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Career and Interview Tips

How to Easily Up Skill and Make More Money

Partner Content

A version of this article previously appeared on Skillcrush, an online education program for creatives, thinkers, and makers that gives total tech newbies the tools to make major career changes.

Scott Morris, Skillcrush

If you're on the job market, you know you need to make your resume stand out. But beyond your years of work experience, what if there were some extra skills you could easily add to your resume that would increase not just your hireability, but also set you up for a higher starting salary? Time is precious and it might seem impossible, but it's actually completely doable with minimal upfront investment (I'm not talking about going back for another degree here).

So, where should you even begin? To answer this question, I picked the brains of HR and recruiting professionals to learn what kind of skills make a difference to employers—and how much of salary bump you can expect from each.

Coding Languages

Right off the bat, there are the usual suspects—HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and WordPress make a solid foundation for coding languages, and a great example of where up skilling can come into play. Being fluent in these languages maximizes your flexibility, and can provide a compelling case to employers to start you at a higher rate or salary—regardless of industry.

Xavier Parkhouse-Parker, Co-Founder and Director at digital recruiting firm PLATO Intelligence, says that if an applicant can stack a high level of HTML coding knowledge on top of the specialized role they're applying for, it's possible to aim for a 25 percent starting pay bump when negotiating a salary. Jonathan Lau, Founder and CEO of coding school directory SwitchUp, adds that SwitchUp's 2016 job outcome survey for coding bootcamp graduates found that 63 percent of graduates reported increases in salaries after completing a bootcamp program. (Among those graduates, the average gain was $22,700.) With these kind of numbers in mind, it's clear that adding some coding know-how to your toolkit is a wise investment in your career future, whether or not you're specifically interested in developer roles—since having programming skills means you can work in virtually any field.

Go Open-Source

Beyond HTML, CSS, and WordPress, Elizabeth Becker, Client Partner and Tech Recruiter at the software recruiting company PROTECH, suggests going open-source. What does that mean? Open-source software is computer software whose source code (the code that makes it work) is open to the public and the software itself is free to use. Examples of open-source software include web browsers like Firefox, operating systems like Linux, and content management systems like WordPress. Because of its collaborative and free-to-use model, Becker says that an increasing number of employers are adopting open-source software platforms, which means an increased demand for tech professionals with open-source skills. The open-source model also means there's nothing preventing you from picking up these skills on your own—open-source software is free, and is often just a few clicks away via your web browser.

Becker cites knowledge of AngularJS—an open-source JavaScript-based framework (collection of common JavaScript functions) developed by Google—as an example of an in-demand open-source skill to have. "[Even] being able to include a completed training course on AngularJS on your resume [can] validate your skills, especially if you don't yet have job-related experience with it," Becker says. "I often see highly skilled open-source professionals being able to command 10-15 percent higher salaries than other professionals without open-source experience."

It's not a bad idea to start taking a look at what open-source software you're already using and spending some time getting a better understanding of how it works—in the case of Becker's example of AngularJS, you can dive deeper with resources like the AngularJS Google Group, AngularJS questions at Stack Overflow, and W3Schools' AngularJS Tutorial.

Search Engine Marketing

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is the practice of using techniques like Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Keyword Research (more on these below) to increase a website's visibility on search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. According to Steve Pritchard, HR Consultant at mobile phone provider giffgaf, it's also a skill that can fire up your resume and lead directly to more money when negotiating for a job. "Knowledge of how to get a business' website to appear higher in Google rankings…is a…skill that every business should be keen to capitalize on. The return on investment [is] well worth [a bump in] salary," Pritchard says. How much of a bump? Pritchard estimates that applicants with a track record of a couple successful SEM campaigns could increase their salaries by as much as 15 percent.

Whether you're learning web development, breaking into digital marketing, or working as a digital designer, two of SEO's main building blocks—SEM and Keyword Research—are skills you can (and should!) start experimenting with on your own. Not only can those skills lead to the kind of salary increase Pritchard describes, but SEO is invaluable in promoting your own brand and presence online: Knowing how to maximize your projects' searchability is crucial for standing out from the pack.

Start by reading through Google's own SEO Guidelines, which should give you a jumping-off point for the next time you're reworking your personal or business website. You can incorporate some SEO best practices easy with small tweaks like creating user-friendly URLs to make a website more searchable (for instance, "www.yourkillerwebsite.com/tips-for-up skilling" instead of "www.yourkillerwebsite.com/qs?/3600") and integrating responsive/mobile-friendly design (Google uses mobile-friendliness as part of its site ranking system). Next, dive into online resources like Moz's Beginner's Guide to SEO, and Webmaster World (an online forum for SEO talk).

