Thursday, March 15, 2012

Working w/ unemployment : learn something

As I mentioned in my last post about working with unemployment, it's widespread advice to stay busy and get involved. Anyway you can do this that's related to your career should be taken advantage of. That's why I'm focusing on learning something during this time.

New information comes out every day, and approaching that information both with an open-mind and critically helps me stay up-to-date and relevant in my field. For marketing and communications particularly, technology is moving fast, someone is writing something every day, and potential customer service case studies are starting all the time.

On every interview I've had, pre- and post-unemployment, I've been asked something that this education has helped me answer, whether it's what brands I think are marketing well, what writers I think are relevant, how I do research, or what ideas I can bring to an organization.

The best thing about this tip is that it's pretty easy to do.
If you have access to the internet (which, reading this you do) or a public library, the information is there ready for you. You don't have to apply for it and you don't have to know the right person to get it.

I read news and blogs everyday, but there are also some extraordinary opportunities out there as well. For example, last week, I attended a free digital conference (like a webinar x100) through Marketing Profs. I call this extraordinary because huge amounts of information came in multiple formats in one place, and offered a networking experience as well--I have three new non-spam Twitter followers plus a new LinkedIn connection from the conference.

I'm definitely not offering any revolutionary ideas here, but, if this isn't something you've considered, here are some tips to get started on educating yourself:
-Set up a custom Google News page. Choose keywords and terms that are relevant to your location, field, and personal interests.
-Set up an RSS feed (I like Google Reader) of the blogs you read. Check what blogs those bloggers recommend and follow to add more content to your feed.
-News and blogs aren't the only sources of information. Look for white papers, webinars, chats, podcasts, presentations, etc.
-Check what people are sharing on social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Joining groups on these sites can also expose you to more information (and help with networking, which I'll write about later).
-Remember that not everything people write, especially on the internet, is good advice, factual or helpful. Verify expertise and fact-check.

Some websites I like for learning for the benefit of learning:
-Khan Academy has more than 3,000 video lessons online, you're bound to find something that interests you.
-In case you haven't heard of them, TED Talks offer archived presentations meant to inspire and engage "ideas worth spreading."
-If you do have a little bit of money to spend, SkillShare offers a menagerie of crowd-sourced classes in cities across the United States.
-Financial education is particularly important during unemployment, and LearnVest and Mint are great tools and resources.