Entertainment, shopping, working, food, love and pretty much everything under the sun has been affected by Wi-Fi. You may already know how Wi-Fi actually works, but how many people in your life still believe that Wi-Fi is just a magical entity that only comes to life when they click on their favorite web applications? Next time you need to burst someone’s bubble and rather not explain it yourself, go ahead and send them this video by Brightside to teach them how Wi-Fi actually works.
To invest in yourself is just as important as any financial investment for your future. For both personal growth and career success, there is no telling how far you can go if you take the time to invest in yourself. Check out this video by The Art of Improvement where they explain important skills that are hard to learn but will pay off in the long run, including:
- Mental Toughness
- Silencing your inner critic
- Learning to say “NO”
- Critical Thinking
- Emotional Intelligence
This doesn’t just apply to IT contractors! Send this to anyone you think needs that push to invest in themselves and help them see the potential that you see in them.
There is no shortage of advice for independent contractors in all sectors, including technology, preaching that professional development, skills enhancement, and training are crucial for success. After all, if you’re not growing as a professional in the IT industry, then you’re very quickly falling behind.
In reality, finding both the time and money to sit through courses is increasingly challenging as our days get busier. The good news is that the traditional classroom setting and its high costs are a thing of the past, you just need to find the best resources. To help you out, we put together one of the most comprehensive lists of online learning websites on the Internet. (Note: all sites are listed in alphabetical order and Eagle does not recommend any specific resource over the other.)
Free or Low-Cost Online Sources
There is a variety of websites that offer free or low-cost training courses in practically any subject, and with no shortage of IT-related topics. All of the websites in this list offer at least a few online courses for free or at a cost under $50; however, many also have more extensive training and higher prices or require upgrades to earn their official diploma. Another feature of many of these sites is that they partner with institutions, colleges and universities around the world, ensuring the training is credible and up-to-date.
- Class Central
- Cognitive Class
- How Design University
- Khan Academy
- The Gymnasium
Subscription-Based Online Learning Websites
While not free, these websites offer fantastic value if you’re looking at doing a wide range of training. They offer unlimited training videos and sessions with a monthly subscription, and often there is a free trial available.
If you’re willing to invest in a full tuition but don’t want to enroll in your local school, then either of these sites may be an option for you. They provide access to full diplomas or degrees.
Especially in IT, certifications are a top differentiator between you and other independent contractors. Which certification you work towards fully depends on your skill and specialty, but we highly recommend you get at least one under your belt. Global Knowledge offers training to a variety of the top certifications, but if you’d prefer to get them directly, here are a few more links:
- Agile Advice
- Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA)
- Project Management Institute
- Scrum Alliance
Tutorials, Forums, and Reference Sites
Perhaps you’re not seeking formal training or a new line on your resume, but instead some helpful information to brush-up on your skillset or get you through a current project. These free online resources are full of just that information, and provide you the opportunities to network with other IT professionals.
- HTML Dog
- Mozilla Developer
- Stack Overflow
Company-Specific Product Training
Finally, all of the world’s top software and IT organizations offer training to their own products. Here are just a few of the most popular:
- Apple Developer
- Google Developers
- IBM developerWorks
- IBM Skills Gateway
- Microsoft Virtual Academy
- Oracle University
That’s our currently list of online IT training sources and these types of websites are always growing. If you find more that you love, please pass them along. We’d also love to hear your feedback and experience — positive or negative — about any of the websites listed here. Please share your comments and suggestions in the section below.
Of the many benefits that come with working for yourself as an IT contractor, having to worry about your own professional development is not one of them. Employees regularly get to rely on their employer to coordinate the training plans and classes that help them advance their career. Independent contractors are not so lucky.
Planning training and development is yet another IT contractor responsibility, above and beyond completing projects and serving clients. There are so many options and it can be hard just knowing where to start. Here are a few common areas for professional development and some suggestions on where to start.
Types of Professional Development
The term “Professional Development” is very broad and comes in all shapes and sizes. If you know you have to advance yourself somehow, then consider your current progress in any of these areas and prioritize what to do next:
- Skills (New and Existing): When most of us think about training, we think about the core skills we use in our job. For example, a Developer may look into enhancing their knowledge in their preferred programming language or learning a new one. Start by understanding your industry and the trends of common skills your clients will be demanding, then decide what skills you need to build.
