Education Guide Education Guide 2013 : Page-49

ed-u-ca-tion‘13 LEARNING TO SPECIALIZE SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION CAREER & EDuCATION SPECIAL SECtIon GUIDE THE INTERNET HAS MADE PREVIOUSLY INVIABLE NICHE CAREERS A REALITY written by Paul rogers Extension. Motivated by these emerging employment market forces and themselves enabled by dynamic technologies, educators – both well-established colleges and newer educational web-sites – are offering customized courses with which people looking to ride the specialization wave can hone a particular skill or learn a new one. Khan Academy offers a free online collection of more than The advent and global expansion of the Internet has made highly specialized careers which were once almost unthink-able more viable than ever. However obscure an individual’s field of expertise and however remote their location, employ-ers can now find, communicate with, hire and pay them in cyberspace. Online workplace platforms allow a much more compre-hensive exchange of information between employers and contractors than ever before: clients can list extensive details of their company and available positions and projects, while freelancers can build a profile rich with examples of their work and feedback from prior buyers. For example, as a freelance writer in the 1990s I was limited to contacting potential clients by mail or phone and only received occasional assignments. By the turn of the Millen-nium, the Internet allowed me to reach out to editors and publications much more quickly and easily, and I soon became a part-time journalist. The advent of online freelance writing platforms enabled me to showcase my skills and experience to an increasingly diverse range of potential clients world-wide, from law firms to record labels, and I have now been a full-time freelancer for many years. Though I live in small-town California, I have written for clients (most of whom I have never met or even spoken with) from as far away as Sweden and the U.K. “I don’t necessarily think of it as specialists coming to dominate the workplace,” said Gary Swart, CEO of oDesk, a Redwood City, Calif.-based online workplace. “I think of it as specialization coming to dominate many individual workers’ approach to the work.” Today there are numerous online platforms -including Guru. com, Elance and Freelancer.com, plus an array of industry-specific sites -that can help workers capitalize on a particular field of expertise. These allow independent contractors to parade their abilities through online profiles and portfolios, and companies to not only hire freelancers but also, using online collaboration tools, to manage teams and projects. Swart reports that whereas in 2007 just four job categories accounted for 90 percent of the work on oDesk, by last year thirty-five categories made up that same proportion. As of March 2012, oDesk has 3 million freelancers and more than 540,000 clients registered worldwide, with 1.5 million jobs advertised last year. As well as major categories like engineering, Web develop-ment and design, and sales and marketing, oDesk freelancers include niche workers like voice-over talent, Drupal develop-ers and Swahili translators. “If you look at any of the job posting boards … The way the technology is going and with the technology, it allows a screening capability for these specialties that we’ve never had before,” said Michelle Stiles, Interim Dean at UCLA Even traditional 4-year degree programs in bricks and mortar colleges, especially in fields of science and technology, include a huge amount of specialization (such as specific languages and systems learned) compared with 20 years ago. And universities are working with educational technology companies like Coursera to make some of their courses avail-able in convenient online form. “it seems to me like [workers] need to become more flexible and to be able to specialize in multiple areas rather than being singularly focused,” said georgia lorenz, Dean of instructional services at santa Monica College (sMC). In-demand specialties can be a moving target, especially in today’s dynamic, tech-based workplace, and so the more of these an individual acquires, and the more frequently they update them, the better. “Let’s say somebody graduates with a degree in animation, they may come back down the line to gain skills in digital sound editing, because that’s where new opportunities have come up,” Lorenz explained. Accordingly, SMC has developed courses in areas such as mobile app development, graphic design, and recycling and resource management which can be completed as quickly as 6 to 8 weeks (online, on campus or as a hybrid of both). But before a student or worker can specialize, they need to generalize, said Lorenz. “They need to [for example] understand computer program-ming and programming languages before they can engage in those very specialized classes and be successful in finding a position” 4,000 micro lectures on everything from healthcare to mac-roeconomics, while platforms like Lynda.com (a subscription-based software and technology online training library) and Codeacademy (which provides free programming languages classes) provide extremely short-term online courses and trainings in highly specific skill sets. “online education of all types … provides access to such a variety of educational opportunities that never existed before,” said stiles. “so that does allow the participants to be very selective.” The main objective of UCLA Extension -the continuing educa-tion branch of the University of California, Los Angeles – has always been to provide focused and specialized courses of study, and they were early adopters of online learning to help facilitate this. “[However] we think it is also very good to have a broader background … and the targeted credentials,” said Stiles. “So we provide a little of both. I don’t think … that one has necessarily overtaken the other.” Accordingly, specialization is often more appropriate to more mature workers who already have a broad background, both educationally and on-the-job But in the emerging online, on-demand employment market-place, what an individual can actually do is probably more important than any educational certificate they can meta-phorically wave around. That is not to say that training isn’t crucial, but it is being able to demonstrate that skills learned and knowledge gained can be put to productive workplace use that will likely land gigs. Swart cites the example of an undergraduate at a Mid-Atlantic university who was making $65,000 a year writing programming code from his dorm room. His clients didn’t care that he hadn’t yet graduated, but rather that he consistently delivered quality work. “Companies moving forward are going to care about your skills, your knowledge and your personal characteristics, and not necessarily where you went to school for a greater proportion of the workforce than today,” said Swart. | laweekly.com / March 15-21 2013 / LA Weekly ( 49 )

