Coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, has impacted all of our lives. Whether we know someone who is sick, or whether we have been asked to work from home — or go even further — there has been no escaping the virus. We are all under a lot of stress, and we at Career Karma are here to help you get through this crisis.
There is no shortage of suggestions on how you can protect your health — again, remember to wash your hands and follow government guidelines — but coronavirus has resulted in us all making compromises. For example, many of us have been asked to switch to online classes, rather than go to school or bootcamp in person. If you have experience with learning from home, this may not feel any different, but if this is your first time as an online learner, you may be confused.
In these times, the last thing you should be confused about is how you can continue your studies. In response to our Career Karma discussions thread about learning remotely during Coronavirus, we’ve compiled a quick guide with tips on how you, an online learner, can continue to invest in your personal development.
Embracing remote work (or learning)
Many of us are used to the idea of showing up to school to learn, whether that means going to college or a vocational training program like a coding bootcamp. Middle school and high school students had an extended spring break, and now in-person classes are shutting down for the rest of the term.
Plus, colleges and universities are confining students to residence halls, or simply sending them home. And while some public schools remain open, many already closed down and are asking students to attend remote classes instead. Now, people have to adapt to this temporary interruption and learn to become online students.
It will be no surprise to tell you that online schooling is significantly different from learning in school. There are no lecturers in the same room as you who can prompt you to work; you need to find the motivation yourself when you are learning from home. There are no students around you with whom you can talk in the same classroom; you need to reach out to them remotely when you are learning from home.
Are you someone who likes to keep a news tab open? Or someone who is partial to looking at Twitter every time they get bored?
There are a number of tools out there like RescueTime and Freedom that can help you eliminate these distractions and get on with your day. Before you start learning, spend some time thinking about the biggest distractions that are likely to affect your day — like social media, the news, television — and take deliberate steps to eliminate them.
While you’re at home, there will be no shortage of real-life distractions, too. Remember that learning from home still means that you should be learning (and not about how best to fold your clothes!). When you’re learning, make sure you focus on your studies and working on assignments, and build systems to help you ignore real-life distractions. Are you tempted to eat a snack? Work away from the kitchen. Do you want to go for a nap? Work outside your bedroom.
Make yourself visible
When you’re in a classroom, everyone is visibly learning — it’s easy to tell that everyone is working hard. But when you’re learning from home, it can be more difficult to tell when others are working. For others, this means it can be difficult for them to know when to reach out to you; for you, it means you may struggle to find out when you can talk with your classmates.
If your online course has a community, enable push notifications and set a Slack status update to let people know when you’re active and available to learn together. You could even set a specific status for when you have a spare few minutes and want to provide feedback on others’ projects.
You can also take advantage of video interviewing and conferencing services to stay in touch with your peers, co-workers, and supervisors.
The more visible you are, the more likely people are to reach out to you and want to chat. During a time where you may be in the house more than usual, this is crucial.
Create a structure
Structure is the secret to success as a remote worker (or learner). When you’re in a classroom, there is already a set structure ready for you: there is a timetable, a clear schedule, a predefined break and lunchtime. At home, however, you need to create most of this structure yourself.
Here are a few tips you can use to create structure for yourself as a remote learner:
Separate home from studying
Learning from home means that your home is your school. Home is also home, though: a place where you cook, sleep, and spend time with family.
When you start learning online, you should build a schedule around taking breaks. Perhaps you get up every hour and walk around the house for five minutes, or perhaps you take a long lunchtime break, an afternoon break, and clock off early. Do whatever works for you, with one condition: you give yourself adequate time to rest and relax.
In addition, after you have reached your goals for the day, you should stop and relax. In fact, you may even find it better to walk away from your computer entirely and go do something else, like practice piano or cook. The more you can do to physically distance yourself and your “work setup” after you have finished studying for the day, the easier you will find it to build a balance between work and home.
Figure out when you work best
For seasoned remote workers, knowing when you work best is usually instinctual. But that feeling only comes after spending weeks and months getting to know your work routine. If you’re a new online learner, you’ll likely be starting from square one.