Researching web search keywords that can drive traffic to your site or project is another crucial element of SEM—by getting a handle on the keyword demand for your website you'll not only get a better idea of what keywords to incorporate in your site's searchable text and content, you'll also piece together a picture of what your site's potential visitors are looking for. You can try using a tool like Google AdWords Planner (a free program that requires an AdWords account, but doesn't require you to actually create an ad) to research information on the volume of searches your keywords produce and decide which ones should be used prominently on your site.

As you read about, practice, and get a handle on these SEM skills, you'll eventually be able to add SEM literacy to your resume, and—regardless of whether you're looking to work as a web designer or a web developer—boost your value to potential clients and employers.

Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Word (No, Seriously.)

With so much emphasis on advanced coding and design skills, it's easy to overlook basic, old-fashioned computer know-how. While having these skills might seem like a no-brainer, Dawn D. Boyer, Ph.D. and CEO at Boyer Consulting, says otherwise.

"I can't tell you how many high school students in their first year of college taking my IT courses have never opened an Excel spreadsheet," Boyer says. For Boyer, this creates a disconnect when it comes to the practical reality of making things more efficient and easier in the working world. Similarly, Boyer says that database management is another overlooked computing skill that goes a long way in business.

According Boyer, Microsoft Word is the most important office software program to learn, followed by Excel. "Everyone has to write something in their work," Boyer says, "and if you have the ability to use Word paragraph and tabs formatting, as well as spell check, grammar and punctuation check, you are halfway to being more proficient in the software than about 80 percent of the competition for a job. [You'd be surprised] how many…Ph.D. students can't format a document for margins, paragraph indents, and tabs, or even insert a table, [yet] are out on the job market." As for Excel, Boyer says that vital functions to have a handle on are vertical lookup—a function used to lookup and retrieve data from specific columns in a table—and knowing how to create formulas—expressions that calculate the value of a spreadsheet cell.

If you're feeling particularly lost when trying to find your way around routine office software, consider taking an online class to get yourself up to speed. Excel, Access, Powerpoint, and Word might not be as exotic as Ruby on Rails, but they're a solid bump up in well-rounded resume skills. Boyer says that it's difficult to cite specific salary increases due to the amount of other factors involved (education, years of experience, overall skill set, etc,), but to think of these extra skills as a vital way to get yourself to the head of the application process.

Human Resources and Leadership Experience

HR skills give you an excellent chance at getting employers to pay more, says Georgene Huang, CEO and Co-Founder at Fairygodboss, from hiring to leading teams.

According to Huang, management experience is a crucial skill to leverage on a resume. The larger and more diverse teams you've managed, the higher the chance you have at commanding extra pay. Whether it's heading a team of developers, or managing a team of sous chefs, the same basic principles of leadership apply.

Specific experience with hiring, firing, and navigating difficult situations (company pivots, large scale business model changes, or moving from old business systems to building new ones) also builds a strong case for a higher starting salary. Again, think back and think big—it might feel like you don't have this kind of experience, but when you start to drill down you might be surprised at what's applicable. That time you chaired your kids' school's PTO board, helped overhaul the yearly fundraising programs, and participated in revamping the music program? It counts!

Finally, Huang says that abilities that demonstrate leadership like communication and presentation skills can go a long way in upping your value. And if you're petrified by the thought of public speaking—don't panic! Try some mock presentations with family and friends—and if you feel like you still need some work in the public speaking department, think about taking a quick speech class at your local community college or business school. In Huang's experience, the kind of leadership, decision making, and communication skills she's described can result in a 20-30 percent higher starting salary than applicants unable to demonstrate those skills.

Speaking a Second Language

Nora Leary, Co-Founder and Head of Marketing and Business Development at marketing firm Launchway Media, says that—due to her work with an international internship company—she's always looking into the economic impacts of spoken language skills. She cited studies covered by The Economist that demonstrate knowing a second spoken language correlates to about 2 percent more in annual income—which may not sound like much, until you start to crunch the numbers. The Economist extrapolates that even a 2 percent bump on a $45,000 a year salary can lead to as much as an extra $67,000 over the course of a 40-year working career, if you were to set aside your language bump in savings and figure in compound interest.

If you're looking to learn a second language, try classes at your local college, online classes, or even apps like Duolingo.

