Online courses are great for advancing your career. Make the most of them.

Are you hoping to take your career prospects to new heights? Perhaps you're stuck on a certain level in your job and want to show your boss that you are ready for a promotion. Equally, you may have your sights set on stepping out alone by starting your own enterprise or side hustle.

Whatever your reason for wanting to hone your skills and learn something new, taking a course online is a smart move.

This step could be the first towards a whole new world of career opportunity. Ahead of taking your course, you need to make sure that you're prepared to get the most out of it. Let's take a look at five tips you can use to set you on the path to success.

1. Find a course that suits your goals

First, let's talk about the type of online course you should choose. Whilst there's value in studying a range of interesting topics, try to ensure that what you study suits your goals.

For example, if you have aspirations of starting your own business in the future, taking a business management course is a savvy move. Similarly, if you already work in a career that you love, you may want to study a course that complements it. Before you decide what to study, ask yourself how the course fits into your five-year career plan and how it will help you get ahead.

When you have determined the topic you wish to study, then you can start looking for a course online. You may consider paying for an accredited course, but keep in mind that there are plenty of free resources online to help you upskill.

Ahead of signing up, be sure to look at the course criteria, the timetable and the assignments that you will need to complete. Having an overview of what the course entails will help you make the right decision about whether it works for you.

2. Manage your time effectively

Next, when you have signed up to a particular course, it's time to get studying. Whether you're simultaneously working full-time, part-time or simply have other responsibilities, you will find that proper time management is the key to your success. The sooner you get into a routine, the easier you will find things. Struggling to get started? Here are some approaches that you may want to try:

  • Mark deadlines in your diary. Whether you use a physical diary or the calendar on your phone, this tip will help you. As soon as you learn about your assignment deadlines, mark them down. Having a note of these important dates will give you something to work towards.
  • Create a weekly routine. Trying to fit your studies around your lifestyle? Dedicate the same hours to this course each week. For example, you may want to study between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. A solid plan will keep you on track.
  • Set reminders on your phone. Get a reminder app for your phone. In the lead-up to an exam or assignment deadline, set yourself regular reminders to study or work. Doing so will mean that you can keep track of when those important dates are looming and keep your eyes on the prize.
  • Track your studies. When you sit down to work, do you find your mind wandering? If the answer is yes, you may want to start tracking this period. Using a programme, such as Toggl, to monitor how long you revise or study is a great way to help you stay focussed on the task at hand.
  • Schedule free time. All work and no play is a surefire way to burn you out. Don't make that mistake - learn how to conquer work burnout. When you're creating your schedule, make sure that you include some 'you time'. Over-committing yourself to studying will mean that you find it a chore. Instead, block out specific times when you will be working and times when you will be relaxing too.

To some people, time management comes naturally. However, for the rest of us, it takes hard work and dedication. If you don't find it easy, stick to these tips and be sure you create habits that work for you.

3. Dedicate a space to studying

Distractions are your worst enemy when studying a course online. Since you're doing the work from the comfort of your home, there are plenty of ways that you could get distracted. You might accidentally end up binge-watching a series (oops!) or find yourself bogged down with household chores.

Creating a space in which to study could be the answer. Should you have a spare bedroom, you can create a home office. But dedicating a corner of your kitchen to your studies works too.

Not only does this help limit the distractions around you, but it also acts as a ritual. When you sit down in that specific space, you will know that it's time to start focussing and studying.

4. Join an online study group

One of the hardest things about doing an online course is that it can feel as though you're going it alone. Since you aren't attending classes with other people, you might find the experience isolating. Fortunately, you can combat this problem by joining an online study group.

In some cases, the course you take will have an online community for students, such as a Facebook page or forum. Use these pages to reach out to your fellow students. You may also want to arrange a virtual study group via Zoom or Skype.

Alternatively, you could start a group message where you can all talk about the course topics, share any difficulties you're having, and even give and receive study advice along the way.

5. Reward your hard work

Never underestimate the power of positive reinforcement. Completing an online course is hard, especially if you're doing it alongside a job. Rewarding yourself along the way is a simple trick you can use to keep you going strong.

You might want to set yourself certain goals and give yourself small rewards when you meet them. That way, not only will you have the pride of completing the course assignments, but you will also have the joy of giving yourself something special.

For example, if you have a penchant for new stationery, you could buy yourself something small for each assignment or task that you complete. Having this reward in mind will help you stay motivated when times get tough. Decide what type of reward system will work for you and start making a plan.

Excelling in an online course

You're all set! Armed with these tips, you should be ready to go out there and study like there's no tomorrow. There's no time like the present to bolster your existing talents and try your hand at something new.

Start browsing courses online now and find one that suits your needs. The sooner you commit to studying, the sooner you can start giving yourself a serious advantage in your career.

Another way to boost your career is to create an impressive CV. Get a free CV review to find out where yours stands.

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