Skillshare: the tool of the autodidact

Job-hunting is hard. If you get one callback for every fifteen applications, you’re lucky. Choosing a job to apply for is another matter. In my experience, there’s always something in the job description that I feel I’m not entirely equipped to handle, but that I could probably learn quickly if I were to get the position.

I realized that becoming an autodidact is key to successfully navigating the workforce. It’s not enough to present what you’ve got and hope an employer likes you enough to give you a job. You have to meet them halfway. And that goes further than the job search. Once I have the job, I like to feel like I’m staying one step ahead by evaluating my work, identifying my own weaknesses, and addressing them to make sure I’m doing a good job.

How do you go about teaching yourself or brushing up on the skills that an employer needs?

My go-to resource is obviously Google. It’s the first step of any research project. YouTube has many free how-to videos about almost anything. But Skillshare, a self-styled “learning community for creators” offers some interesting options. For $6 to $10 per month, half of which pays the teachers, you have access to thousands of online courses made up of video lessons and a class project. There are classes about everything from how to keep your plants alive to how to make your own app. A free membership gives access to about 500 classes.

Anyone can be a Skillshare teacher, but in many cases they seem to be professionals with an urge to share their knowledge. Being a teacher is also a good way of creating an online following. Companies like SEO Moz, Vimeo, and MailChimp produce many of the free videos.

Although there’s something to be gained by teaching, there’s still some quality control so that user experience isn’t negatively impacted. To meet Skillshare’s standards, classes must contain real learning material — so no self-promoting or get rich quick schemes, and contain a project and at least ten minutes of high quality prerecorded lessons.

Skillshare offers many ways of narrowing down the search for the perfect class, by rating, by subject, by class length, and more. I chose to brush up on writing for e-mail, and enrolled in a free class called Email Marketing Essentials: Writing Effective Emails, given by Kate Kiefer Lee, a writer and editor for MailChimp.

Review of Skillshare, the tool of the autodidact

“Our mission is to provide access to high-quality learning,” it says on Skillshare’s website.

In this introductory class to e-mail marketing, Skillshare delivered.

The half-hour video class is split into nine shorter videos addressing different topics, like the core principles of writing for e-mail marketing, brand voice and tone, the elements of an e-mail, and types of e-mails, among others.

Review of Skillshare, the tool of the autodidact

Kiefer Lee speaks clearly, gets to the point, and uses bullet points on the side of the screen, and examples to illustrate her points.

The project for the class was to find an e-mail that I reacted to by clicking through, or making a purchase, posting screenshots of the e-mail on the class’ project gallery page, and commenting on what action was taken. The result is a gallery of effective e-mails posted by students for everyone to peruse and use as inspiration.

Review of Skillshare, the tool of the autodidact

Each Skillshare class has a community page where students and the teacher can interact and share knowledge and resources. There’s no need to sit through the entire class at once. Much like Netflix, Skillshare bookmarks your spot and displays a link to it when you log into your homepage.

Skillshare: the tool of the autodidact

About The Author
- Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph is a freelance journalist currently based in Montreal with experience in print, radio, and television.

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