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Invest in Yourself: Gain Skills Outside of the Classroom

My classroom experiences have been invaluable to me, but oftentimes, I worry that I’m not learning the hard skills that will prepare me for the workplace and make me competitive in the job market. In today’s modern world, it’s important to be digitally savvy. Especially in creative careers, being familiar with the basics of graphic design, photography, and coding are essential. But what’s a girl to do when her university doesn’t offer courses on the intricacies of the Adobe Suite? Well, she gets a little innovative and takes advantage of alternative education opportunities!

Here are six affordable and accessible ways to build your skill sets–outside of the classroom!


SkillShare.com is an online learning platform where experts provide a great variety of classes, ranging from the basics of calligraphy to photography to maximizing MailChimp functions for email marketing! Some classes are free, although you do have to pay for the majority. However, class fees are very reasonable, and I would argue that this money spent is an investment–in yourself and your future career. And good investments always pay off!


Look, the very word, “coding,” makes me break out in sweats, but there are so many resources now that can make learning HTML a piece of cake. Even supermodel and part-time coder, Karlie Kloss, says coding is a kind of superpower, and I’m inclined to agree. Knowing basic coding will help you build a website and perhaps launch that blog you’ve been thinking about starting! CodeAcademy.com is a totally free resource that offers courses in Python, HTML, Java, and more!


Usually, Youtube is place we go to procrastinate. Personally, I’m guilty of falling into the black tunnel of puppy videos. However, so many creators on Youtube are posting wonderful educational content. Want to learn how create a Facebook banner in photoshop? Or how to produce your own zine of poetry? Or how to create a podcast? There’s a Youtube video for that!

Your Library 

Your local library has a ton of resources–and you probably had no idea that they exist! My local branch offers in-person computer software classes, writing courses, and even conversational language classes. Even if your local library is underfunded, it is probably part of a statewide network, which gives you access to many online resources. In the Tennessee library network, for example, you have free access to online programs like MangoLanguages.com, which teaches foreign languages.

And don’t forget your university’s library! At UTC, the Library’s Studio, located on the 3rd floor, offers classes for graphic design, photography, video editing, and more! You can also rent high quality video and sound equipment or dabble with their high-speed computers which have creative softwares like the Adobe Suite and Final Cut Pro.

Internship or Mentorship Programs

Of course, you can also learn many skills on the job, and sometimes, this is the best way! When you’re thrown into a new role, sometimes you have to teach yourself a new skill. In other cases, your mentor in the company will show you the ropes. Be sure to ask questions and glean some knowledge from veterans in the field!

Alternative Learning Centers

Some organizations have stepped up to fill the gaps in traditional education. Learning centers like New Horizons, which has locations in Chattanooga and Nashville, offer training and certifications in technical skills for softwares like Microsoft Excel and Quickbooks. If you’re looking for a classroom environment, this might be a great option for you! You’ll have to pay for tuition, but remember that you’re investing in yourself!


Summer break is the perfect time to pursue your creative and career goals. Embrace your inner Girl Boss and take advantage of the extra free time to learn new skills that will bring you one step closer to your dreams. With so many resources available, there’s nothing stopping you!


I'm a junior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, pursuing a Marketing degree. As an ex-English major, I still enjoy reading and writing, and you'll often find me doing one of the two, while sipping a cup of tea. I'm a bit of a granny, with a great love for early bedtimes, gardening, and puttering around the kitchen. I'm working on saying "Yes!" to every opportunity and taking risks, in spite of my fears!
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