Today’s job market is ultra-competitive, so to stand the best chance of snagging your dream job you need to be prepared to upgrade your skill set. In some cases that can mean going deeper into your field by taking an advanced degree, while in others it will be more appropriate to widen your skill set and obtain certification in a complimentary area. You could even jump into a new area altogether.

Use free and low-cost courses to widen your skill set

The internet has generated fantastic opportunities for those wishing to learn new skills. All you need is the drive to succeed and the will to put some of your spare time to productive use.

You can study pretty much anything that you have a mind to learn by signing up for a MOOC. What’s a MOOC you ask? A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course.

They’re usually free to take (although there are some paid options popping up) and they’re offered by some of the leading educational establishments in the world.

Fancy taking Computer Science 101, courtesy of Stanford University? No problem. Or how about learning Customer Relationship Management with Harvard? You betcha!

There are thousands of MOOCs available for you take right now, and some courses provide a certification at the end (a fee may be applicable) so you can plump up your resume.

Take a higher level degree

While you can enter many career tracks with an associate or a bachelor’s degree, the best paying roles are usually only open to those who’ve gone the extra mile and obtained their master’s degree.

And once again the internet comes to the rescue. You can take a  full master’s degree online in a number of fields? You can take an online master of science in accounting (online MSA degree), an online master’s in business, civil engineering, computer science, health administration or online MBA organizational development. The list goes on. Find what you want and pursue higher education from anywhere. Most online masters programs can be completed in around two years and will only need about 15 hours a week of your time.

A degree can help you find relevant jobs in your field. Engineering graduates, for example, can easily find a software engineering job at amazing startups with great perks, good cultures, and traditions.

Get hands on

If a structured course doesn’t appeal to you, then why not work on your own project? You could learn to set up a website, find out what it takes to build an audience, and then position yourself as an authority in your field.

This could open up invitations to speak at conferences, be interviewed for industry publications, and allow you to make the contacts that you need to land a better job. Your side hustle could be connected to your current role, or you could start up in an unrelated niche that you have an interest in.

Launching a site is simple enough. All you need is a domain name, a hosting plan and a super quick install of the WordPress content management system.

You can be up and running in less than ten minutes. Then you can make use of sites like CopyBlogger, Mirasee and SmartBlogger to help you figure out how to attract an audience and effectively serve their needs.

Whichever route you plan to take, the contacts that you make, the skills that you learn, and the qualifications that you earn, will mean that you have the best chance to progress in your current career or start moving in another more fulfilling direction.