How to Be Productive and Build Skills at Home

Image of a young woman reading a textbook on a bed

First of all, it’s important to know that employers are always looking for candidates that have demonstrated resilience even in the face of adversity. The past few weeks have definitely tested all of us, but our resilience throughout these unprecedented times is what will ultimately allow us to carry on, innovate, and become stronger. Weeks, months, and potentially years from now, you’ll probably get asked the question, “how did you spend your time during the COVID-19 pandemic?” 

While maintaining physical and mental health are priority, it’s possible that you have some extra time on your hands. During this moment of uncertainty, it can help to focus and take action on what is within your control. Below are some tips and suggestions for how you can leverage this time at home to become more career ready.

Schedule in Your Career Development

You may have some structure naturally built into your days if you have synchronous online classes, but it’s probable that you have a lot of time that is unstructured. Organizational researchers recommend breaking up your day into chunks, dedicating specific time periods for activities such as “academic work”, “working out”, “connecting with friends”, “showering and getting ready for the day”, and even “relaxing”. We recommend scheduling in time to focus on your career development. Whether you’re just getting started with career exploration, are in an active internship or job search, or deciding between a few paths, there are plenty of things you can do from your house to help you make progress in your personal journey. Check out our online resources for ideas, or schedule an appointment with a coach to discuss your next steps.

Know When It’s Time to Take a Break

As mentioned above, your first priority right now should be your physical and mental health. Pay attention to your body and mind, and take a break from productivity when you need one. We know that thinking about the future–whether that be this summer or your post-graduation plans–can be stressful. Also, keep in mind that not all breaks are created equal. For example, taking a break from revising your resume to scroll through social media may heighten your anxiety rather than renew your focus. Take note of activities that bring you joy and calm you down. Perhaps taking a walk outside, playing with your pet, or cooking a meal works for you. Whatever it is, be sure to make time in your day to take care of yourself.

Maximize Your Free Time and Build Skills Employers are Seeking

In addition to resilience, did you know that there are eight key competencies that all employers are seeking? You can read about them here.  If you’ve discovered that you have extra time on your hands, and you want to make progress on your career readiness, consider spending that extra time on skill development. If you have a general idea of the type of career you’d like to have someday, read through job descriptions for entry-level jobs to get a sense of the skills that are required in roles of interest. For example, if you’re interested in becoming a social media manager, you most likely will need to know how to navigate Google Analytics. And, guess what? Google offers free courses to learn how to use their measurement tools. There is an overwhelming number of free tools and resources available to you that you can access from home. Spending time building your skill set now will greatly benefit you down the road, and will give you something awesome to say to someone when they ask about what you did during COVID-19. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Learn or brush up on your foreign language skills: Duolingo is a free website and app that gamifies foreign language learning
  • Teach yourself computer programming: Khan Academy offers free online courses to get you started with computer programming: Intro to HTML; Intro to Javascript; Intro to SQL
  • Master Excel by utilizing Microsoft’s free training guides
  • Take a course on digital marketing tools: Coursera offers this free course and specifically notes that you will gain skills in pricing strategies, marketing mix, and digital product strategies by participating

Organize a mutual aid group to help your neighbors and build leadership skills: Read tips on how to start one here.

—By Julianne Smith,
Associate Director, Career Education

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