According to a career coach, these are the top skills that can advance your career — and the 16 online courses you can take to get them

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  • We asked a certified professional career coach at TopResume about the skills that can help advance your career.
  • From strengthening writing skills to mastering public speaking, learning new soft skills has never been more accessible or convenient, thanks to e-learning courses.
  • Online learning platforms like edX, Udemy, and Coursera offer high-quality, low-cost classes taught by experienced professionals.

Whether you’re a college senior starting to look into your post-grad prospects or a working professional with years of experience under your belt, the constantly shifting job market never gets easier to navigate.

It can be hard to wrap your head around all the newly emerging job titles and inefficient, poorly designed application systems, but one area where you always have complete control is your ability to hone your own skills.

If you feel like your school career center failed you or you’re not fully equipped yet to tackle the industry of your dreams, online learning platforms like edX, Udemy, and Coursera offer high-quality classes taught by experienced professionals at low costs, on your own time. Learning a new skill from scratch or brushing up on in-demand ones has never been more accessible or convenient. 

We asked Amanda Augustine, a career advice expert at TopResume and a certified professional career coach with over 10 years of experience in the recruiting industry, about the top skills that anyone who wants to land a job right out of college or advance their career in today’s job market should have.

Here are the skills Augustine said to focus on and the online courses that can help you build them:

Strong written communication skills can get you far.

Whether you’re writing your cover letter, following up after an interview, or sending an email to everyone in your department, superb written communication skills are a must. Impress the hiring manager or your boss by optimizing your writing skills. If you struggle to write, conquer that stumbling block with an online course in effective business writing.

Course options:

  • Coursera: High-Impact Business Writing (University of California, Irvine)
  • Coursera: Writing Winning Resumes and Cover Letters (University of Maryland)
  • LinkedIn Learning: Tips for Better Business Writing
  • Udemy: Better Business Writing Skills

It's helpful to be comfortable with public speaking and presentations.

You may not want a job that requires you to present in front of large crowds — however, sound presentation skills are useful in many instances beyond a podium. Employers value professionals who can clearly and succinctly articulate their thoughts one-on-one and during a group meeting.

Whether you find yourself explaining your ideas in an interview room or during a department meeting, strong communication skills certainly come in handy. These online courses can help improve your overall communication skills, overcome public speaking fears, and fine-tune your powers of persuasion.

Course options:

  • Coursera: Introduction to Public Speaking (University of Washington)
  • edX: Rhetoric: The Art of Persuasive Writing and Public Speaking (Harvard University)
  • Udemy: Presentation Skills: Communications Skills & Public Speaking

Don't write off the importance of networking — there are ways to do it effectively while staying genuine.

Love it or loathe it, you can’t avoid the art of networking in today’s job market. Whether you’re looking for a job or wanting to advance your career, a strong professional network is a key ingredient to success.

However, not everyone is a social butterfly with a large Rolodex of connections at their fingertips. If you’re not a natural power-connector, as described in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “The Tipping Point,” then it may be time to find an online course that will teach you the basics.

Remember, sending LinkedIn requests to random people does not count as networking. Look for courses that will help you go beyond social media to seek out relevant contacts and plant the seeds for a meaningful professional relationship with these connections.

Course options:

  • LinkedIn Learning: Professional Networking
  • LinkedIn Learning: Build Your Professional Network
  • CreativeLive: The Art of Networking

You are your own product and need to sell yourself to potential employers.

In today’s job market, it’s not enough to have a great resume. You also need to clearly communicate your personal brand — the unique qualities and abilities that make you, well, you — to employers and networking connections online, on paper, and in-person. In other words, you have to consciously manage your personal marketing campaign during the job search.

It should come as no surprise then that marketing professionals have an advantage when it comes to searching for work. Give yourself an edge up on the competition during your job search by getting a crash course in the principles of marketing.     

Course options:

  • CreativeLive: How to Break the Habit of Self-Doubt and Build Real Confidence
  • Skillshare: 10x Marketing: Content Marketing That Stands Out & Gets Results
  • Coursera: Introduction to Marketing (The Wharton School)

Think of negotiations as a conversation, not a battle.

You may not be vying for a sales position, but don’t be fooled. Every professional can benefit from becoming a better negotiator. This valuable skill will serve you well during your job search when negotiating your job offer, as well as when you’re on the job.

From negotiating contracts with vendors or clients to working out the details of a prospective employee’s compensation package to vying for a raise or promotion with your boss, strong negotiation skills can seriously advance your career. If you’re uncomfortable leaving emotion at the door while you hash out a contract, give one of these online courses a try.  

Course options:

  • Coursera: Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills (University of Michigan)
  • Coursera: Intro to Negotiation: Becoming a Principled and Persuasive Negotiator (Yale University)
  • MasterClass: Chris Voss Teaches the Art of Negotiation

Fill in a skill gap.

Sometimes, the best way to improve your chances of landing the job you want is to develop relevant skills. If you’re new to the workforce with little to no professional work experience under your belt, you may need to seek alternative methods to bolster your resume.

Once you have a clear job goal in mind, reach out to people in your network who work in your desired field to find out what skills are in high demand. Then, research sites like Udemy, Envato Tuts+, General Assembly, Coursera, edX, GoSkills, LinkedIn Learning, and SkillShare, to name a few, to find out if there’s a way for you to develop those skills while you’re searching for work.

This method is also useful for those who want to change careers or move up the ladder and aren’t able to build the skills they need within their current position.

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