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10 Free Online Resources to Help Upgrade Your Career

10 Free Online Resources to Help Upgrade Your Career

We live in an amazing time. Within a few mouse clicks or screen taps, we can get the answer to almost any question we could possibly come up with. At any given time, we can reach into our pockets, pull out our phones, and start ourselves out on a quest for knowledge that could end up changing our lives. And, most amazingly, a staggering amount of this information is available completely free of charge. If you’ve been feeling stagnant in your job and want to start advancing your career, you can open up your web browser and head to the following pages:

1. Glassdoor

Glassdoor is a website that informs potential employees about the company they’re applying to work for. The information for each company on the site has been documented by previous and current employees, so users know they are getting first-hand data from reputable sources. Glassdoor gives information regarding positions offered by the company, starting and average salary rates, and anecdotal information regarding interviews and the quality of past employee experiences. Use Glassdoor when conducting a job hunt to be sure you’re applying for a job that’s right for you.

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2. Khan Academy

Khan Academy offers lectures on a variety of subjects, at a variety of difficulty levels, as well as practice questions, exercises, and exams for users to test their knowledge and comprehension of each topic. These tests are individualized, meaning the barrage of questions asked is tailored to a user’s specific understanding of content. Using Khan Academy, you can learn anything from basic arithmetic to advanced calculus, the fundamentals of computer science, to advanced programming.

3. Coursera and edX

Both Coursera and edX are well-known databases for MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). On each of these sites, students can find actual college-level courses on almost any subject imaginable. MOOCs have taken the Internet by storm due to their accessibility and flexibility. MOOCs usually consist of a combination of video lectures, reading materials, and assignments. However, you can engage in the MOOC as much, or as little, as you like. MOOCs often create learning communities consisting of thousands of students all over the world, so taking full advantage of forums will allow for maximum exposure to a variety of viewpoints, and will expand your thoughts and ideas much more than sitting in a lecture hall throughout a semester could ever hope to do.

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4. Codecademy

If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to program, but are intimidated by the prospect of learning a seemingly alien language, you’re not alone. But Codecademy is an incredibly helpful resource that will help you learn programming languages such as JavaScript, and Python. The interactive lessons are scaffolded so you will learn the basics first, then use those fundamental skills to complete projects and activities. By the end of your first session, you’ll have learned enough to create a basic website, and be able to build upon your learning from there.

5. Learnvest

While not everything that Learnvest has to offer is free, the site offers a variety of articles and blog posts which have been curated from all corners of the Internet. Learnvest offers information regarding all aspects of life, from college and career readiness to lifestyle decisions such as weddings, home improvement, and travel. One of the most intriguing sections relates to the ‘Psyche of Money”, which analyzes societal views on money, expenses, and savings.

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6. Investopedia

I’ll be honest: I’m pretty clueless about money. After I finish writing this, I’m going to spend some time on Investopedia, so I can finally wrap my head around this whole Greece situation and increase my understanding of retirement savings. If you’ve wanted to dive into the world of stocks, bonds, and all things money-related, Investopedia offers money management tips, a stock simulator, and tutorials and exam tips for financial analyst certifications.

7. Y Combinator Startup Library

If you’ve ever thought of starting a business, check out the Startup Library. Y Combinator offers long-form articles full of tips on how to start and build a business, and what to do once you get the ball rolling. The Library also offers links to tools to help grow your business, and other organizations that will help develop your entrepreneurial knowledge. Y Combinator has funded over 800 startup companies in the past 10 years, so the advice given in these blog posts can be taken seriously. Thankfully, it’s free!

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8. Duolingo

At a time in which we can communicate with almost any person in the entire world online, many people naturally yearn to gain the ability to understand and speak a variety of languages. Duolingo allows users to take full courses which focus on over 20 languages, including Spanish, French, Polish…and Klingon. Members of Duolingo also are privy to a community of learners who can collaborate with each other on various projects and lessons in order to enhance their learning. Most beneficial, however, is Duolingo’s immersion section, which provides real-world tasks in the language being studied, with no assistance. The best way to learn a new language is to dive right in!

9. Bartleby

Bartleby offers full versions of well-known books and works of literature from various points in history. From Voltaire, to Scott Fitzgerald, to Chaucer, Bartleby offers something for everyone looking to get a taste of culture into their life. Also available are historical non-fiction texts and reference books which offer first-hand insights into different eras of human history. It’s incredible how much Bartleby has to offer, considering the site is named after a famous character who preferred to do nothing.

10. Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg is similar to Bartleby, but implements a wiki formula while offering ebooks and texts. Gutenberg’s focus is on classic literature. Over 49,000 classic works, to be more precise. With Project Gutenberg, you can check out Kafka, Cervantes, and Whitman all in one spot. And you can download each in HTML format, or as an ebook that can be read using a Kindle or the Kindle app on your smartphone. The bad news is that if you’re a high school student, now your English teacher has a backup plan for the times when you “left your book at home.”

