You’ve heard it before. We need the best educated workforce, we need lifelong learning, we should keep upgrading…yadda yadda. I don’t know about you, but I barely have time for an extra toilet break, let alone an after-hours degree course. So how is the average (i.e. overworked) Singaporean going to upgrade? The answer is low investment, high yield courses. In this article, I look at short self-improvement programs with tangible benefits:
The pay-off in the following programs will vary based on your profession. For the most part, they are picked based on their ability to:
- Expand career options
- Generate side-income
- Increase savings
- Build resumes / portfolios
1. Blogging Courses
There are a growing number of blogging workshops in Singapore. With businesses relying more on online communications, it pays to have a voice on the Internet.
LinkedIn and job site accounts don’t cut it any more. For professionals, a blog provides a 24 hour showcase of your portfolio. Blogs have room for pictures, videos, and journal entries; they persuade in ways that traditional resumes can’t. And when articles or pictures get reposted, a well designed blog can turn a nobody into a cult personality.
The cost of a blog is negligible; services like WordPress and Posterous are free. All that’s needed is the expertise to use them, and that’s what blogging courses provide. A two week course will familiarize you with all the basic tools. Advanced courses are ideal for the self-employed: They’ll teach you how to sell online and grow your following.
Chris Smith runs blog courses for total beginners to veterans, but he’s one amongst many. Check your local community club to see if you’ve got cheaper (or even free) courses.
2. FISCA Financial Planning Workshops
With our fellow blogger Mr. Tan Kin Lian at the helm, FISCA provides the most cost effective finance workshops. Membership is $36 a month, and opens up a range of events and seminars. Contrast that with the $500 – $4000 (not kidding) investment workshops, which have been going around like a virus.
Financial planning workshops are preferable to textbooks and online coaching. Rich Dad, Poor Dad is as applicable here as it is in Zimbabwe (That is, it lines bird cages all across the country). Workshops are obviously localized, and face-to-face talks mean you have specific questions answered.
Besides, attempting financial stunts you learned out of a book is hazardous to your wallet. A seminar might save you a bundle in bad investments.
3. Computer Repair Courses
Singapore’s a plugged-in society, and most of us have computer problems at some point. After the 100th time you pay to reformat a hard drive or re-install Windows, you might start thinking about a repair course.
These are common at community clubs, but there are also open courses at ITE. Apart from fixing your own PC for free, you might be able to start a sideline business in repairs. Most PC users tend to call repair people for minor problems, which can be fixed in under an hour. When you get paid $80 – $200 to format a hard drive or re-install Windows, you’ll see what I mean.
Some repair courses also teach you to upgrade your system, and find the best deals when buying PCs.
4. Violin or Piano Lessons
Welcome to Singapore, where musicians can make more money teaching music than actually playing it. Fact is, almost every parent wants their children to play the piano or the violin. While it doesn’t change the fact that our only cultures might be on a petri dish, it does give parents bragging rights.
Learning the basics of violin or piano music (just the basics) will take a year with constant practice. While the price is about $240 a month, you can easily tutor four or five students for $240 each when you’re done. Don’t worry about being a virtuoso; when it comes to basics, it doesn’t matter whether I teach you the C Chord or you have Elton John personally fly down and show you.
If you can play at the Grade 5 level (easy in a year), you’re good enough to tutor children on the side.
5. Business English Courses
Business English can make the difference between wooing clients, and being locked in a back room like an inbred relative. I’m not suggesting you need to be Shakespeare; but when it looks like your English teacher needs to be hunted down and euthanised, your boss is not putting you in touch with customers.
Poor business English means no entry into marketing and public relations; even if it could advance your career. And if your team needs the Coxford English Dictionary to hold a five minute conversation with you, forget about making the big presentation.
The British Council runs Business English courses, for about $1495 (total course). A hefty price, but the pay-off is a significant career boost.
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