Show Me the Money

So you're an SEM wizard, you're strapped with a Rolodex of open-source certifications, you have an Excel tattoo, management skills are oozing from your pores, and you just spent the morning coding a Riverdale fan website. How exactly do you put this all together and communicate it to employers, short of an embarrassing, "show me the money" meltdown?

"A resume is the most important vessel in a job search," says Brianna Rooney, Founder and Lead Technical Recruiter at tech recruiting firm Techees. "[That] or a thorough LinkedIn." Rooney warns that an employer will be spending mere seconds looking at your resume, so it's critical you get straight to the point. List your background and skills explicitly and efficiently without a lot of filler. Remember, there's no way for potential employer to know you have these skills unless you tell therm. In Rooney's experience, a qualified resume combined with an array of bonus skills can tack on as much as $20,000-$40,000 more to a starting salary. "That is," Rooney says, "if you interview well."

So there you have it—a robust skillset presented in a crisp, comprehensive resume can be your ticket not only to landing a job, but landing it at above entry-level pay. And while there's no magic combination of skills that guarantees a dream salary, it's clear from talking to these pros that having an array of versatile skills above and beyond the bare minimum—whether it's a combination of coding tools or speaking Mandarin—goes a long way towards improving your chances for a salary that truly reflects all your hard work.

Career and Interview Tips

8 Podcasts by Boss Women You Should Subscribe to ASAP

Partner Content

A version of this article previously appeared on Skillcrush, an online education program for creatives, thinkers, and makers that gives total tech newbies the tools to make major career changes.

Haele Wolfe, Skillcrush

Do you have a commute? How about a daily walk, trip to the gym, or meal prep time? Great news: That means you probably (definitely) have time to listen to a podcast or two. And while it can feel overwhelming to choose what shows to invest your time in, the good news is that there are a lot of great, free resources out there on the airwaves that will help you feel like you're doing career improvement work, no matter how packed your schedule is.

Today I'm focusing in on badass female bosses who are sharing their insights with the working world, each in the name of their own cause, but all to better your chances at career success. While these aren't all strictly business podcasts, they all have elements that could benefit any entrepreneur. Choose a few programs at random or work your way methodically down this list—just be sure to press play. Your next big breakthrough could be one car ride away!

1. Pitch Makeover

The brainchild of Pipeline Angels founder Natalia Oberti Noguera, Pitch Makeover features startup founders pitching their company concepts to Oberti Noguera, and then workshopping them on air with her. Both of Oberti Noguera's endeavors (Pipeline Angels and Pitch Makeover) are aimed at supporting founders who are women, non-binary people, and men of color—people who aren't typically given an opportunity to get help like this. Listen to this program for business-savvy insight and tools you can use to refine your own business pitch.

2. Being Boss

Hosted by business-owners Kathleen Shannon and Emily Thompson, Being Boss is an effort to continue the conversation about creative entrepreneurship in a practical, applicable way, so that listeners leave the episodes with action items—and a plan. Choose where you want to start based on topic or guest: Being Boss has had everyone from the founder of Yoni Eggs to the force behind a technical copywriting kingdom. This podcast is perfect for anyone looking to learn business-savvy jargon in an entertaining way, while getting into nitty-gritty details like creative pricing and management style.

3. Startup

If you've ever wondered how startups work—from how to set a business model to what to do when you have an emotional breakdown—Startup is the ticket. The first season follows the actual beginning of now-podcast giant Gimlet media, capturing the growing pains of building a business. Now in its third season and hosted by Lisa Chow, the show is tackling different companies as they get off the ground, and has also inspired a sitcom that was picked up by ABC. Listen to this podcast for insight you never knew you needed about the world behind wheeling and dealing in the startup world, and to get a seat at the table with entrepreneurs who are building the next big thing.

4. Stuff Mom Never Told You

If it's a noteworthy topic for the modern woman, Stuff Mom Never Told You probably has an episode about it. Hosts Bridget Todd and Emilie Aries have been recording twice a week since 2009 and have even interviewed a certain Skillcrush CEO. Listen to this podcast for insight on common sense problems you'd think somebody should have taught you about, but definitely didn't.

5. The Broad Experience

Billed as a "conversation about women, the workplace, and success," The Broad Experience is thought-provoking and relevant. Host Ashley Milne-Tyte is a public radio vet with a background in journalism who releases one to two episodes every month. She's received widespread praise for the focus in content and high production level of Broad Experience, and tackles topics in the workplace like sexual harassment, hiring, being an assistant, and more. Listen to this show for a sharp take on career topics that will feel both new and familiar as each episode unfolds.