- Certifications: If there’s any way to stand out to a client (and sometimes just qualify for a contract position) it’s to earn a relevant certification in your field. Though it may require you to sit through some courses on information you already know, certifications are important for IT contractors and will make you more competitive.
- Soft Skills: Unless you’re swimming in certifications and have the best skills of anyone else in the market, you must have top-notch soft skills to compete. This includes time management, organization, email etiquette, meeting etiquette, emotional intelligence or conflict resolution, and a recent contractor quick poll revealed that most of your co-workers want you to have outstanding communication skills.
- Industry Knowledge: As noted above, knowing what’s happening in your industry and the most in-demand requirements is crucial. In addition to knowing what skills to improve, you’ll also be able to plan for trends like upcoming opportunities with specific clients and job shortages in certain regions.
How Can IT Contractors Find Training Opportunities?
- Enroll in a Class: The most obvious way to learn something new is to register for a class or workshop. This can be through your industry association, an online course or a local school. Completing a course provides you with something tangible for your resume; however, it’s also time consuming and can cost money.
- Read: Read everything. Newspapers articles, magazines and books published by industry-leaders in your field are guaranteed to provide you with additional knowledge that will help you move forward. Also, don’t discount the social media posts by people you follow — there’s always something new to learn if you just look for it.
- Network: Networking events — both online and offline — give you the opportunity to pick the brains of other professionals in your field. You’ll learn about best practices, trends and about more unique learning opportunities.
- Ask Questions: Go a step beyond just networking and ask everyone questions. Your clients, recruiters, team members… everyone you come across can teach you something. A simple question such as “Why do you do it this way” or “What do you think of this” can open up a discussion and ultimately expand your mind to improve your work.
In conclusion, training and development is more than just enhancing your core skills and it does not have to be an expensive nor time consuming endeavor. While enrolling in classes will offer you the most tangible benefits, when you keep an open-mind and embrace all opportunities to learn, you will improve as a professional and ultimately enjoy more success.
|By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President, Western Canada at Eagle
I thought I’d use this blog entry to give a shout out to the CED (Calgary Economic Development) for the great work they are doing to attract new business to Calgary. They are a relatively small group of very dedicated and committed people working to make a big impact. In order to stretch a fixed budget, their marketing plans are lazer-focused and, as it turns out, they are gaining the ears of companies south of the border!
Calgary faces a number of challenges as a result of the changing business dynamics within the global Oil & Gas industry. These challenges manifest themselves in several ways:
- Increased unemployment/underemployment in all sectors, but especially in professional STEM positions which are typically higher income (tax paying) positions;
- Down-town vacancy rates are over 40% by many accounts and this threatens to put additional tax burden on the remaining businesses, making a bad situation worse;
- Reduced spending by the companies that have been driving our economy produces a trickle-down effect that has impacted small and medium sized businesses as well whether in the Oil Industry or not.
These issues could start a downward spiral if not for the efforts of the CED, other like-minded businesses and the municipal government who are taking this slow-down as an opportunity to attract new businesses across other industries. Calgary has had some extreme advantages over other North American cities for some time – a young highly-educated workforce; an entrepreneurial spirit second to none; fantastic and reliable infrastructure; and it boasts the most head offices and small businesses per capita in Canada (and being one of Canada’s 5 largest cities is saying something!). All this, while being a place where people want to work and live (Calgary ranks second of major Canadian cities for healthy lifestyle and life satisfaction according to the Conference Board of Canada). AND NOW… we have ample (and affordable) downtown office space and available highly motivated and educated workers too. This is an unprecedented opportunity to bring in new industries.
The CED have set targets for themselves based on the goals of increasing levels of employment, filling unused office space and diversification of the local economy. To accomplish this, they target companies that require knowledge workers and who struggle in their “local” labour market to attract/keep top talent. Some smaller to medium sized high-tech companies struggle to hire technologists with competition the likes of Google and Apple. Other US-based companies have hired huge numbers of foreign workers for their expertise in areas such as engineering, software development, and technology hardware; and, with the new Trump administration threatening to “send foreign workers home”, there is an opportunity to potentially move these people lock, stock and barrel to Calgary and continue to have them be productive employees. Yet other companies are looking for affordable places where people want to work to help start-up companies get a foothold and succeed… Rocketspace is such a company and is one of the first to commit to opening new offices in Calgary.
