The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of us to spend more times under the comfort of our homes. With the exception of those working in essential services, more people today leave their houses later and come back earlier than usual. Some don’t even leave the house at all for an entire day, as they have to either work from home or just be with their families since their contracts have been put on hold or the employer sent them on compulsory leave. No doubts these are difficult times for everyone. 

As a consequence of the restrictions put in place by governments worldwide to contain the spread of the disease, people are looking for different ways to keep themselves productively occupied at home. From helping children with homeschooling to trying out new recipes, attending online project meetings to taking physical and mental exercises from their living rooms, or even spending lots of hours watching their favourite movies or series. Anything to keep one busy at this time counts for something. 

One such activity that could be incredibly rewarding in the long term is taking online courses. This is a very good time to enhance ones knowledge and skills in a wide range of areas. It can be learning a skill that directly relates to your line of profession or an entirely new subject that complements what you do on a day-to-day basis. Alternatively, it could be learning something that is completely unrelated with your work, for instance; developing your passion in art, music, photography, or cooking, mental health, managing your finances and investments or learning a new language. Just learn anything that adds value. 

In this area I consider myself one of the lucky ones. Thanks to my employer I have access to the LinkedIn Learning platform, which I really like and highly recommend. Of course there are many other platforms and universities offering a wide range of free and paid online courses across various disciplines. Among the many, here are some others I have come across:

 Over the last five weeks or so I have made it a routine to complete at least one course every week. As a relatively new manager, I chose to focus on building my leadership skills to help me improve on how I work with and support my team to achieve the best results individually and collectively. So far, I have completed four courses and still counting. 

One of the courses I took was called “Developing Adaptability as a Manager” by Dorie Clark, author and Professor of Business Administration at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. One of the strategies Dorie recommends for growing faster to make an impact within changing professional circumstances, is creating a personal curriculum for professional development. This includes developing a learning path that places you at least five years into the future role you envision for yourself and working backwards to learn the roles and acquire the necessary skills. It also requires you to build your ‘T-Shape skills’ – that is developing deep domain expertise in one area and breadth in the adjacent areas that offer useful supplementary skills. To achieve this seemingly insurmountable task, Mr. Clark recommends identifying one skill per year to work on with incremental progress that becomes transformative over time. 

I am glad I realized the need to up-skill myself in a specific area even before taking the course. It’s something I recommend. Identify your current and future professional inadequacies then craft a plan on how you’ll acquire them, starting with the most immediate ones. 

What better time to do that than now, when you have a little more time than usual at your disposal. Amidst the unfortunate COVID-19 pandemic, smart professionals can find a silver lining in the opportunity to build their skills in readiness for a return to normalcy.

Trust me, when the lockdown ends, you will walk back into the workplace with your head high and exuding greater confidence as a result of the knowledge and skills you will have amassed. While others complain about how much time has been lost, you will be smiling that you made good use of your time at home. This may be the investment you needed to improve your performance at work, earn that promotion or prepare for your next professional challenge. 

So go on, grab that desktop, laptop, iPad, tablet or even your mobile phone and enroll for a course today. My recommendation is that you start with short duration courses, under one hour, and do them to completion. This helps to build acquaintance with the chosen platform, and gather the momentum you need to push on with courses taking longer duration. It requires a lot of discipline though. You have my best wishes. Let me know how it turns out for you, if you can. Onward! 

20th April 2020

Nairobi, Kenya.

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