A New Year means new skills

Options for self improvement and career boosting

Last year I did something incredible—I kept a New Year’s resolution! In January 2017, I joined a local judo club, a Japanese martial art, to both learn something new and attempt to be healthier. While I’ve spent a year being literally thrown to the floor for three hours a week, I can now do more than one push up and have some proper self-defense skills that are applicable in real life. With the approaching close of another year now is the time to consider what I want to learn next.

Acquiring a new skill is a great way to attain personal enrichment and build your benefit your professional life. I believe we never stop learning, but everyone has busy lives and taking a course may not be a realistic fit for many people. There are many affordable options to learn skills that either complement the graphic communications profession or simply improve one’s own personal worth. While not an exhaustive list, the following links and ideas will give you some sources for self-improvement.


A buzz topic in the last several years is learning to code. There are many options: HTML, Javascript, CCS, Ruby, SQL, Python, etc. And, these are only some of the foundational languages that make up the websites, apps, and databases we use on a daily basis. Coding is frequently promoted as an essential job skill for both new and old workers alike, so much so that it is growing in prevalence in adolescent education and adult job applications.

Codeacademy  Offers free, step-by-step, learning courses on a variety of coding languages.

w3schools  Educates students from the novice to the professional level with tutorials and references on a number of web development languages.

Code.org  Specializes in programming. Offering thematic, interactive lessons to students of any grade level and provides educators with programming units.

Expand Your Knowledge

Open source education is quickly becoming a reality. Whether one works full time, does not have the disposable income to attend a course, or the class they wish to take is on the other side of the world, there are a number of learning options, each with a diverse array of competencies.

edX   Take free online courses from the world’s best universities.

Skillshare  Offers online classes and projects that unlock one’s creativity, although there is a paid membership fee.

Khan Academy  Access an extensive library of interactive video lessons discussing academic topics from Kindergarten to Grade 12.

lynda.com   Learn technology, creative, and business skills after paying a membership fee.

Chesscademy  Learn how to play chess for free.

Pianu   Interactively learn piano online using a keyboard.


Language proficiency is an ability with innumerable benefits. A multi-lingual capability not only makes travel significantly easier, but it also helps one communicate with peers and business associates. Be it books, tapes, or apps there are many options to at least learn the foundational phrases of many languages.

Duolingo  Learn a language for free. This app tests oral, listening, and writing abilities in a number of languages.

Lingvist   Learn a language in 200 hours.

Busuu   The free language learning community.

Memrise  Use flashcards to learn vocabulary.


Sometimes the simplest option is to explore one’s community. Like me starting judo, a quick search at local libraries, community centres, schools, places of worship, recreation arenas, and other public spaces might reveal some inexpensive but interesting classes one can take or groups one can join.

Volunteering your expertise to help community organizations or charities is also a great way to give back and learn something new. When a project challenges you to go outside your comfort zone that is an opportunity to both improve and learn new skills.

Some of the best learning experiences I have had were accidental. A random course I took or a charity to which I offered free graphic design helped me establish a network and gain expertise. There are so many ways to get involved and learn something new and, depending on personal preferences learning can be done in groups, independently, or even from the comfort of your own home.