By Shane Schick
The concept of ‘making the most of every moment’ has never been more resonant than it has in 2020.
Through months of lockdown (and in some cases layoffs), some people have been baking bread, mastering musical instruments, or finally wading through Proust’s seven-volume novel.
Others have been trying to figure out the best way to manage a schedule that includes working full-time alongside parenting, homeschooling, and serving as de facto summer camp counsellor.
Whether your days have been empty or jam-packed, there has been a sense in which much of the world has been put on hold amid the fight against COVID-19. As the economy gradually re-opens, there will be more people figuring out how best to find work, or perhaps take the next step in their career.
In some cases, this will stretch time management skills to the limit.
Investing in your education has always involved making a commitment, but you only tend to follow through on those commitments when you can realistically evaluate how much time you’re willing to spend learning.
Fortunately, what were once fairly rigid educational models that required four years or more have given way to an array of options suitable to a variety of lifestyles.
The risk is assuming that some skillsets are off-limits because you don’t have enough hours in the day or week. Instead, you need to think about the goals your educational commitment will ultimately serve, and figuring out what kind of depth of learning you can achieve based on the duration of a course.
While this will vary widely depending on what you want to study, here are some examples that show the diversity of opportunities across several different time spans.
Two Weeks Or Less
Sometimes you just need the fundamentals of a subject. The rise of digital technologies, for example, has required people from all kinds of backgrounds to use tools that put them on a better footing with their colleagues in IT.
Schools like Juno College have responded with courses like Accelerated Web Development, a two-week course that compresses an eight-week program. You’ll learn how to build a website and make it work across any device and screen size. Add a design thinking course and learn new frameworks and techniques to ensure your website or mobile app is as user friendly as possible.
While technology is filled with jargon, understanding how to ‘speak finance’ is becoming just as important in many fields. This doesn’t mean you have to become a CPA, necessarily. You can take a course like Accounting and Finance Fundamentals in as little as two days from the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University.
There are also many more horizontal skillsets you can develop or improve during an equally short span. Think of all the industries and jobs that put a premium on helping employees pursue a particular vision. UBC Saunders School of Business can help you with that in its two-day Leveraging Culture To Drive Strategy course.
If 48 hours still feels too long, there are other options. Most of us, at some point, will be asked to lead a lunch n’ learn or speak in front of a group, and most of us fear it. Dale Carnegie can help you ‘Present Complex Information’ in a single day.
Studying over the course of a month will give you a little more time to practice or work on assignments between classes and still juggle other responsibilities. It’s a good window in which to look at courses that build upon existing skills or give you enough exposure to new subjects that you’ll want to learn more.
A good example is Coursera’s ‘Introduction to Data Analysis Using Excel,’ which uses the popular spreadsheet application as a jumping-off point for a wider range of uses.
If you work in marketing or seek a career there, four weeks is all it takes to complete UBC’s Copywriting: Introduction, which promises a full portfolio to show off by the time you’re done.
Even subjects that might seem daunting — such as the fight against hackers and malware — can be approached in a single month. Humber College, for instance, offers its Fundamentals of CyberSecurity.
For some careers, just understanding the use of a specific tool or application will be critical. Schools like OCAD can do this in four weeks with its Introduction To Adobe Photoshop.
If you have two months, you’re giving yourself more time to try, fail, and try again, which is the only formula that leads to successful learning in pretty much any subject.
One area that might not immediately come to mind is product management, but if you have an interest in prototyping, A/B testing and bringing an idea to life, Product School has an eight-week Product Management course to consider.
Another way to use this length of time is to educate yourself on frameworks or approaches to tackle a wide range of problems. George Brown runs an eight-week Introduction to Quality and Productivity Methodology that touches on “lean manufacturing” principles, work-group effectiveness and more.
Perhaps even more in-demand given recent events has been skills to help foster a culture that treats all people equally and fairly. Centennial College offers a part-time eight-week program to earn a Leadership and Inclusion certificate that reflects a mastery of best practices in championing diversity.
Two months is also enough time to start learning a new language and seeing some real progress. Hansa Language Centre offers its French Level 1 for that duration, as well as its Level 2 course.
No one has to tell you to roll up your sleeves at this point. You’ve decided you want to start tackling more intensive, complex subject matter, and three months will give you a lot to build upon.
The same amount of time can help you become someone who not only talks about the promise of artificial intelligence but actually helps deliver on it. WeCloudData’s 12-week Applied Machine Learning includes lessons that explore how algorithms and data models can work across eight different industries.
Just as important as understanding technology is how it will fit into all the other things that need to get done in an organization. For that, you can take the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies’ Foundations of Project Management, which gives you what you need to plan, meet deadlines and manage various stakeholders’ needs.
Then again, maybe you don’t want to work for someone else. While becoming an entrepreneur can seem like a mammoth undertaking, you could improve your odds of success with courses like New Venture Startup, offered by Ryerson University’s Raymond G. Chang School of Continuing Education.
Of course, these are far from the only options in terms of time commitment. There are still plenty of courses that span as little as a few days, seven weeks or more than three years.
The point is to do a thorough self-assessment before you start a course, thinking about what level of effort you can put into your education and looking for outcomes from your studies that will keep you motivated.
The odds are that, once you begin investing in your professional development, you’ll see a payoff in terms of new connections with students and instructors, brighter career prospects, and greater personal fulfillment. It’s really only a matter of time.
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