Learning To Specialize

Paul Rogers

THE INTERNET HAS MADE PREVIOUSLY INVIABLE NICHE CAREERS A REALITY<br /> <br /> The advent and global expansion of the Internet has made highly specialized careers which were once almost unthinkable more viable than ever. However obscure an individual's field of expertise and however remote their location, employers can now find, communicate with, hire and pay them in cyberspace.<br /> <br /> Online workplace platforms allow a much more comprehensive exchange of information between employers and contractors than ever before: clients can list extensive details of their company and available positions and projects, while freelancers can build a profile rich with examples of their work and feedback from prior buyers.<br /> <br /> For example, as a freelance writer in the 1990s I was limited to contacting potential clients by mail or phone and only received occasional assignments. By the turn of the Millennium, the Internet allowed me to reach out to editors and publications much more quickly and easily, and I soon became a part-time journalist. The advent of online freelance writing platforms enabled me to showcase my skills and experience to an increasingly diverse range of potential clients worldwide, from law firms to record labels, and I have now been a full-time freelancer for many years. Though I live in smalltown California, I have written for clients (most of whom I have never met or even spoken with) from as far away as Sweden and the U.K.<br /> <br /> "I don't necessarily think of it as specialists coming to dominate the workplace," said Gary Swart, CEO of oDesk, a Redwood City, Calif.-based online workplace. "I think of it as specialization coming to dominate many individual workers' approach to the work."<br /> <br /> Today there are numerous online platforms - including Guru.Com, Elance and Freelancer.com, plus an array of industryspecific sites - that can help workers capitalize on a particular field of expertise. These allow independent contractors to parade their abilities through online profiles and portfolios, and companies to not only hire freelancers but also, using online collaboration tools, to manage teams and projects.<br /> <br /> Swart reports that whereas in 2007 just four job categories accounted for 90 percent of the work on oDesk, by last year thirty-five categories made up that same proportion. As of March 2012, oDesk has 3 million freelancers and more than 540,000 clients registered worldwide, with 1.5 million jobs advertised last year.<br /> <br /> As well as major categories like engineering, Web development and design, and sales and marketing, oDesk freelancers include niche workers like voice-over talent, Drupal developers and Swahili translators.<br /> <br /> "If you look at any of the job posting boards … The way the technology is going and with the technology, it allows a screening capability for these specialties that we've never had before," said Michelle Stiles, Interim Dean at UCLA Extension.<br /> <br /> Motivated by these emerging employment market forces and themselves enabled by dynamic technologies, educators - both well-established colleges and newer educational websites - are offering customized courses with which people looking to ride the specialization wave can hone a particular skill or learn a new one.<br /> <br /> Khan Academy offers a free online collection of more than 4,000 micro lectures on everything from healthcare to macroeconomics, while platforms like Lynda.com (a subscriptionbased software and technology online training library) and Codeacademy (which provides free programming languages classes) provide extremely short-term online courses and trainings in highly specific skill sets.<br /> <br /> "online education of all types … provides access to such a variety of educational opportunities that never existed before," said stiles. "so that does allow the participants to be very selective."<br /> <br /> The main objective of UCLA Extension - the continuing education branch of the University of California, Los Angeles - has always been to provide focused and specialized courses of study, and they were early adopters of online learning to help facilitate this.<br /> <br /> "[However] we think it is also very good to have a broader background … and the targeted credentials," said Stiles."So we provide a little of both. I don't think … that one has necessarily overtaken the other."<br /> <br /> Even traditional 4-year degree programs in bricks and mortar colleges, especially in fields of science and technology, include a huge amount of specialization (such as specific languages and systems learned) compared with 20 years ago.And universities are working with educational technology companies like Coursera to make some of their courses available in convenient online form.