6. The Jess Lively Show

Lively has been an entrepreneur for most of her life, and is passionate about helping others find a financially viable and fulfilling lifestyle on her eponymous podcast. Choose where to start by clicking on topics like, career, money, or simplifying—and this is the perfect podcast for freelancers just getting started.

7. Call Your Girlfriend

Call Your Girlfriend is absolutely delightful and delivers compelling, relevant content. Long-distance best friends Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman call each other on the phone every week to catch up on politics, work, current events, and more—and they invite you to join the conversation.

Listen to CYG for excellent takes on life, business, pop culture, and the news of the week. And if you're looking for something to bring up the next time you're networking, CYG is the answer.

8. Hit Refresh

I'd be remise if I didn't mention our absolutely fantastic podcast Hit Refresh, where Skillcrush CEO & Founder Adda Birnir covers all aspects of changing careers and joining the tech world outside of Silicon Valley. Despite being admittedly biased (I'm a producer on the show), I'm so proud of the show. We cover broad-reaching topics that impact all of us, like a workforce that's more flexible in the future, sexual harassment in the workplace, and transparency at work. Tune in for serious real talk about running a company, the work being done to build a better, more inclusive tech world, and information about how make career changes—no college degree required.

Career and Interview Tips

Who Codes: From A Psychology Major to a Physics and Math Lover

Partner Content

A version of this article previously appeared on Skillcrush, an online education program for creatives, thinkers, and makers that gives total tech newbies the tools to make major career changes.

Scott Morris and Haele Wolfe, Skillcrush

We've all seen the stereotypes: that coders look exactly one way—and it's not the most inclusive description. (In fact, there's a pretty high chance that if you're reading this, you don't look like the coders we see on TV, in movies, and in the media.) But that's simply not an accurate representation of the tech world—which is growing more diverse as people find ways to join the industry that don't involve slogging their way through Silicon Valley. Welcome to What Makes a Coder?—a monthly column that spotlights two people with tech skills and the diversity of their careers.

Today, we have an educator-turned coding student/consultant with a passion for using tech to help people feel less alone in their mental illness and a self-taught test engineer at a major company who has been playing with computer since she was a kid (she also makes pickles and jams that sound pretty drool-worthy).

Bee Martinez, 32, Laredo, TX

What do you do and where do you work?
I'm an Educational Aide by day, code student by night, and home-maker in between. Since my background is in teaching, I'm a tech consultant for an education company. I do content management and design for a WordPress website that I built while taking Skillcrush classes. We also launched a newsletter recently!

I have a remote, part-time job with a designer/developer team. This looks like a steady weekly check in with the developer (who is my mentor), and I connect with the designer about once per month. I've been tackling increasingly larger and more complex bits of projects, but more importantly, I've been learning so much! And it's not only about code—it's also about workflow and being part of a team.

Finally, I contribute to the open source project if-me, a community for mental health experiences that encourages people to share their mental health stories with trusted allies. I focus on content creation/organizing and social media, but my first contribution was translating the website to Spanish.

Did you start out your career as a coder?
No way! I studied to be a psychologist. I started working in Special Ed, then I taught ESL in kindergarten, and at the same time I obtained a Master's Degree in Bilingual Education. This gave me the opportunity to be an Associate Professor for a while. I also taught ESL in Elementary school. Then, my husband and I decided to move to the USA, and I wanted to try something new. Skillcrush had been in the back of my head since I heard about it on Stuff Mom Never Told You podcast, so, I finally decided to join this amazing community when we moved!

How did you learn to code?
Through Skillcrush, of course! I'm currently wrapping up my Visual Designer coursework and working on improving my JS skills.

Tell us about a favorite project you've worked on.
My favorite project is if-me. Along with code and education, mental health is one of my passions. With if-me, I found a safe space to combine all of those. I work with people from different backgrounds who advocate and dedicate their time and resources to improving access to mental health resources. And it's all thanks to code! How amazing is that?

Were you always interested in tech? What sparked your interest?
I took an IT workshop in middle school, and one of the things I learned was to not be afraid of it, and that I was the one in control of what a computer could do. In my teaching days, I relied a lot on technology, from finding resources online to creating my own. I always liked to do things differently, but also finding easier ways to do and customize my lessons, making them more engaging. Tech was the way! As [Skillcrush CEO] Adda said in the #zerotodevsummit "Tech is not a thing. Tech is a way of doing things."

