Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Career Paths / Training & Development

5 (Mostly) Free Ways You Can Advance Your Career This Weekend

Your favorite company just posted an opening for the position you’ve always wanted. You’re bursting with excitement as you read the job description—the position was basically created just for you! Except for the fact that there’s one requirement you don’t meet.

If this scenario sounds familiar, you’re certainly not alone. Missing certain “must-haves” in a position description is something every job seeker encounters. And, while there are plenty of strategies for applying to roles when you don’t meet the requirements, sometimes it might be more effective—and much more rewarding—to just make that “must-have” a part of your resume.

I know what you’re thinking: Learning a new skill takes forever. And, between all the meetings, assignments, and Netflix binge-watching, who has time to schedule in more commitments? But what I’m suggesting isn’t spending 20 hours a week attending one-on-one lessons.

No, I’m thinking of career-advancing classes and tutorials you can take this very weekend. While you’re unlikely to master something new over two days, it is possible to become familiar with a new skill and turn yourself into a (more) valuable job candidate.

1. Learn Graphic Design

Expertise in graphic design—whether it’s using Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, or another platform—is becoming a highly sought-after skill for many types of positions, from editorial roles to social media management gigs.

Thankfully, it’s not difficult to learn the basics of design on your own. Adobe Suite, the platform with the most-used design and photo-editing tools, offers a 30-day free trial for Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator. To get started, you can use any of Adobe’s detailed tutorials that highlight the essentials and explain the key techniques. And, if you’re willing to spend the money, Photoshop courses from online education platform Lynda are a favorite among the designer community.

2. Learn Public Speaking Skills

Just because public speaking doesn’t require technical expertise doesn’t mean it’s not as important as the more concrete skills on this list. Career expert Jo Miller quotes Deloitte partner Jennifer Knickerbocker, who says that “done well, public speaking is a way to quickly establish your credibility and communicate with a wide audience.” And she’s right. Whether you’re applying to jobs or working toward a promotion, how you speak greatly affects how people perceive you.

Concrete ways to improve your public speaking skills over a weekend? Knickerbocker recommends recording yourself speaking on random topics and watching the videotapes over and over. There’s no doubt that listening to your recorded voice is uncomfortable. But you’ll thank yourself the next time you step inside an interview room or give a presentation in front of your boss. You can get started with Coursera’s free “Introduction to Public Speaking” online class; it will help you with everything from crafting impromptu speeches to delivering persuasive talks.

3. Learn Basic Coding

This list would, of course, not be complete without including programming skills. Don’t let the discouraging myths about learning to code stop you from taking that first step. Although you most likely won’t be qualified to apply to entry-level software engineering positions after a weekend, you will be able to build a small business website, a Mad Libs game, and other real-life projects with tools like General Assembly’s Dash.

Besides Dash, Codecademy also offers free lessons to anyone hoping to learn programming languages ranging from HTML to CSS to Javascript to Python to PHP. Not only are the projects in these lessons short, but you’ll also feel pretty darn accomplished each time you successfully complete one. When the weekend ends, it’s possible that you’ll feel comfortable adding one—or more—programming languages into the “Skills” section of your resume.

4. Learn How to Become a Niche Publisher

Publishing in your area of expertise is a great skill to have, and it makes getting noticed by both recruiters and influential figures in your industry much easier. You can either publish on your personal website or blog, on LinkedIn Pulse, or on sites like Medium. For anyone whose personal website following is small, LinkedIn is probably the best choice because you already have an existing audience that will receive a notification for every post you make.

To decide what exactly to publish, career writer Adrian Hopkins suggests keeping an eye on business book lists on The New York Times and on The Wall Street Journal. When a book that’s relevant to your industry appears, read it and write a review. This is an effective way to engage with different authors’ arguments and will show people on your personal website or in your LinkedIn network that you’re serious about becoming a thought leader in this industry. The best part? You can definitely choose your area of expertise and write your initial post over a single weekend.

5. Learn How to Build a Website

Even if building websites isn’t part of the job you’re applying to, you’ve probably noticed that more and more companies are asking for a link to your personal website with your application materials. And that’s a good thing! Regardless of what industry you’re in, building a personal website is an effective way to showcase your existing skills. Use it to compile published work into a cohesive portfolio if you’re a writer, to create albums of your best pieces if you’re a designer or photographer, and to show off your programming expertise if you’re a engineer (assuming, of course, that you built the website from scratch).

For anyone without the knowledge of building websites from scratch, platforms like Squarespace provide gorgeous, minimalistic templates for you to customize.

Learning new skills take time. But, with so many resources available both online and offline, it’s very possible that, over a weekend, you can learn something that will make you a more well-rounded job seeker or employee. Besides, you’ll head into Sunday night feeling like you just had the most productive weekend ever.

Have other career-boosting skills that you’ve learned—or want to learn—over a weekend? Let me know on Twitter!

Photo of ladders in the clouds courtesy of Shutterstock.

A logo with "the muse" in white text.