Throughout your online learning journey, you should aim to figure out when you work best or what some people call the “Flow State”. Do you work best in your living room or your bedroom? Do you work best in the morning or in the evening? One of the advantages of remote studying is that you have more flexibility over your schedule, so you have the freedom to experiment with new working times and patterns.
Building your community
Community is an essential part of success as an online learner. While you may no longer be in the same room as your classmates, that does not mean there is no community for you to access. In fact, if you do some extra work, you’ll be able to find so many interesting people with whom to talk through the internet.
When you start learning online, reach out to your classmates and get to know them. Ask them questions about themselves — where do they live, where did they attend school, why have they enrolled in a specific online course — and talk with them like you would if you were in the same room.
These people will act as your support network throughout your course. If you are stuck, they’ll be around to help; if they need help, they will be sure to reach out to you. (If you are struggling to find this community — for instance, if you are taking a standard online course with no classroom component — check out the Career Karma Discussions platform. We’ll introduce you to a number of other online learners who you can think of as accountability buddies!)
If you have a question about your studies, be sure to reach out to people in your community. It’s likely that a classmate has been through — or is going through — a similar problem that you are only now encountering, and they may be able to help you work through it.
In addition, you should also make sure all your social time is not about studying and learning. Ask your classmates if they would be up for a 30-minute evening call where you all get together and chat about your lives. You could even ask to watch a television show with them remotely, or play a game together.
Starting your job search on the right foot
The goal of many online learning programs — like coding bootcamps — is to help you get a job, and you may be asking yourself “how can I start my job search if I have to learn and work from home?” Great question!
Connect with program alumni
Reach out to the alumni of your online learning program and ask them about their job search process. This will allow you to get a better sense of the career trajectory of successful graduates of your online learning program, thereby helping you to inform your next steps. Here are a few sample questions you could ask:
- When did you graduate from the program?
- How did the program help you find a job?
- What tips do you have for someone who is about to graduate?
Program alumni usually have a lot of advice to share about how to make the most of the resources made available to you by your online learning program. It’s just a matter of asking.
Build your network
As a result of coronavirus, many of us have to stay at home. This means that in-person networking — the “tried and true” method of finding a job — is no longer a tool you can leverage. Instead, you should try to build your network online. Create complete profiles on Twitter, GitHub, LinkedIn, and Career Karma Projects to share your bootcamp projects and connect with startups and recruiters looking to hire bootcamp grads. Reach out to people who you find interesting, and keep an eye out for opportunities.
Set career goals
You may be bound to your home, but that doesn’t mean you should not set career goals. In fact, setting career goals will be a crucial part of getting to where you want to be in the future (remember, even when times seem tough, you should know that we will get through this!).
As you progress throughout your job search, you should set clear and actionable goals. The clearer your goals are, the easier you will find it to break down those goals into simple steps you can take to make progress in your career. Here are a few ideas:
- I will cold email 20 companies in the next 10 days
- I will participate in three phone interviews
- I will study for 5 hours for my upcoming technical interview
- I will do a dry-run technical interview with my friend
In addition, you should try to make your goals action-oriented. In the above examples, our goals were simple, clear, and were focused on a particular action, like sending cold emails. It can also be helpful to introduce numbers to help make your career goals more specific (i.e. do X within the next 5 days).
Learning is still important, and online education shouldn’t reduce the quality of your studies. All signs point to the fact this may be a long crisis, but one that society, as a whole, will be able to get through. When this ends, you’ll want to be able to feel as though you were able to use your time productively, instead of using your time obsessing over the next news story.
Being at home more than usual presents you with an opportunity to invest more in your skills. Learn about the topics you have wanted to read about for a long time; build the skills you know you need to get to where you want to be in your career. Learning is all about doing your future self a favor, and right now that’s what we all should be doing.
One thing you should remember is that everyone will have a different experience learning from home. Some of your fellow students may be balancing family time and studying; others may be working alone and so are looking for more social contact remotely. As a result, there is no “one size fits all solution” for remote learning. It’s all about trying out new things until you find what works for you.
Stay healthy, keep learning, and do your best to take care of yourself.