Managing the everchanging impacts of coronavirus has led many organisations to make the tough decision of placing staff on furlough leave. Considering our current lockdown restrictions, this quite understandably may be daunting to those in this position. However, in this blog I’d like to inspire you to see this as an opportunity to pick up one or more new skills, which might not have seemed doable in our pre-lockdown routines.

Whilst there is no limit to the number of skills which you could acquire, here are five I recommend you explore which will look good on your CV, benefit your career and make you feel rewarded during this time off.

  1. Coding is calling

Technology is changing the working world and professionals who have the skills to work with this tech are in demand across virtually all industries. Employers are reporting shortages of these skills, meaning there is a need for professionals to upskill in this area.

Learning to code might be a good place to start to expand your technical skills. You don’t need to become a pro – simply getting to grips with the basics of one of the more simple coding languages will introduce you to the world of code and broaden your technical skillset. Code Academy is one of the most popular resources for learning how to code and lets you take some basic courses online, for free.

Adding a coding language to your CV will refresh your credentials and perhaps open doors to new opportunities for upskilling. As code is constantly evolving, you’ll always find something new to pick up.

  1. Explore excel

Have you ever experienced intense frustration over a spreadsheet, wishing you knew the right keyboard shortcut or formula to make everything fall into place? If so, now might be the perfect time for you to brush up on your Microsoft Excel skills which, after all, is one of the most important and widely used office programs in the world of work.

YouTube is a good place to start as there are many online tutorials you can watch which guide you through some essential know-hows. If you want to become a real expert, there are more regimented paid courses such as those on Udemy that you can also take remotely.

No matter what your job is, it’s highly likely that you’ll come across Excel at some point so it’s in your interest to take the time to really flesh out what it can do. Proficiency on Excel will stand out on your CV and may get you noticed when you return to work.

  1. Delve into data analysis

As the name ‘big data’ suggests, there’s a huge amount of data out there and applications for its use in business are growing by the day. Much like the situation with code, these applications are only possible if there are professionals who are able to handle and analyse data accurately.

Udemy offers some 100,000 courses starting at beginner level and beyond and you can take them online. Google’s Analytics Academy is also a good option to help you master Google Analytics and discover how the top search engine analyses its data.

  1. Consider your commercial awareness

Not a fan of tech and data? Or maybe you’d rather use your time on furlough to get a break from your computer? If so, you might be more interested in using this time to sharpen your commercial awareness – in other words, increasing your understanding of how industries and businesses work. No matter what your job is, it’s important to know what’s going on in the world and you might be able to take what you learn and use it to better your organisation and your career.

News outlets such as The Economist or the FT are good ones to subscribe to and with regular reading, will broaden your knowledge of business and a variety of industries. You could further widen your reading by exploring some non-fiction titles related to business effectiveness such as this list from Gartner, or try some career podcasts on Feedspot if listening is more your thing.

  1. Remember soft skills too

While technical skills are essential to any career, soft skills aren’t to be ignored. It’s these which make the difference between a good professional and a great one. Findings in the Hays Salary & Recruiting Trends 2020 guide showed that communication and interpersonal skills are most important (according to two thirds of employers), but soft skills can also include problem solving, flexibility, adaptability, people management and teamwork.

Don’t make the mistake of blurring these with personality traits – soft skills aren’t innate and can certainly be learned. If your place of work offers any training on these then take advantage, otherwise look at courses on Udemy and Open University which can teach you about communication in the workplace, personal branding for career success, developing career resilience and more.

Use this time to prepare for the future

Remember, just because you are on furlough leave doesn’t mean that you need to neglect your career. Try to view this time as an opportunity to broaden your horizons and pick up some new skills to showcase on your CV. In doing so, you’ll prepare yourself to climb the career ladder upon your return.

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