Do you have any advice for people who are considering learning to code and might have some apprehension?
I started a year ago. I haven't reached all my goals, but I'm really proud of what I have accomplished, which includes so much I didn't foresee. So… do it! Learning doesn't take up any space :) You can absolutely do it. It may seem daunting, but you won't do it alone. Instructors —and Twitter—are there for you! The tech community is wonderful, diverse, and welcoming. Join us!

What do you do outside of work?
All things media: podcast apps, streaming services, e-books…

How would you describe your work/life balance?
It takes work. Sometimes I want to do all the things! Learning to code is a commitment. So is maintaining work/life balance. One has to be as deliberate with self-care as with external obligations. Put yourself first.I highly recommend hanging out with pets, watching your favorite shows, going to concerts, and scheming to smash the patriarchy.

Maryanne Sweat, 40, Charlotte, NC

What do you do and where do you work?

I'm a Staff Test Engineer at LendingTree. I'm responsible for development of automated test cases for APIs and UI utilizing JAVA (among other languages and frameworks).

Did you start out your career as a coder?
No, I started out as a hardware tech. I was installing memory and configuring servers as a part time thing at a Borders Books & Music. I wanted to get into software, but I didn't have the coding skills. I started my software career as a test technician executing manual test cases written by other people, and I quickly took to Quality Assurance—I interpreted it as running experiments on software. As a Mathematics and Physics major in college, I was steeped in the scientific method traditions and I quickly recognized the testing process as a variation of the scientific method. In fact, I wrote a blog post about it last year.

How did you learn to code?
My first foray into coding was when I was in elementary school. My father bought the family a Commodore C-64 and its command prompts were written in BASIC. My dad had a subscription to a C-64 enthusiast magazine that always included programs. The first one I transcribed was a program that generated a game representing the Towers of Hanoi. However, once I had transcribed the code onto my local PC, I found there were errors in the code. It was my first introduction to software testing, although I didn't know it at the time.

I took programming classes in middle school and high school. My high school Calculus professor applied for a grant during the early days of the internet and was awarded a DEC-Alpha UNIX workstation for his class room. This allowed me to venture into UNIX and exploring the early days of the internet.

In college, I took two semesters of Digital Electronics, including assembly coding, and two semesters of FORTRAN. At the time, number crunching via computer was cutting edge.

I use JAVA, SQL query language, C#, Selenium, VBScript and HP QuickTestPro for work, and I taught myself these languages.

Tell us about a favorite project you've worked on.
My favorite project was building an automated test case which handled dynamic HTML field display for user form data collection. The application under test was configurable so the automated test cases had to be smart enough to inspect the page for what questions were shown and answer them accordingly. The real challenge was if one of the answered questions added a new question to the page. An example would be "Do you have a bankruptcy?" If the user answered "yes", the application under test would present a question asking when the bankruptcy was discharged. So, the script had to inspect the document object model in the browser, determine what questions were displayed and answer them accordingly. It then inspected the page again to see if new questions were added and then answered those.

I knew I had developed something pretty cool when during the demo, the UI developers exclaimed, "That's cool! Is it going to get that extra question that was added…OH WOW it did!"

Were you always interested in tech? What sparked your interest?
Yeah, pretty much always. Like I said, I had a personal computer at a young age—and I've been playing with them ever since.

Do you have any advice for people who are considering learning to code and might have some apprehension?
Don't let anyone tell you coding isn't for you. If you like solving puzzles, writing code is just like that. Be humble. Ask for help. Remember everyone was a newbie at one time or another. Once you feel comfortable writing basic algorithms, consider checking out Project Euler. It has a huge archive of algorithm problems that you must write a computer program to solve. While I was teaching myself JAVA this Spring, I used this site to learn various coding methods and tricks to solve a huge range of puzzles here.

What do you do outside of work?
I am a band booster volunteer with my son's band program and an avid video game player. I'm also a foodie—this summer, I have made a variety of pickles and jams to save the summer bounty to enjoy in Winter.

How would you describe your work/life balance?
My job is demanding but I make time for the important things in life. I try to limit my overtime unless a crisis erupts at work. My job also gives me the flexibility to work from home if needed which really helps keep things in perspective. The family tries to have dinner together every night and we have a no electronics at the table policy so we can focus on each other. Since my son is 16 and getting a teen to open up about his day can be challenging, we have a standard conversation prompt where each of us goes around the dinner table discussing three good things and one bad thing that happened that day.

Career and Interview Tips

4 Things People Who Didn’t Finish or Go to College Are Tired of Hearing

Partner Content

A version of this article previously appeared on Skillcrush, an online education program for creatives, thinkers, and makers that gives total tech newbies the tools to make major career changes.

