5 Ways to Educate yourself for a Career Pivot

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You have no chance of improving your career.  You are doomed. Just settle in and go with the flow. NOT!

These are all things that you may hear…mostly from people who don’t want you to succeed.  But I bet you say this to yourself a lot too.  “Oh I can’t afford to go back to school. I guess I better get used to this crappy job.” Well there are ways to educate yourself to improve your career opportunities.

In this article we’ll look at:

  • ways to learn new skills to help you change your career
  • ways to educate yourself (without necessarily having to go to college)
5 Ways to educate yourself for a career pivot without breaking the bank

Well things have changed.  For most career pivots you don’t have to pay thousands of dollars to go to college. There are new careers popping up that colleges don’t even have a curriculum to teach yet.

For some careers you obviously still need post-secondary school.  Thankfully for everyone’s sake, if you want to be a surgeon you still have to go to university.

What sucks about our system though is, “how do you know you even want the job that is at the end of the college rainbow? ” So many people have went way over their heads in student debt and found out they hate the resulting job. (And here you are now on this blog looking for hope 🙂

So how can you get your feet wet with other careers and test the waters…without paying thousands?

5 Ways to Learn New Skills for a Career Change

Let’s start the list…

1.Volunteering (job shadowing too)

A 2010 study in Canada said that about 1/2 of Canadians volunteered at some time to non-profits or charities.

The study also said that the volunteers not only helped the organizations they volunteered for, but the volunteers themselves benefited.

benefits of volunteering chart
Skills acquired through volunteering, volunteers aged 15 and over, 2010.

As you can see in the chart above almost 2/3 of volunteers said they improved their interpersonal skills!

This is big time stuff!  Making ourselves get away from the TV and getting out there and helping others benefits us. Who would have thought?

And if you’re like me, you realize that as we get older, its relationships that count.  Being able to make business relationships, maintain them and end them when necessary.

Where to find General volunteer opportunities:

Mobility International USA

Volunteer Canada

What I did was define specific skills I want to learn, and then I Googled those skills + volunteer and found a great fit.  I volunteer at the local cable station for their community access program.  I get to learn videography skills and editing skills for free.

2. Apprenticeships

If you are interested in the trades then apprenticeships are how to get started.

You get to make money while learning skills and once a year you go to a technical college to do some schooling. So yes schooling is involved but at least you are making money the other 10 months or so of the year.

Most trades are 4 years in length.  You have to work enough hours in the trade to qualify to do that year’s schooling.  The difficulty of schooling usually gets harder as you near the end of the journey.  When you are done and have completed the required work hours and schooling and passed the final exam (in Canada typically called a Red Seal) then you are a licensed “Journeyman” or “Journeywoman”.

What’s cool about trades is that you get exposed to what its like in the day to day of your job. You don’t have some misty-eyed vision of how your career will look.  You work side by side with licensed journeymen (and women).  You see what their day is like.  You see the struggles and challenges they face.

If you decide “this sucks” then you can quit.  Perhaps while on the job site you saw plumbers and you thought, “Hey that looks a lot better than sheet metal,” then you could talk to the plumbers.

To learn more about Trades and Apprenticeships

In USA – Apprenticeship US Department of Labor

In Canada – Careers in Trades

** This is a picture from the “US Department of Labor.”   Even they market apprenticeships as a chance to “…grow your skills without racking up debt…”

Apprenticeships in USA

3. Online courses (Udemy, Coursera, online business people courses)

Have you heard of the abbreviations MOOC?     It stands for Massive Open Online Courses.

It means that there are tons of courses that you can enroll in, learn lots of information from, and not have to pay anything for it.

Sure you may not have a shiny certificate at the end but you do have the knowledge.

What you do with that knowledge is up to you.

It provides a great teaser or glimpse into different careers.  Do you want to get into banking? Then take a free Financial course online.  Does it still seem intriguing?  Then great.

And now there are several great sites out there that offer extremely valuable courses for little to no charge and they are taught by people in the field: by people actually working in the industries they teach in and not just academia.

Examples of online courses include:

Udemy – the homepage claims they have over 40,000 courses available!!  I’m sure you’ll be able to find something you want to learn about. The courses offered on here are taught by “regular” people who make money when people buy their course through Udemy.  The website acts as a big marketplace for curious students to buy courses from entrepreneurial teachers.  The teachers get a cut of the tuition and Udemy takes a share for being the actual technology deliverer.

Coursera – this site also offers a huge variety of courses, but its different than Udemy in that the courses on Coursera are from recognized Colleges and Universities.

For example I took a Marketing class from the University of Pennsylvania…online…for free!  Now, I would love to go to Pennsylvania and catch a Penguins game, but there is no way I’d be able to afford to attend this class in person!  With Coursera I didn’t have to.  I don’t have anything at the end to show my completion because I chose the free method. But if you pay some money you can get certificates of completion if that is important to you.

Other Online Courses – if you haven’t noticed, building your own Online course and charging people to take it, has been all the rage for the last few years in Internet marketing.  You can find courses on how to podcast, how to blog, how to knit Sister Suzie’s silver socks, and lots, lots more.

Most of online business personalities have courses available to learn what they know.  I don’t have any to recommend to you right now because I haven’t taken any.  When I do complete one I’ll recommend it if its worthy!

4. In-person courses (Community colleges, local business organizations)

There are some days when I miss being a student. That may sound kind of stupid – especially when I look at the thousands of dollars I still owe for university – but there is something about in-person classes that I miss.

My level of attention and focus is so much greater in a small classroom!  There is not all the distractions of online learning or life chores getting in your way.  No need to pause the teacher so I can put on a load of laundry, then scoop stinky cat litter, then sweep up the cat litter that I spilled on the floor, and before you know it I have to go to bed. That doesn’t happen when I’m in a live classroom.

Check with your local community college. Do they have any courses you are interested in? Any great continuing education classes?

How about your local chamber of commerce or other business organizations? Do they have classes or presentations coming up?

5. Build relationships (interview people in the industry you are interested in…ask questions)

This one could take on many appearances.

You could email some people a list of questions about their job.  What do they like about it? What do they dislike?  If they could do it over again, would they choose the same career again?  Why, or why not?

You can learn a lot from people by just asking.

What would be great is having the guts to actually meet the person, introduce yourself, say why you’re there and then get chatting with them.

Not only will you learn something from them, but you will also build a relationship.

People love talking about themselves and their journey so ask them. Give them that chance to impart their wisdom.

If you meet several people in the same field and ask them the same questions then you will have a great resource at the end.  You may even be able to do something entrepreneurial with that information.  For example, if you asked 50 electricians what advice they have for studying for the certification exam then you are going to have some valuable information.  Info that many apprentices out there would probably pay for!


I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief list of ways to educate yourself for a career change.  And I hopefully the resources linked here will benefit you.

I guess technically some items on the list aren’t “teaching yourself” because you are learning from someone else.  But that is splitting hairs.  Because really, even if you are teaching yourself something by reading a book someone still wrote that book. (Sorry went kind of deep there).

Bottom line is educating yourself about your options is important.  And its up to you.  If you aren’t happy about the career position you are in then start finding out how to change it.

Good luck with your journey!  And send me a postcard from your new destination.



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