The bachelor’s degree used to equate to a job. Now, it’s the new baseline.
That means if you want to be competitive in today’s market, you have to go above and beyond that expensive four-year degree.
How can you make yourself more marketable? By learning — and not the kind of learning you did in college. We’re talking about gaining practical and pragmatic skills that employers want, skills that make you the person they can’t resist adding to their team.
Like all first jobs, these skills may not be required for or lead directly to your dream job (there really is no such thing anyway). But they’ll certainly give you a leg up on your job hunt, and you can learn them for free or cheap in comparison to that $50,000+ college education.
Here are four skills employers want to see on your resume that you can learn for free or at low-cost:
1. Social media strategy
If you’re under the age of 30, chances are you have a Facebook and Twitter profile, and hopefully a LinkedIn page. If you don’t, get one. These are communication channels for yourself and your future employer.
Most people over the age of 45 don’t really know yet how to use Facebook and Twitter for business. Use this to your advantage. Show employers that you know how to use social media to sell their product or push their message. Show them that you can build a long-term strategy with high ROI.
BrazenU offers courses that will teach you just that. For less than a third of what you spent for that environmental science class you were required to take in college, you can learn how to create and implement a social media strategy for any business.
2. Web analytics
I’m talking about traffic here. Web traffic is synonymous with customers, buyers, awareness and impact. For a business, it’s like someone walking in the front door. For government, it’s like someone attending your community event or reading your flyer. It’s feet and it’s eyeballs and it’s audience, in whatever form that means for you. And every company wants more of it. Teach yourself how to understand that traffic, your audience and their behaviors once they get in your front door.
Google Analytics offers free videos on its YouTube channel — start there. Think Vitamin, a cool start-up in the alternative online education space, also has some free — and some moderately priced — videos on analytics, web traffic, and more. Practice on your own website or blog (since you should have one) or on a friend’s.
3. Email marketing
As an entry-level grunt, e-mail marketing will likely have something to do with your job. The majority of companies rely on some form of e-mail marketing: sending a newsletter to sell a product, or issuing a press release to sell an idea.
You should know the basics of what this is, so you don’t have to start from the ground level when you get the job. MailChimp, a well-known and highly-rated e-mail marketing provider, offers an entire free resource section to help people learn e-mail marketing best practices, including how to create a good HTML email newsletter, designing around spam filters, how to select an email marketing agency, avoiding common rookie mistakes, and more.
4. Basic HTML
Knowing basic HTML is kind of like knowing how to type in 1983. It’s not 100 percent required for every job, but you’re in better shape if you know how to do it, and it will probably be required in 10 years (read: it’s moving/moved out of geek realm).
Even basic stuff like how to make words bold, italicized, how to start a new paragraph, etc., is enough to make you more valuable to an employer (or to work for yourself). More likely than not, you’re going to be exposed to some form of HTML at some point in your early career.
Borrow a basic HTML book (Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML is one of the best) for free from the library. Or, for $25 a month, you can teach yourself HTML and basic web design via the booming start-up Treehouse.
If you’re unemployed, learning these skills is more important than ever. You’ll be much better off if in your next job interview if you can tell an employer you’ve been teaching yourself skills that will make you a better employee — even if you’ve been doing that while waiting tables.
So bite your bottom lip, and get to learning. And learn something this time around that will actually help get you a job.
Ashley Hoffman is the Director of Marketing and Communications at Brazen Careerist and a co-host of BrazenU’s online bootcamps.