What can I study cheaply to be more employable? Also volunteering?
October 9, 2020 8:08 AM   Subscribe

I love my job but my job may go away next summer. What can I study cheaply to help me be more employable? I would be amenable to online volunteering to build my resume. Details within.

If my job doesn't go away, I want to stay here - I don't want to start job-searching pre-emptively because there's some possibility I won't be laid off. I expect a month or two of advance notice when if it's definite.

My current job: pink collar university work that involves billing, paying bills, purchasing/sourcing and very entry-level stuff about setting up contracts, working with grant and financial reports and tracking payroll changes. I do not do payroll qua payroll or prepare grant reports per se. In the past, I have done simple grant reporting and prepared simple grant budgets involving payroll and fringe calculations. I am familiar with a lot of basic stuff about fund/nonprofit accounting and have taken some intro accounting courses.

I was a secretary for about ten years and was pretty good at it.

My greatest strengths are in communication and business writing. I'm also good at concierge-ish problem-solving - managing payments to countries with unusual banking requirements, speeding documents through complex systems, etc. I used to do visa applications, although since we as a nation have decided that we no longer permit foreigners, this isn't really a marketable skill anymore.

Since the pandemic isn't going away any time soon, I have free time to study whatever will make me most marketable. I don't have a lot of money, so cheap or free options would be best. What can I study that would build on what I can already do?

Or is there some way that I could volunteer online to do something resume-building? Or work a side gig? How would I find an appropriate one and what might it be?
posted by Frowner to Work & Money (4 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a business analyst in the software industry. It's not really a technical position, although technical knowledge helps. But communication skills, especially writing, are more useful. There are three real parts to my job: telling developers how something should work so that they know how to write their code, testing the code they've written to make sure it works the way I told them it should, and occasionally looking at existing systems that aren't working the way they thought they would for some reason. The latter two are pretty easy if you have an analytical mind. The former is where you'll use writing skills, because it has to be precise, but it's also important to understand how software works. Which is a roundabout way to get to me telling you what everyone tells anyone who's worried about future job prospects: learn computer programming. This is usually bad advice, because getting a job as a programmer isn't that simple, but I'm not suggesting you get a job as a programmer. :) Just learn enough that you can talk to them intelligently, so that if they tell you something like "oh, yeah, that function is just iterating over an array populated from a SQL query", you can follow along. It's probably also helpful to learn a little about UX, although you probably already have some inchoate ideas about UX and can flesh them out on the job.

In particular, my experience has shown that people who understand bookkeeping are very helpful in B2B software, because potential customers are interested in bookkeeping features and integrations, but no developers and few BAs have any sort of bookkeeping experience. As a result, people who understand that world and can clarify how it works are quite valuable.

Some resources:
Shay Howe's HTML and CSS
Free Code Camp
SQL Tutorial

These are all free and fairly easy, allow you to work at your own pace, and could be useful even if you decide you don't want to go down the road I'm suggesting.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:32 AM on October 9 [7 favorites]

Project management seems like a logical offshoot of what you're doing right now. There are lots of Coursera and free online college classes in project management that you can get certificates in.
posted by cooker girl at 9:25 AM on October 9 [5 favorites]

Bookkeeping for sure, if you're interested in it. A few years back, I applied to an Accounts Payable Clerk position at a major news/broadcasting network and a lot of the things you like to do are things that the AP clerk was doing in that job. You'd be the person tracking down expense reports from foreign correspondents, etc.

You wouldn't necessarily have to study or train for a position like that (it's entry level, which is why I was applying), but accounting is an industry that puts a lot of weight on credentials, so if you can get a bookkeeping cert (or more), it would definitely pay off.
posted by rue72 at 10:19 AM on October 9 [1 favorite]

I am not sure if this would be what you're looking for but a friend of mine was doing very similar stuff as what you've been doing and she ended up opening her own business doing medical billing for mental health therapists and her business is doing incredibly well.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 1:17 PM on October 9

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