Lately I’ve been feeling a bit stagnate in my professional career. My job is starting to feel like an old hat and one of my biggest fears is to plateau in my knowledge or capabilities. Some people might call me a nerd, but it always feels nice to learn something new! I would love to go back for an MBA someday, but not right now. So how can I expand my knowledge outside of my job? Here are 4 cheap, alternative ways to expand your knowledge from home, on the go, or even outside!
New Hobbies & Classes
Whenever I move to a new city, my hobbies are what connect me to new friends and communities. Whether it’s going to the climbing gym, running in 5ks, or volunteering somewhere, you’re most likely going to meet like minded people. Here are a few ideas:
- Classes – Be on the lookout for classes! My brother just took up karate again, at 29 years old. How cool is that? My lady friend started taking aerial silks classes. We’re basically a circus act. You can find classes on pottery, ballet, climbing, or whatever you want. Check out your local college or university for public classes as well.
- REI Classes – Your local REI Outlet offers a wide array of ongoing classes. Many of the classes are free and topics range from wilderness first aid, traveling by yourself, and photography. Check out your local REI classes and events calendar.
- Meetup – If you’re already an active participant in a certain hobby, you can connect with people through Meetups.
Podcasts, Webcasts, & Audio Books
If you’re limited on time, there are several alternatives to learning something new on the go. Here are a few ideas:
- Podcasts: I’m on the road a lot, so podcasts are super easy. If you have an iPhone, you can easily access thousands of shows through the Podcasts app. Here are a few of my favorites: Invisibilia, Stuff You Should Know, This American Life, & Freakonomics Radio. If you want a good laugh, check out the Judge John Hodgman show!
- TED Talks: Brush up on your global issues, technology, and design through their 18 minutes or less videos. If you like Podcasts, check out the TED Radio Hour.
- eBooks – There are many free websites to download ebooks or audiobooks, but don’t forget your local public library! With a membership, you may have access to free ebooks.
MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses)
Looking for a more formal method of education? There are many online courses that you can take, many of which offer certifications. Here are a places to pick up some new skills or even to learn a new language:
- Coursera Classes: I recently took a class on Sustainability through Coursera. I was able to pace myself through the course, which was nice. The course was modularized and included tests throughout and discussion boards with the actual professor. I was also presented with the option to certify my account which enabled me to share my certification on my LinkedIn account. I’ll definitely be taking more.
- Khan Academy: Khan Academy also offers free online courses. I haven’t taken one yet, but a few fellow Try Harders have definitely recommended checking it out.
- Learn to Code: If you’re looking for more technical classes, check out Udacity or the Codeacademy. Udacity Nanodegrees offer certifications in several tech fields like web development, programing, and data analysis. It’s never too late to learn how to code!
Last but not least, there are always professional associations related to your field. Joining a local chapter of a professional association will grow your network, broaden your knowledge, and can be pretty fun. I’m not a graphic designer, but that doesn’t keep me from playing kickball with the AIGA in Indianapolis! If you work for a corporate company like I do, ask your HR department if they offer any classes for employees over topics like finance, management, or marketing.
Aside from becoming a trivia night wizard, there are several benefits from learning about all of these random topics: time management, discipline, new friendships, cultural awareness, new professional skills, and enriched personal skills. So next time you let Netflix automatically start the next episode of Orange is the New Black, just think to yourself, “what did I learn today?”
If you’ve found another way to learn something new, let us know! We’d love to hear how you continue your education.