Pandemic or not, don’t hit pause on your professional development

In one of my previous roles, I created an internship programme for university students. I created it in 2017 and with each cycle, I reviewed many application forms, CVs and interviewed lots of applicants.

On the other side of this, are the students. The pandemic has had a huge impact on student programmes and graduate roles throughout 2020 and whilst the economy gradually gains momentum with the recent announcement of the vaccine, many organisations are remaining cautious with hiring again which unfortunately includes internships and graduate roles.

However, don’t let this demotivate you and know that this situation is temporary. So until then, why not use your time wisely and continue to learn.

To help you get started, here is a list of ways in which you can develop your skills to prepare yourselves for new opportunities, when things return to normal.

1. Writing down your goals is the first step in achieving them

Before jumping into anything, write down exactly what you’re hoping to achieve, along with an honest analysis of your skills — give yourself a score out of ten. You should also consider feedback received from your lecturers/peers.

Quantifying your skills, will help you track your progress from start to finish. You can always go a bit further and write a few notes on what specifically you would like to improve on. After you’ve spent time on improving your skill, you should come back to this list, and re-evaluate yourself to identify your progress.

E.g coding skills overall 6/10. Improve knowledge on writing macros in SAS and learn when/how to use SQL statements instead of SAS when manipulating new data.

2. Yes, everyone can learn to code

The current climate has highlighted the intrinsic value of understanding data and analytics — organisations have observed significant growth from learning how to interpret their own data and identify meaningful insights to drive their business strategy. So it’s fair to say that data science and analytics can be a very promising career path.

As a beginner, it doesn’t matter too much which language you choose to learn first — grasping the syntax to write simple commands is more important and you often find that once you feel confident in one language, a second language is not too difficult to pick up. Typical languages used in credit risk modelling are SAS, Python and R.

  • SAS University Edition is a free version for students. There are many tutorials, exercise and tests providing you with a comprehensive and in-depth learning experience.
  • Kaggle — targeted at data science and machine learning. An extensive source of sample data and a variety of exercises.
  • Code Academy — A popular site that provides tutorials in Python and many other languages such as Java, CSS, C++.
  • Datacamp — a website that offers coding tutorials specifically for data science including Python and R.

3. Excel will never go out of style!

Whilst coding continues to gain more and more popularity and rightly so, having top-notch skills in Excel will always be a winning skill in most analytical roles — quick data analysis, creating charts and pivot tables and even for complex modelling.

  • Excel help centre — often overlooked but here you can find simple tutorials on how to use the different functions in Excel. This is particularly useful for those who have an idea of the problem they’re trying to solve rather than complete beginners
  • Excel Easy is perfect for beginners. Split into four sections: Basics, Functions, Data Analysis and VBA, there are over 40 tutorials that guide you through each. If that wasn’t enough, there are 300 examples to support the tutorials.
  • GCF LearnFree offers a more interactive approach to learning — with YouTube videos alongside it’s online tutorials.

4. Perfecting your PowerPoint slides

As a student working on Physics projects, I remember spending the bulk of my time on the analysis and exploring anomalies, and writing up a technical lab report at the end. Transforming my detailed lab reports into perfect PowerPoint presentations was never a priority for me as I cared so much more about the final numbers! Fast-forward to the world of work and it turns out that the presentations are just as important as the analysis, especially when you’re presenting your work to a client.

If you resonate with this, take a look at these sites which offer free tips and tutorials on how to make slick slides and avoid literally transferring your lab report into PowerPoint!

  • Udemy are offering a free tutorial which covers introductory and advanced material through online videos.
  • SkillShare’s in-depth course ‘ Improve your PowerPoint & Design skills’ will turn you into a pro with 125 animated lessons — sounds daunting but not to worry as many of the lessons are as short as three minutes.

5. Nailing that presentation

As a student, I was always confident speaking in front of small groups of people but I didn’t enjoy the experience when it came to presenting to a whole classroom of people. The only way I improved my confidence which in turn resulted in a better delivery, was by preparing more effectively before the big day. It sounds cliché but practice really does make perfect.

Tips on improving your presenting skills:

  • Present in front of your family/friends — ask them to give you honest feedback. Once you’ve been through a few rounds, you will have a better view on where you need to improve.
  • Record yourself so you can see exactly what your audience are seeing. Most of us don’t enjoy seeing ourselves on film but if it’s going to help you nail that module at university or your job interview, it’s definitely worth doing.
  • Don’t be afraid of tweaking your messaging and even redoing your slides if necessary. Keep trying until you’re satisfied with your content, delivery and the messaging.
  • Time yourself! Important but often overlooked. There’s nothing more painful when sitting in a presentation that was meant to last 3–5 minutes but it ends up being twice that or more. Over-running a little is usually okay but anything too long and you risk being asked to stop before the end.

One final point, remember that you don’t have to learn alone. For example, why not set up a coding task with your friends. Allocate regular time slots to catch up and set a realistic deadline. This way you have team support and some motivation! Connect with your peers, lecturers, friends, family, LinkedIn mentors. I assure you, a lot of people would welcome the opportunity to help others right now. Make the most of it!

Sharing realistic practices to boost self development and career progression 🚀 Astrophysics Grad • Former Finance Consultant • Marketing •

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Sharing realistic practices to boost self development and career progression 🚀 Astrophysics Grad • Former Finance Consultant • Marketing •

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