Julia Sonenshein, Skillcrush

College is an integral portion of the American Dream: It's theoretically what propels you forward into the middle class existence we were all promised. The reality is that that dream isn't attainable for all of us, especially not in a system that rewards the inherited privilege of some—accidents of birth, instead of merit. "Where did you go to college" seems like a standard—albeit boring—dinner party question, and assumes that college is a universal experience for all of us.

The truth is that it's not, and that assumption is a harmful one that rests on issues of race and class. Anecdotally, friends tell me that because they didn't go to or finish college, their experiences are frequently invalidated or looked at with scorn. Here's what they're tired of hearing, along with some real answers to common misconceptions.

1. Why did you drop out of/not go to college?

People drop out of college or don't attend in the first place for infinite reasons, but to name a few: the staggering cost, the need to take care of a family member, illness, pregnancy, they didn't want to. In short: not a one of these are anyone else's business.

Asking this question also assumes that going to college is the norm, and that to deviate from that path is therefore abnormal. In reality, this isn't the case. According to a 2015 US Census report, only about 1 in 3 American adults have a Bachelor's degree. College certainly isn't the only path to adult life—nor is it even the most common.

2. The college years were the best years of my life. You missed out.

While it's fantastic that you enjoyed college so much, those four years aren't necessarily a positive experience for many people. Marginalized people (especially multiply marginalized people, like, for example, women of color)—face significant challenges in college. Rape culture is real (says statistics, not this special snowflake; see the multiple federal investigations into the crisis facing campuses), and it impacts people of all genders. Racism is rampant in academia, and especially impacts Black students' mental health, according to a study by the JED Foundation and the Steve Fund. And college is often not accessible for people with disabilities. For example, my friend Andrew Fisher is Deaf, and he told me that as an undergraduate at Brooklyn College, he constantly struggled with the interpreters assigned to him by the school, who often weren't even certified in American Sign Language. "They would basically get people off the street," and he could miss weeks of information because of bad interpreting. "It was incredibly frustrating."

Even for those of us without marginalizations, college can still be a minefield. Roughly one-third of U.S. college students reported depression that impacted their ability to function in a 2013 study by the National College Health Assessment. And it's no surprise: My colleague Lauren Lang, a former college professor, says that in her experience, the enormity of the adjustment to college life, "academically, socially or romantically, and emotionally, can trigger depression and anxiety in anyone."

Maybe college was amazing for you, but it's likely it wasn't for everyone you know. What did they miss out on? Your experience—which, unless they look exactly like you, come from the same exact background as you, and have the exact same opportunities you've had in life, will look nothing like their experience.

3. How can you expect to have a career?

Here's the thing: You actually don't need college to have a full career. In fact, some economists are encouraging millennials to consider trade schools instead of a four year college, according to an NPR report. Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters, for example, have a median pay of $51,450 per year, according to 2016 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with the highest 10 percent earning more than $90,530.

And if you're looking to enter a booming industry with wild opportunity , online coding schools make it easier than ever to enter the tech workforce without a college degree, and at a fraction of the cost and time commitment. According to a LinkedIn report, 2017's top 10 most in-demand job skills are all tech-related. Tech salaries are serious—and don't require a four-year degree (especially if you're working as a freelancer).

4. When are you going back?

Like all of these questions, this one is rude and not your business—and assumes that not finishing college is some inherent failure that has to be corrected. A college degree simply isn't a measure of someone's worth, ability, or potential.

Aside from all that, there's one hell of an argument to be made that college might no longer be worth it. Consider that at the end of 2016, 44.2 million Americans owe a total of $1.31 trillion in student loan debt, according to the New York Federal Reserve—what Forbes calls a "crisis." Multiple major publications and institutions have run the numbers on college and found that for a staggering number of degrees awarded, the price tag is oftentimes just too high.

Is this post advocating against going to college? Absolutely not. If college is a goal for you and is financially feasible, then by all means: Go for it. This is only meant to make clear that college isn't the only option—and there's no shame in not having gone.

Interested in a career that doesn't require a college degree? Download the free Ultimate Guide to Coding for Beginners. This 60+ page ebook will show you how—with only a personal computer and an Internet connection—you already have the tools you'll need to learn coding and design skills.

Career and Interview Tips

How to Escape the Trap of the Career Dead End—Without Going Back to School

Partner Content

A version of this article previously appeared on Skillcrush, an online education program for creatives, thinkers, and makers that gives total tech newbies the tools to make major career changes.

