An important step in career planning is to identify the skills, knowledge, and expertise that is required to be successful in the career you seek. Then, spend some time reflecting on your own experience to determine if there is a "gap" between what you know, and what you need to know, to pursue a particular career. If you discover a gap - especially one that is large enough to inhibit your ability to pursue your dream job, what can you do to fill it?
Thanks to the growth of MOOCs (massive open online courses, if you don't edu-speak), we now have a plethora of online learning opportunities. Coursea is one such learning platform, and Coursera is constantly adding free online courses taught by professors at respected institutions around the world. There are even courses taught by Vanderbilt professors! And did I meantion that most of the classes are FREE?
One savvy student asked me recently, "Do employers give any "credit" if I list a Coursera course on my resume?" It's a great question, and I think the answer remains to be seen, especially since the MOOC movement is so new. That said, I think a MOOC could do a frew things for you and your resume.
- An online course could help build your knowledge about a field, and possibly, your understanding of a career path. If you aren't sure whether a career in [pick a career area] is for you, a MOOC could help confirm your interest. Or lack thereof!
- A MOOC may help you build your "dictionary" about a field so you can talk more intelligently and confidently in an interview. If you use career-specific language and terms effectively (i.e. if you can correctly "talk the talk" and "walk the walk" without overstating your experience), a hiring manager can more easily envision you in the job.
- If you have little formal experience in an area, education and classes are a way to demonstrate to an employer that you are serious and have done something to build your understanding of a field.
Coursera courses starting soon include Writing in the Sciences, Biostatistics Boot Camp, Nanotechnology, Data Management in Clinical Trials, and Introduction to Financial Accounting, among hundreds of others! Could any of these fill "gaps" in your knowledge?