Featured photo credit: Flickrr via farm8.staticflickr.com

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Do you think of yourself as a creative person? Do you play the drums or do watercolor paintings? Perhaps compose songs or direct plays? Can you even relate to any of these so called ‘creative’ experiences? Growing up, did you ever have that ‘artistic’ sibling or friend who excelled in drawing, playing instruments or literature? And you maybe wondered why you can’t even compose a birthday card greeting–or that drawing stick figures is the furthest you’ll ever get to drawing a family portrait. Many people have this common assumption that creativity is an inborn talent; only a special group of people are inherently creative, and everyone else just unfortunately does not have that special ability. You either have that creative flair or instinct, or you don’t. But, this is far from the truth! So what is creativity?

Can I Be Creative?

The fact is, that everyone has an innate creative ability. Despite what most people may think, creativity is a skill that everyone can learn and hone on. It’s a skill with huge leverage that allows you to generate enormous amounts of value from relatively little input. How is that so? You’ll have to start by expanding your definition of creativity. Ironically, you have to be creative and ‘think out of the box’ with the definition! Creativity at its heart, is being able to see things in a way that others cannot. It’s a skill that helps you find new perspectives to create new possibilities and solutions to different problems. So, if you encounter different challenges and problems that need solving on a regular basis, then creativity is an invaluable skill to have.Let’s say, for example, that you work in sales. Having creativity will help you to look for new ways to approach and reach out to potential customers. Or perhaps you’re a teacher. In this role you have to constantly look for new ways to deliver your message and educate your students.

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How Creativity Works

Let me break another misconception about creativity, which is that it’s only used to create completely “new” or “original” things. Again, this is far from the truth. Because nothing is ever completely new or original. Everything, including works of art, doesn’t come from nothing. Everything derives from some sort of inspiration. That means that creativity works by connecting things together in order to derive new meaning or value.From this perspective, you can see a lot of creativity in action. In technology, Apple combines traditional computers with design and aesthetics to create new ways to use digital products. In music, a musician may be inspired by various styles of music, instruments and rhythms to create an entirely new type of song. All of these examples are about connecting different ideas, finding common ground amongst the differences, and creating a completely new idea out of them.

What Really Is Creativity?

Creativity Needs an Intention

Another misconception about the creative process is that you can just be in a general “creative” state. Real creativity isn’t about coming up with “eureka!” moments for random ideas. Instead, to be truly creative, you need to have a direction. You have to ask yourself this question: “What problem am I trying to solve?” Only by knowing the answer to this question can you start flexing your creativity muscles. Often times, the idea of creativity is associated with the ‘Right’ brain, with intuition and imagination. Hence a lot of focus is placed on the ‘Right’ brain when it comes to creativity. But, to get the most out of creativity, you need to utilize both sides of your brain–Right and Left–which means using the analytical and logical part of your brain, too. This may sound surprising to you, but creativity has a lot to do with problem solving. And, problem solving inherently involves logic and analysis. So instead of throwing out the ‘Left’ brain, full creativity needs them to work in unison. For example, when you’re looking for new ideas, your ‘Left’ brain will guide you to a place of focus, which is based on your objective behind the ideas you’re searching for. The ‘Right’ brain then guides you to gather and explore based on your current focus. And when you decide to try out these new ideas, your ‘Right’ brain will give you novel solutions outside of the ones you already know. Your ‘Left’ brain then helps you evaluate and tune the solutions to work better in practice. So, logic and creativity actually work hand in hand, and not one at the expense of the other.

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Creativity Is a Skill

At the end of the day, creativity is a skill. It’s not some innate or natural born talent that some have over others. What this means is that creativity and innovation can be practiced and improved upon systematically.A skill can be learned and practiced by applying your strongest learning styles. Want to know what your learning style is? Try this test. A skill can be measured and improved through a Feedback Loop, and can be continuously upgraded over time by regular practice. Through regular practice, your creativity goes through different stages of proficiency. This means that you can become more and more creative! If you never thought that creativity was relevant to you, or that you don’t have a knack for being creative… think again! You can use creativity in any aspect of your life. In fact you should use it, as it will allow you to to break through your usual loop, get you out of your comfort zone, and inspire you to grow and try new things. Creativity will definitely give you an edge when you’re trying to solve a problem or come up with new solutions.

Start Connecting the Dots

Excited to start honing your creativity? Here at Lifehack, we’ve got a wealth of knowledge to help you get started. We understand that creativity is a matter of connecting things together in order to derive new meaning or value. So, if you want to learn how to start connecting the dots, check out these tips:

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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