Scott Morris, Skillcrush

Face it: there's almost nothing worse than the looming feeling of a career dead-end. Every fiber of your being is telling you there's no future in your current situation, but with a full calendar, getting a new job seems easier said than done—especially if you're looking at a full-blown career change. Who has four or more years to spend getting a new degree or certification, much less the money to spend on another round of student loans?

I reached out to a group of career coaching professionals to get their take on career upskilling without another degree. Is there any way to leave a dead-end job without going back to school? The short answer— "yes!" It's not only possible, but practical, too. Read on to hear what these pros had to say about taking on a career transition‚—minus the crushing debt or debilitating classroom hours.

Before You Resign, Try to Save

When it feels like your job or career is hitting a dead-end, the first thing you should do is assess whether or not it's salvageable, says Andy Chan, founder at career coaching center Prime Opt. Rather than jumping into the job market immediately, Chan suggests talking to a manager about making a change to your current duties. It doesn't mean telling your manager you hope to leave your job—the goal is to see whether they can offer you new tasks in your current position, or whether they might even be able to put you in a new role on the same team. If it isn't possible to come up with an acceptable solution after transparent conversations with your supervisors, that's when it might be time to look elsewhere. Ultimately, Chan says to think about the future development of your career path and ask yourself, "Does my career path have a ceiling? Is my current position limiting where I can go, career-wise?" If your answers are "yes," Chan says it might be time to start considering a new job or an industry change.

Commit to How Awesome You Are

If it's truly time to move on, and you're hoping to escape a dead end job without the cost and time burden of more college, career coach Carlota Zimmerman says it's important to realize there's no one-size-fits-all-secret. "I've had clients who've gotten new jobs through LinkedIn, others who were introduced to a company that was hiring by someone in their knitting circle, and still others who got an interview after talking to a fellow college alum at their alumni association Christmas party," Zimmerman says. "Commit to the process, commit to the belief that you deserve a job you love, commit to the belief that you have something to contribute. Commit!" she says. Zimmerman adds that this is particularly crucial if you've been in a dead-end, depressing job for years. "It's akin to being in an abusive relationship," she says. "You have to learn—all over again,—to believe in yourself and your abilities. The worst thing you can do is half-heartedly attend one networking group, speak to no one, and go home deciding, 'Oh well, I guess my boss is right, I'm a loser.'"

If you're in a toxic workplace where you aren't getting the encouragement, challenges, and opportunities you need to be happy and fulfilled, it's easy to overlook just how draining that unhappiness can be. Before formulating the specifics of your plan for career change, it's important to take some time, reorient your perspective, and go all-in on the commitment Zimmerman describes. Your dead-end job may have sapped your enthusiasm a long time ago. Recapturing your drive and reframing your self-worth is the first step toward something better.

Up Skill on Your Lunch Hour

Once you've kicked the tires on your commitment to career change and reoriented your POV to one where you KNOW you deserve a better job, it's time to take practical steps toward making that job a reality. You might have put off career change in the past due to the fear that a lack of relevant degrees would make your transition impossible, but Career Counselor Rebecca Beaton says that—despite the myth of degrees being a barrier to entry—today's employers are less interested in whether or not applicants have x or y degrees, and are more focused on skills specific to the roles they're trying to fill.

What's more, Beaton says that plenty of skills necessary for either entering a new career or improving your marketability in your current one, don't require a fortune and excessive amounts of time, to acquire. Skills like programming languages, spoken languages, software suites, and management techniques can all be learned at your own pace during chunks of downtime—say, during your lunch break, or while you're waiting for a dentist appointment.

According to Beaton, once you have a general idea of what you want your new job or career to be, then it's time to review online job postings and learn what specific skills are required for that line of work. After you identify the skills you need, Beaton says there are thousands of free or cheap online courses that can be found through sites like Udemy, Coursera, EdX, or Pluralsight. Online courses like these will give you a good foundation in the skills you're interested in learning, but Beaton says they'll also serve to give you a better idea of your fit within a particular career path.

"If you thought you wanted to become a web developer but took a coding course and hated it, you might want to consider a different avenue," says Beaton. However, if you love your coding class, you can take it a step further and invest in something like an online 3-month bootcamp program. After you've taken a course or two and decided you're on the right path, Beaton says the best way to solidify those skills and generate experience for your resume is to do some actual work for a client using the skills you've been learning. "Find someone you can work for, probably at either a reduced rate or for free," says Beaton. "It's a great way to start building your portfolio."

