Four ways to enhance your skill-set while furloughed

Have you been furloughed in lockdown? Discover four ways you can use this time to your advantage by enhancing your skill-set.

As of 27 April, more than four million UK workers have been furloughed, with experts predicting that number to reach more than nine million in the coming months as businesses continue to struggle during the coronavirus crisis.

While it can be devastating to lose even a portion of your wages, this period of self-isolation could prove to be a golden opportunity for your career in the long term.

Depending on the ages and needs of your children, you may have some extra time available to invest in your professional development. 

Whether you fancy switching careers or you’d like to progress in your current field once the scheme ends, there are many ways you can enhance your skill-set in as little as a few hours per week. Here are four ways you can do so.

1) Conduct informational interviews

Before you go down an internet rabbit hole and spend hours upon hours researching various career-development opportunities, consider reaching out to your professional network for guidance. One of the most underutilised, yet effective networking tactics you can employ is known as an informational interview

While these information-gathering sessions are often used by those who want to switch jobs or change careers, they can also be an amazing source of information when you wish to improve your overall skill-set. 

Identify people in your network who work in your ideal role, industry or company. If you’re not interested in changing career paths, look for professionals in your line of work who are a few levels above you, but don’t work directly with you – someone you might want to ask to be your mentor in the future. 

Then, reach out to these professionals and request a 10-minute phone call or video call to learn more about the soft and hard skills they’ve honed over time that have made them successful and the resources or activities they suggest you explore to do the same.

This will help you pinpoint which skills are in-demand for your chosen career path and can be developed while you’re furloughed and stuck at home.

2) Complete an online course

Thanks to modern technology, it’s easier than ever to upskill from the comfort of your home. There are loads of free online resources available to help you increase your subject matter knowledge or learn a new skill that is desired in your field.. 

Depending on your position, it may be worthwhile to go a step further and pursue a microcredential through sites like FutureLearn. Microcredentials are sector-endorsed courses, designed to help you build professional skills and pursue further specialised study.

Upskilling with a microcredential can also help you keep up-to-date with relevant and emerging practices in your industry – a surefire way to impress your boss. 

While there are lots of free online training opportunities offered, be advised that you often have to pay for a course upgrade if you want to obtain a certificate or other official credential at the end of it for your CV.

3) Attend a virtual conference

Another way you can increase your industry knowledge and build your skill-set is by attending trade shows and conferences. While the current stay-at-home order makes it impossible to travel to such events, there are numerous online options you can explore.

10times, the world’s largest aggregator of business events, has a section of its site dedicated to virtual expos, webinars and online workshops you can attend for nearly every sector imaginable. 

4) Volunteer your talents 

While you may not be able to work for your employer while you are on furlough, you are allowed to become a volunteer so long as your activities adhere to public health guidance, are not in service to your employer and won’t make money for your employer.

Should you decide to explore virtual volunteering while you’re furloughed, I suggest looking into skills-based volunteering opportunities via sites such as Reach Volunteering and Catchafire.

Skills-based volunteering (SBV) is a great way to utilise your specialised talents to help the greater good. Rather than volunteering in a general capacity, a skills-based volunteer opportunity allows you to provide value to a worthy charity while honing your skill-set. As an added bonus, your skills-based volunteer experience can be used to boost your CV and to expand your professional network. 

A few hours a week can make a big difference

Of course, the amount of time you have to dedicate to your professional development while on furlough will greatly depend on how much responsibility you have at home.

However, if you can set aside a few hours each week, by the time the scheme ends, you will emerge with a more desirable set of skills to advance your career. 

Amanda Augustine is the resident careers expert for Talent Inc.’s suite of brands: TopCVTopInterview and TopResume.

She has more than 15 years of experience in the recruiting and career-advice industry, and she is a certified professional career coach (CPCC) and resume writer (CPRW). Request a free CV review from TopCV today.

Photo by Bram Naus