basics, does anyone have any further recommendations for resources?
I think what you might be looking for is a course in Discrete Math. I had a few semesters of that during my CS coursework.

There's also a free Linux course soon.

Keep in mind that there are many positions in IT that pay well that are not coding:
  • Business Analyst
  • Database Administrator
  • System Administrator
  • Build engineer
  • Quality Assurance
  • Network Admin
  • etc.

phred

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Re: Career skills you can teach yourself?
« Reply #19 on: April 10, 2014, 12:41:20 PM »
I have no experience in this area, but FYI, you can teach yourself to be an actuary and then take the test.
There are five or six exams to pass before becoming a full-fledged actuary.  The first one is on probability with a bit about insurance and risk management.  The second is on financial mathematics; the third is on financial economics. After you pass the first two exams you may qualify to be a summer intern.  However, you will need to show you've had courses in these areas.

warfreak2

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Re: Career skills you can teach yourself?
« Reply #20 on: April 10, 2014, 12:50:08 PM »
Actuary
This is also an interesting idea, and one I never would have even considered given I had no awareness of its existence.  I have a good head for numbers and Statistics might have been my favorite math class I ever took.  I think coding might be a safer field to pursue, but not counting this one out either.  If anyone has gotten a job as a self-taught Actuary, I'd love to hear about it!
This isn't an either/or decision between coding and doing maths/statistics. Learn languages like R and SQL, or do a course to learn some commercial data analysis software (e.g. SAS). Starting salaries in Big Data are higher than for regular code-monkey jobs, because it requires both coding and maths/statistics skills.

phred

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Re: Career skills you can teach yourself?
« Reply #21 on: April 10, 2014, 12:53:03 PM »



Coding: 
I have now completed 7 lessons on Codeacademy.com, have found them to be rather straightforward and well laid out.  I'm a bit more confident this is an area I could do well in given time, practice, and the right learning resources. 

In my research I've read that the biggest area codeacademy is lacking is in theory.  I know there are some good free intro to computer science classes floating around out there (including one from Standford University) for the basics, does anyone have any further recommendations for resources?  I imagine that if I want to turn this into a viable job skill, I need to know not just how to do it, but the why as well.  I would also appreciate any other books or other learning resources to supplement codeacademy.



I have finished Code Academy for HTML-CSS, Javascript and PHP.  I enjoyed them immensely, but these are at the 101 level.  You have much further to go.  My next move, after I finish several library books, is Udemy.com
As for theory, go to any university website and look up the course requirements for 'computer science'.  While coding is relatively easy, you will need to understand the field you are in to code well.  For example, if coding in a bank you need to understand money and banking and accounting, if coding in retailing it will help to understand logistics, business law, marketing and bookkeeping through trial balance. 

MissPeach

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Re: Career skills you can teach yourself?
« Reply #22 on: April 10, 2014, 01:25:48 PM »
I had done that job a long time ago. I got offers from a few admin jobs where they wanted someone to spend some time in something else too. One was marking research and the other was bookkeeping. I took the bookkeeping and was able to work up to a staff accountant before finishing my degree. The only issue is a degree will usually be necessary for manager and above. Many places want a masters and/or CPA by that point - especially public companies.

I also had an offer in reservations coming from front desk which would have been a good way to get into sales. I know several people in sales. Sales sucks the first year as you cold call leads and build up your skills but most people will take a chance on you to prove yourself with very little training. Real estate can be a good living in many areas after a few years building your skills up. Most people I know who stayed in sales are at $60k+ but those I know who really put effort into it can make $100k.

Fireman

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Re: Career skills you can teach yourself?
« Reply #23 on: April 10, 2014, 01:28:06 PM »
Larger fire departments will hire persons with no experience in fire/rescue and put them through a 3-6 month paid academy.  In fact, while having an advanced life support certification like Paramedic is very helpful, departments actually like hiring those with no knowledge of the service because they then don't have to 'unteach' bad habits.

Basic qualifications include:

- doing well on a general knowledge and psychological test
- being in decent physical shape and being able to pass a physical agility test
- having a (relatively) clean background and being able to pass a polygraph
- being willing to work 24 hour shifts
- being able to perform when hungry, tired, hot, cold, wet, stressed, in the dark, in a confined space, or at the top of a 100 foot ladder
- being able to see any and every substance that can come out of a human and keep doing your job
- enjoy working with people and helping others

If you can do all of that, it is very rewarding and, quite frankly, the best job in the world.

Scandium

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Re: Career skills you can teach yourself?
« Reply #24 on: April 10, 2014, 02:30:41 PM »
I just started this
https://www.coursera.org/course/interactivepython
$0, or 50 bucks if you want a silly certificate.

Killing what little free time I had, but only about ~4-5 hours/week. Seems pretty thorough so far, more so than codeacademy at least.

I think it's on the microsoft website; there are lots of free tutorials for VB as well, and possibly C#? Some exercises you go thorough and you can use a free version of Visual studio to learn it.   

jexy103

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Re: Career skills you can teach yourself?
« Reply #25 on: April 10, 2014, 04:00:12 PM »
Also look into treehouse.com for IT and other classes. I heard about it on a forum, and while I have never used it, a friend I recommended it to has used it for several classes and really enjoys it. I think it's a low monthly fee ($25 or so), and you can take as many classes as you want during that month.

Mortgage Free Mike

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Re: Career skills you can teach yourself?
« Reply #26 on: April 10, 2014, 04:11:30 PM »
I will also suggest Coursera. The classes are free and maybe you'll find something you're passionate about.

You are too young to feel stuck. I am your age as well. Think about something you might find some enjoyment in doing and if that means going to a community college, do it.

It's unfortunate you married into some debt, but your live and passions have value. Go for them.


FrenchyMustache

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Re: Career skills you can teach yourself?
« Reply #28 on: July 16, 2014, 03:37:18 AM »
thanks you so much gringo,
Fav'd lamost everything.

For the coding part, if while learning you have some issues either with the language or with the conception , i can sure help.
I also have a load of exercices from french schools that i can translate and share with ya'.

YoungInvestor

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Re: Career skills you can teach yourself?
« Reply #29 on: July 16, 2014, 05:34:33 AM »
I have no experience in this area, but FYI, you can teach yourself to be an actuary and then take the test.

Becoming an actuary has a multitude of tests involved, anywhere between 9-11 depending on your actual specialization and timing (the exam process changes over time). It takes quite a few years to pass them all. The fact that they generally have pass rates hovering around 40-50% doesn't help either.

While that was not unheard of years ago, getting a job as an actuary without a somewhat relevant (quantitative) college education would be practically impossible nowadays. The job market has become much tighter, and the days of becoming an actuary with one professional exam passed and an english degree are over.

Talking about these exams, with no quantitative degree, learning the material for the first three of them could take the OP a full year. And with no quantitative degree, that would be the minimum an hiring manager would see in an interview.

Being an actuary is not a career you can just jump into anymore.

PloddingInsight

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Re: Career skills you can teach yourself?
« Reply #30 on: July 16, 2014, 05:45:16 AM »
Actuary here.

I just want to speak a word of caution.  For most people, trying to become a self-taught actuary is a terrible idea.  You might be the exception, but I doubt it.  You're talking about taking on something similar in effort and complexity to a phd in mathematics.  It routinely takes very smart individuals a decade or more to complete the exams.  Setting aside the question of getting your foot in the door with an internship, you need to ask yourself whether the entire actuarial exam structure is something you want to take on.  If you were the smartest kid in the class in grade school, AND you have a high tolerance for boring insurance BS, you might be a good candidate for this career.