After a couple years of economic misery, there is a new “buzz” in Calgary and a new feeling of optimism as the city rebuilds (and rebrands) itself! New opportunities are coming… as a professional contractor, are you ready for this? Do you have the right “transferable skills” to take advantage in new industries? People who have chosen to specialize in Information Technology have embraced the notion of life-long learning and, as such, can and will adapt and pick-up the needed knowledge to enable them to work in any industry. The following are links to other TDC articles written on the topic of professional development… I hope they share some insights that you will find useful!
Are you staying up-to-date on the latest skills? Technology changes are always happening and to remain competitive as an IT professional, especially a programmer, you need to stay on top or you risk falling behind.
Kotlin was recently announced as an official language for Android and this infographic from Programiz proves that it’s growing at outstanding rates with plenty of opportunities for programmers. According to their website, Kotlin is concise, easy-to-use, tool-friendly and, above all, safe. Have you become well-versed in it yet?
Forget the ABC (Always-Be-Closing) approach Alec Baldwin made famous in the in the 1992 movie Glengarry Glen Ross. As Kevin Dee’s recent post indicated, independent contractors — and all professionals — need to Always-Be-Learning if they want to stay competitive within their industry.
A recent Contractor Quick Poll revealed that our readers want to increase their training and development this year, but the reality is few people have the time and/or money to go back to school and take courses to learn a new skill or improve a current one. The alternative is to get creative and figure out how you can learn and expand your knowledge during your everyday life. There are unlimited ways to achieve this and it often only takes a bit of creativity and innovation, or a simple Google Search.
Learn While at Work
This article from The Muse outlines unique learning opportunities for full-time employees and there are some helpful take-aways for independent contractors as well; for example, earning a free MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) Certificate and Joining a Professional Network. The referenced article suggests these are ways to learn at work, but we recommend holding off on taking an online course or attending a networking event until a time when you’re not billing the client. That said, you can use work time as a chance to network with fellow IT contractors to learn about professional networks and courses that they find helpful.
Learn While Winding Down
According to this Entrepreneur slideshow, the average person spends 17 minutes on YouTube every day, making it the #3 biggest time waster stealing your productivity. Fortunately, Dice found a way to make YouTube productive with these 6 channels for developers that help you build your skills and learn various languages and platforms. If you’re interested, check out:
We also recommend Eagle’s YouTube channel which features quick, helpful videos for independent contractors.
How do you learn? Everybody has their own way of keeping on top of the latest trends. We’ve shared some unique training ideas for contractors on the Talent Development Centre and if you have new ones, we want to hear about them! Please share your secrets with our readers in the comments section below.
Every technology professional has a unique training and development plan. Each contractor has different skills sets in varying demands and requiring specific qualifications. Furthermore, depending on the stage you’re at in your career, you may have completely different goals than the person sitting next to you.
In January’s contractor quick poll, we were curious about how much time our readers plan to invest in furthering their education and abilities this year. Here are the results — two-thirds of respondents say they’re planning to up their training and development in 2017. Are you surprised? Do you think there may be some crushed New Years’ resolutions?
Compared to 2016, how much training and development are you planning for 2017?
How Much Training & Development Are You Planning in 2017?
There are many ways an independent contractor can improve their skills. From working on certifications to staying up-to-date on the latest trends to networking; every little bit counts. Recruiters at staffing agencies keep a close eye on this section of an IT professional’s resume as they want to know they’re presenting clients with the top skills available.
The reality is, though, finding time for these activities isn’t the easiest thing for an IT contractor to do. Especially when you’re already juggling projects, managing business tasks, and keeping up with finding your next contract, this can be a major challenge and may not always be top priority.
In this month’s contractor quick poll, we’re asking how much training and development you plan to do in 2017. Perhaps it was a higher priority last year than it will be this year, or you’ve set a goal to improve in a specific area. We won’t judge, we’re just curious…