10 invaluable job skills that you can learn outside the office

Excel, coding, public speaking, and more skills you can pick up in your spare time

Job skills

PHOTO: Ingimage

Let’s get this straight: we love going to work. We love having a source of income, having cool coworkers, and having something to do between 8 to 6. But the routine can get a little monotonous. Unlike in school, where you were guaranteed a new environment and new subjects to learn every semester, you can work for years without learning anything useful.

Perhaps this is just the nature of corporate life. You shouldn’t expect your superiors to spoon-feed you advice as you advance through the ranks. Nor will the average boss have the time to mentor you. More often than not, self-enrichment is something you have to take into your own hands.

“But my work is so boring!” you protest. “How am I supposed to learn anything new when I do the exact same thing every day?”

Well, the easy answer is that you should start looking for a new job as soon as you stop learning anything new at your current one. But as anyone who’s ever job-hunted would know, that’s also easier said than done. So in the meantime, apply yourself during nights and weekends. Rather than spending your free time after work marathoning dramas, try spending at least an hour day forging new passions and developing skills that you don’t use in the office. And who knows? One of these things might just be your ticket out to greener pastures.

1. Learn Excel
Excel is the lifeblood of business. It’s used in hospitals, in ad agencies, in banks, and classrooms. Even if your current job scope doesn’t require the use of spreadsheets (as writers, ours certainly doesn’t), knowing how to create one will show that you’re organised, detail-oriented, and have something extra to offer. You can help your team track its budget, import data, and create call logs. A little bit of administration goes a long way, and if you can use well-programmed spreadsheets to implement new processes, you’ll have a leg up on your colleagues who still rely on sticky notes to stay organised.

Try: excelexposure.com

2. Learn to code
Despite our reliance on all things digital, there are surprisingly few people who can code fluently. Learning a programming language will make you an asset at virtually any company. Not only does it look awesome on your resume, you can learn it for free without ever leaving your bedroom.

Try: codecademy.com, tutsplus.com

3. Read, read, read
Being well-read is an excellent signifier of intelligence and imagination. Countless studies have shown that reading literature makes you more empathetic (undoubtedly useful for deciphering your boss’ moods). You’ll be more in tune with the times, more knowledgeable about other cultures, and more adept at making small talk. Mix up your non-fiction with your fiction, and your popular literature with the stuff that wins Pulitzer Prizes. We can guarantee that you’ll always have something substantial to contribute when there’s a lull in conversation. 

4. Learn a new language
You can never overestimate the practical value of knowing another language, especially in multicultural societies like Singapore. It be as academic as signing up for Chinese classes, to as casual speaking Chinese 24/7 at home to improve your conversational skills. Try signing up for a Japanese or Korean tutor. At least then you can justify your Korean drama binges as “homework”. You can even take your ambitions a step further by learning sign language, as effective interpreters can be hard to come by.

Try: Duolingo.com, sadeaf.org.sg/course.htm for sign language

5. Learn photography
Knowing how to use a camera will not only make you extra useful at company events, but it’ll literally help you see the world in a while new way. While photography can open up your latent artistic side, it will also teach persistence, ingenuity, and adventure. Not everyone has the dedication to explore abandoned buildings for that perfect shot, or the patience to photograph babies on their first birthday, but with enough practice, you can turn your hobby into a business on the side.

Try: exposureguide.com, cambridgeincolour.com

6. Start a blog
Don’t just post a bunch of selfies. Write about something that other people will find useful and interesting. It could be travel, food, fitness, or fashion. You could even start a blog about self-improvement or succeeding in one’s career. Maintaining it will not only stretch your discipline and creativity, but it will make you look like a more well-rounded person. And gaining a wide readership will demonstrate social media know-how, which always looks great on a resume.

7. Learn CPR
Surprise surprise, knowing how to save a life comes in handy when you’re around people who are unhealthy, overworked, or getting on in years. And let’s not forget learning the Heimlich manoeuvre, which is one of the simplest ways you can save someone (or yourself) from an unnecessary death. Learning CPR is not only easy (editor’s note: this writer got certified at age 16) but it will show that you are responsible and always prepared.

Learn more at redcross.org.sg/articles/learn-first-aid

8. Become an excellent public speaker
Acquire a silver tongue, and you’ll be able to get away with just about anything. Just look at figures like Barack Obama or Jennifer Lawrence, whose wit and oratory skills have won the hearts of the American people. Giving good presentations will influence decision makers to support your ideas. And being well-spoken will make you look and feel more confident. Do it well enough, and you may even be invited to represent your boss at company events. But more than helping your own cause, good public speaking skills with you give the power to motivate people and inspire some much-needed passion into your team.

Try: Toastmasters Club of Singapore (www.toastmasters.org.sg)

9. Perfect your appearance
First impressions count. And let’s face it, no matter how smart, well-spoken, or accomplished you are, people are going to judge you based on your looks. Even Mark Zuckerberg, one of the world’s youngest (if not THE youngest) self-made billionaire, gets mocked for his hoodie and flip-flops all the time.

Living up to your potential also extends to your appearance. Don’t look at shopping, makeup, or getting a haircut as vain or frivolous activities. Look at them as simple ways that to make a better first impression. You’ll look more put-together, more sophisticated, and even more respectful – clients feel flattered when you bothered to clean up just for them.

But most importantly, watch your health. Exercise helps you develop rhythms. It might be tiring to bench-press after work, but the extra energy (and muscle) pays off in the long run.

For easy makeup tutorials, either check out the vloggers on YouTube or check out some workshops in town. From now until April 6, you can also stop by Sephora ION for Make Up For Ever’s Beauty Pit Stop, where you can get a makeover and a free consultation with MUFE’s Make-Up Experts on how to freshen your makeup in just 2 minutes using HD Pressed Powder and HD Cream Blush.

10. Volunteering
“Huh? Volunteering’s not a skill!” Well no, not technically, but by joining a team other than the one you belong to at work, you’ll be forced to learn those people skills all over again. You’ll learn to take direction, to work with different personalities, and once you’ve volunteered long enough, to manage the newbies. But in addition to learning about teamwork, you’ll also develop a sense of generosity – perhaps even a sense of purpose – which will fuel your idealism as you soldier on in the workplace.

For more information, check out www.sgcares.org

Report a problem