MOOCs: The Resume-Boosting Education Everyone Can Receive

Sick of being rejected from every job you apply for? Sounds like it’s time to give your resume a boost.

Nothing breaks your morale quite like a series of job rejections, each delivered via an automatic email more soulless and curt than the one before. At first you can brush off the knock-backs with a brave smile as you tell yourself that it can’t be helped – so many people are looking for work right now, after all – but after the fifth, or tenth, or even twentieth rejection email, things start to feel a bit more personal.

“What’s so wrong with me?” you begin to think, staring at your own resume for hours on end in the hopes that an obvious, easily-fixable issue will be revealed. “Why can’t I ever get past the first stage of the application process?”

Realistically, there are a great many reasons why you may be facing so many set-backs as you search for your next job. Some of them – such as the recent pandemic forcing experienced experts to look for new roles, or a biased hiring manager who intends to hire someone they know – are inevitable and no amount of preparation can change your chances. Others, such as a bare-looking CV or the lack of an accompanying cover letter, are easier to fix.

Today, I’m going to share with you a cheap and easy way to improve your resume and boost your chances of success: professionally-relevant certificates that you can achieve with just a few extra hours of effort per week.

What is a MOOC?

You may have heard of a MOOC, but what is it, and how can it help you find a job?

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are a form of free or affordable education that can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection seeking to develop existing skills or learn about something completely new. Provided by some of the world’s most famous and respected schools, colleges and universities, there are courses available covering almost every subject you can imagine, from business communication to software creation and everything in between.

While some of the courses require some prior knowledge of the topic studied, many are designed for complete beginners and provide an accessible opportunity for everyone to improve their skills.

How do you sign up?

To get started, you need to find a course that you’re interested in. Many universities and colleges (including Harvard, MIT, and more) have developed MOOCs that are available either somewhere on the school’s website, or hosted on a dedicated online-education website such as EdX, Coursera, Udemy, or Udacity.

Once you’ve found a course, you should check to see if it fits your needs (the course-load and time required for completion varies from course to course, and some may have deadlines you’re expected to meet) and whether or not it is suitable for your knowledge level. If you’re happy that you’ve found the right one, then you can go straight ahead and sign right up.

Depending on the course and the website hosting it, you may have a few different options for how you take it. In order to demonstrate your new skills to a potential employer, you’ll want to sign up to receive a certificate upon completion of the course (this can come with a fee), but if you’re simply interested in learning, a free audit-only option should be enough. It’s worth noting that most websites will ask you to verify your identity for the certificate by uploading a photo of your ID, so you should make sure to have a driver’s license or similar nearby when you apply.

Will I have homework?

Every course is slightly different, but if you’re registered for a certified course then you can expect to need to demonstrate your knowledge at some point during your studies. Some courses do this through the submission of an essay (often peer-reviewed by other students), using graded multiple choice tests, or both.

What’s more, some courses will set deadlines on each assignment, so you should make sure to keep a note of your when these will be. Failure to complete assessments on time could stop you from passing the course – even if you’ve already paid for your certificate.

If you choose to audit the course for free, the assignments usually won’t be included – this lack of grading gives you plenty of time to simply learn and enjoy the material instead.

Are MOOC certificates recognised?

Passing and completing a MOOC demonstrates more than just your newly-acquired knowledge – it also shows potential employers that you are motivated, determined, and eager to learn. These are all fantastic qualities that can help you to stand out during the application process, and as such including your MOOC certificate in your CV or LinkedIn profile will always be advantageous. In addition, a certificate issued by a well-known school such as Harvard is always sure to look impressive, even if you’ve never so much as even set foot on campus.

As for whether your certificate will be ‘recognised’ by an employer depends highly on the type of role and what the certificate is in. If all you have is a MOOC certificate that demonstrates your ability to use JAVA, then that probably won’t help you much when applying for a job that requires 10 years of experience as a system administrator. Additionally, most employers typically consider a genuine bachelors, masters or other accredited university degree as a lot more valuable than a certificate in something that you’ve studied at home for fun.

In the same way, that same JAVA MOOC certification probably won’t sway your chances at getting a job as a waitress or hotel receptionist, but studying an online course in customer service or even conflict management might help you stand out during the application process.

MOOCs are not a new concept, so hiring managers and recruiters are used to seeing them on resumes. The most important thing is that you are able to demonstrate and explain why your experience studying a subject online makes you an ideal candidate for the role they’re looking to fill.

Personal experience

I enrolled in my first MOOC when the COVID-19 pandemic forced my company to switch to remote work. No longer commuting to and from the office and unable to meet friends during my spare time, I decided to invest in myself and my own success by studying a course related to tourism (the field I was in at the time). Since then, I’ve also taken courses in foreign languages and now, as I prepare to begin a new job in an entirely new industry, I’m in the middle of a new MOOC focusing on the basic knowledge I’m going to need to succeed.

While I decided to undertake these courses more for the sake of learning new things than to boost my CV, I soon found that the knowledge I acquired helped me to be more productive and creative in the workplace. After studying a unit centred on ‘crisis management’ in my tourism MOOC, I was able to suggest a new social media marketing strategy that my company could use to help maintain a relationship with clients during the international travel ban. What’s more, I now feel much more confident and prepared for starting my new job – something that felt daunting before I discovered an easy-to-follow course that would provide the necessary foundational knowledge I lacked for the role.

For this reason I’m a huge fan of MOOCs and feel that there’s nothing to lose from enrolling in one, even if you’re simply auditing and don’t intend to receive a certificate at the end. What’s more, I love how accessible this form of education is; university education is a privilege that some people can’t afford or simply can’t fit into their lives, and while these online courses won’t entirely fix the unfair lack of employment opportunities that these people face, they do provide a valuable potential to improve living standards and develop skills for success.

MOOCs are an accessible and affordable way to boost your chances of job-seeking success. With everything to gain and nothing to loose, why wouldn’t you study one? Enrol today – you never know where it may take you.

Photo by Soundtrap on Unsplash

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