Online courses could be key to a pay rise or promotion

Written by Pip Harry for Real Insurance.

Is the rising cost of living a concern? According to The Real Concerns Index 2022 we see that money and finances are still one of the top three concerns for us. Most Australians are now feeling the pressure of keeping up with the cost of living, especially because the last two or more years have been affected by the pandemic, as well as natural disasters (like bushfires and floods) and of course the recent inflation which is pushing up the prices of many basic household goods. For these reasons, it’s no surprise that almost nine in 10 of us are concerned about the rising cost of living (89%). 

This mirrors the 2021 report where our financial concerns also relate to rising fuel and energy prices (88%), local economic recovery following COVID-19 (81%), and COVID-19’s overall impact on the global and local economy (84%). While the goal is to save money for retirement, our ambitions of retiring with ease has gone down the list of financial concerns due to COVID-19 related economic affairs taking priority. Now, 7 in 10 of us are concerned about putting money away for their retirement (72%).

Little wonder so many of us would welcome a decent pay rise, as we face higher power bills, groceries and general housing costs. Whether you’re hoping to advance in your current role, or looking for a career change, it can pay to sharpen up your skill set through online courses, in the hopes of negotiating a pay increase. “The pandemic has prompted a career awakening for many,” says Anna Levy, a career change coach at Anna Levy Coaching. “The fact that you’ve taken the time to upskill yourself through an online course demonstrates to current or future employers that you have drive and a commitment to improving yourself – that’s got to be a good thing!”

It pays to upskill

“There are two main benefits to taking online courses if you’re planning a career transition,” says Anna. “Firstly, you get to try something out in a small, low-risk way, before taking a leap into a new field or signing up to, say, a postgraduate course or expensive training program. There are so many brilliant short courses available online now, many of them free and offered by very prestigious institutions and teachers, so you get to dip your toe in the water and see if you enjoy the subject and show any signs of potentially getting good at it too.”

Another benefit is adding strings to your bow, which adds weight to your resume and job applications. “Share what you’ve done on your LinkedIn profile,” says Anna. “More than ever before, employers are looking for candidates with a broad skillset, because this fosters and demonstrates adaptability – which, in these ever-changing and uncertain times – is more crucial than ever.”

Get that promotion

If you’re happy in your current role, but wouldn’t mind stepping up, courses including those offered online, can be a good bargaining tool. “It’s always valuable to build up your arsenal of skills and experience, your “career capital”,” says Anna. “As this gives you better negotiating power when it comes to asking for a pay rise or applying for a different job.”

Learning online means you can take courses from institutions across the globe – without even leaving your house. “For example, on Coursera you can take free courses from world-class universities like Stanford, The University of Edinburgh and the University of London,” says Anna. “You also generally get to work at your own pace and at times that suit you, since most of the courses are self-directed – so it can fit around a full-time job and other responsibilities.”

How to choose the best online course

“Do your research before signing up to anything that comes at a cost, in terms of money or your time,” advises Anna. “As well as the course leaders, speak to people who have done the course and get their opinions on whether it was worth it. You want to make sure the content is valuable, but also that it’s delivered in a way that is going to be engaging and will support your learning.”

If you’re looking to progress in your existing career path, focus on skills that are most in demand in your industry. “If you aren’t sure what they are, then ask people!” says Anna. “Find someone who is a level or two up from you – someone who is doing the job you’d love to do – and ask them for a short chat where you can draw on their experiences and knowledge. Ask them directly: “What skills do I need to get from where I am now to where you are?”, “What kind of learning is becoming especially important in this area?”’

The benefits of learning online

There are thousands of recognised courses available online – from copywriting, to business, accounting, IT, design, and more. Anna advises looking for courses that build on your existing strengths, but also inspires and excites you. Anna suggests “Udemy has some great courses at low cost and Coursera has free courses from top institutions. LinkedIn Learning has a huge bank of courses, especially on topics relating to business and tech, and the ones I’ve used have been really high quality, fun and engaging. These platforms are getting better and better. It’s also worth looking at particular universities as, since the pandemic, many of them have moved courses online so are way more accessible than ever before. Seek Learning houses over 5,700 courses from Australian TAFE’s, universities, and leading registered training organisations.”

What is microlearning?

Don’t have time to complete a course? Microlearning might be for you. “This is bite-sized learning content, like short videos and quizzes, that you can access wherever and whenever you want it, by your phone or device,” explains Anna. “The idea is that because we only take in so much of what we learn - one study showed that people only retain just over 20% of what they learn within a month - it’s better to learn little and often.”

In the end, it doesn’t matter how or even what you learn, but that you’re opening yourself up to new possibilities for meaningful, well paid and enjoyable work. “I would recommend trying anything and everything,” says Anna. “As it’s important to expand your horizons and allow your brain to access new input and inspiration – to break out of your existing “reality bubble” and open yourself to new career possibilities.”

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