Through this process of researching job listings, building on your skillset, and putting those skills to work in practical situations, you'll be firmly on the road to career change, sans massive student debt and four or more years of your life spent languishing in classrooms.

Don't Be Shy

Developing relevant skills is a big part of career change, but those skills won't do you much good in a vacuum—making connections in the industry you're hoping to break into is just as important. Valerie Streif, Senior Advisor at Mentat, a San Francisco-based organization for job-seekers, recommends setting up informational interviews with people working at the kinds of jobs you're interested in. That way, you'll be networking and meeting potential future colleagues while learning more about the skills you need to sharpen as you make your career move.

Streif says the best approach is to send a warm outreach email to your interview prospect and ask if you can take them to lunch. If you're at a loss for who to reach out to, talk to any current industry connections or acquaintances you have and see who they can put you in contact with. Then, Streif says, when the meeting happens, take notes and make sure not to be too pushy or to outright ask your interviewee to help you get a job. Focus on listening, gathering information, and establishing a connection with your interviewee as a future professional contact.

Resume Coach Robyn L. Coburn says that attending industry-specific networking events is also a must when laying the foundation for a career change. Sites like Meetup, Eventbrite, and Eventful are good places to start searching for relevant events in your area. While Coburn knows that networking feels daunting at first (and for some people, it never stops being scary), the key to making it easier is preparation. "Instead of thinking of networking as a job interview, think of it as a fact-finding mission," Coburn says.

Coburn also suggests preparing two or three questions about the job or company you're interested in that require more than a "yes" or "no" answer, and to be ready to ask the people you meet. Much like an informational interview, this is a chance to listen, get better insight into your career of interest, and start getting to know people in the field. And remember, you don't have to speak to the CEO of a company you want to work for, in order for a networking event to be successful. Coburn says that simply connecting with one new person who works in the field is enough to make the effort worthwhile.

Don't Sell Yourself Short

So you're building skills in your downtime, and making connections to learn more about the industry you want to break into, but when you're ready to make that final leap you'll need to package yourself in a way that stands out to potential employers. What can you do to polish off your resume and market yourself in the best way possible?

Streif says DO fill your resume with transferable skills—anything relevant you have previous experience with, alongside any skills you've familiarized yourself with in preparation for changing jobs—but DON'T add fluff.

"This is something so many people struggle with, and doing it incorrectly won't help your chances of making a career move," says Streif. "Trying to make up for a lack of experience with excessive, meaningless words like 'effective communicator' or 'team player' isn't going to fool anyone. You need to be creative, think of the SPECIFIC projects you've completed in your current role, and brainstorm how those responsibilities transfer into a different role or how they'd help you complete tasks in a new one. Specificity is key!"

Beaton says that your resume is also a great place to circle back and present any test work you've done while building your skills, even if you did it for free. "The fact that you worked for free or cheap isn't relevant to the employer," says Beaton, "the main thing is that you have the right skills and you know how to use them. Beaton says it's also important to include the results you achieved for your client (or employer) using those skills. For example, if you took a course to learn Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and did some free SEO work for a friend, you might put something like 'Optimized full five-page website, resulting in a 200% increase in traffic and website appearing on the first page of Google for two primary keywords."

Marketing yourself effectively is as important as any aspect of your job search, so don't sell yourself short—everything relevant to your future job counts, and it's up to you to advertise it proudly.

Leave on a High Note

Finally, Coburn cautions, never complain about your current job or company during your transition process. "If you are asked why you want to move on," says Coburn, "express your reasons in terms of your own growth or needs, rather than due to not liking your company. Coburn suggest the approach of, "It's been a great place to work, but I've reached as far as I can go there and I want to make a contribution in a larger organization with more opportunity to advance," or, "It's been a great place to learn about the industry from an industry leader, but I'd like to find a smaller company where my skills and experience will make a difference in the day-to-day operations," depending on the type of company you're applying for.

Maintaining a positive relationship with your current job while you work toward a career change is also critical, Coburn says, because it's important not to leave a job you have without securing your financial situation and—hopefully—your next position.

"Remember," says Coburn, "the currently employed person is always more attractive to employers than someone who is out of work." By the same token, Coburn says not to accept a new job offer out of desperation—a surefire way to end up in another unsatisfying employment situation. Instead, take your time and really consider any new job opportunities that come your way—how will it address your current job unhappiness and how will it help you grow your career moving forward? When the right job comes you'll know it, and—through upskilling, networking, a solid resume, and a positive commitment to change—you'll be in a prime position to make your move.

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