<br /> <br /> "it seems to me like [workers] need to become more flexible and to be able to specialize in multiple areas rather than being singularly focused," said georgia lorenz, Dean of instructional services at santa Monica College (sMC).<br /> <br /> In-demand specialties can be a moving target, especially in today's dynamic, tech-based workplace, and so the more of these an individual acquires, and the more frequently they update them, the better.<br /> <br /> "Let's say somebody graduates with a degree in animation, they may come back down the line to gain skills in digital sound editing, because that's where new opportunities have come up," Lorenz explained.<br /> <br /> Accordingly, SMC has developed courses in areas such as mobile app development, graphic design, and recycling and resource management which can be completed as quickly as 6 to 8 weeks (online, on campus or as a hybrid of both).<br /> <br /> But before a student or worker can specialize, they need to generalize, said Lorenz.<br /> <br /> "They need to [for example] understand computer programming and programming languages before they can engage in those very specialized classes and be successful in finding a position"<br /> <br /> Accordingly, specialization is often more appropriate to more mature workers who already have a broad background, both educationally and on-the-job<br /> <br /> But in the emerging online, on-demand employment marketplace, what an individual can actually do is probably more important than any educational certificate they can metaphorically wave around. That is not to say that training isn't crucial, but it is being able to demonstrate that skills learned and knowledge gained can be put to productive workplace use that will likely land gigs.<br /> <br /> Swart cites the example of an undergraduate at a Mid- Atlantic university who was making $65,000 a year writing programming code from his dorm room. His clients didn't care that he hadn't yet graduated, but rather that he consistently delivered quality work.<br /> <br /> "Companies moving forward are going to care about your skills, your knowledge and your personal characteristics, and not necessarily where you went to school for a greater proportion of the workforce than today," said Swart.<br /> <br /> "I envision a world where there's 'vocational tech' - like somebody's not at Stanford or Harvard, but maybe they're a little bit technical and there is an opportunity for them to learn [for example] IOS programming either online or at a vocational school."<br /> <br /> While landing, say, a 10-hour job through an online workplace platform is much easier than succeeding in the traditional. Pre-Internet employee hiring process (because it presents much lower risk and investment to the client compared with committing to a long-term hire), there remains the "chicken and egg" challenge of convincing an employer to give a new specialist that very first gig with which to start building some portfolio momentum.<br /> <br /> A well-crafted cover letter, including what an applicant has formally learned and why they would be a perfect fit for a particular project, is certainly important, but in the first few instances a freelancer may also need to lower their price and be prepared to take on even the smallest jobs in order to prove themselves.<br /> <br /> While securing short-term on-demand projects is far from simple (oDesk had twice as many registered freelancers as posted jobs last year), they present a relatively low-friction foothold into a new career field compared with trying to secure an extended full-time position.<br /> <br /> Exciting as it is, all of the above doesn't mean that just anybody should rush to their computer to get a quickie education in engineering, Web development - or indeed in Drupal or Swahili.<br /> <br /> "My first guidance would be to get an understanding of what it is they like doing," Swart concluded. "So just because there's a lot of IOS jobs out there right now, that doesn't mean you should go and get that training if you're not technically inclined; if you don't enjoy it. You have to be motivated to work in that category."<br /> <br /> First-off, wannabe specialists should identify just what they have a passion for. Then they need to research expanding work categories to find out which of these intersect with that interest.Only then should they seek out where they can learn skills appropriate to these fields, starting with free resources like Khan Academy and Codeacademy before, if need be, moving on to exploring a formal education at a local class or community college.

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