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Web sites help keep your job skills sharp

Online resources let you learn new skills that will qualify you for work that's more interesting, more challenging, and more financially rewarding.

Dennis O'Reilly Former CNET contributor
Dennis O'Reilly began writing about workplace technology as an editor for Ziff-Davis' Computer Select, back when CDs were new-fangled, and IBM's PC XT was wowing the crowds at Comdex. He spent more than seven years running PC World's award-winning Here's How section, beginning in 2000. O'Reilly has written about everything from web search to PC security to Microsoft Excel customizations. Along with designing, building, and managing several different web sites, Dennis created the Travel Reference Library, a database of travel guidebook reviews that was converted to the web in 1996 and operated through 2000.
Dennis O'Reilly
3 min read

Safety issues aside, only three things are required to be happy in your job: do interesting work, get paid fairly, and get along with your boss. I can't help you with the last one, but if you're not happy with the work you're doing or your salary, one possible solution is to learn new skills that will translate into more challenging and financially rewarding work.

Tongue-in-cheek suggestions for avoiding the ax
Any employment-related advice on the Web or elsewhere has to be taken with a grain of salt, especially when it comes to generic recommendations about successful workplace behavior. That didn't stop Susan Heathfield from offering 10 tips for keeping your job in a bad economy. The tips include the timeless "Work overtime" and "Make the company money."

Heathfield also advises that you butter up the boss and make sure the right people know about your "measurable" accomplishments. Hard to argue with the success rate of these two strategies, but I prefer her suggestions to hone your professional skills and to build a team with your coworkers. If you're lucky, you'll make valuable contacts that will last throughout your career.

The other side of the equation is Chris Kalaboukis' similarly named Top 10 tips: How to keep your job in today's economy. "Don't excel" and "Be a work-bot" aren't likely to be found in many employment manuals.

Not surprisingly, "Don't complain" and "Work longer hours" made both lists. If you've spent any time ensconced in an office cubicle, you've probably thought of six or seven of Kalaboukis' keys to workplace longevity. But if you find yourself agreeing with "Sacrifice everything for your job" and "Wear a mask," you might want to think about making a change.

Five great sites for job training and career advice
The Web is loaded with sites offering information on education and training programs, but many of the sites are heavy on ads and light on content. The five services below provide the greatest range and depth of information of interest to people looking to give their careers a boost. And, with one exception, they don't overwhelm you with ads.

Education-Portal.com: The site was founded nine years ago by students as a textbook exchange. Its About page states it "helps students make education decisions that shape their lives." Considering the scope of valuable information and resources the site offers, that's no idle boast.

Education-Portal.com video library
The free video library at Education-Portal.com examines several degree fields and reviews universities in nearly every state. screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET

For a good look at schools throughout the U.S., browse Education-Portal.com's video library, which also features video guides for college admissions and about a dozen degree fields. The site's information covers everything from high school diplomas to master's degrees, along with a healthy dose of online degrees.

HubPages Free Online Job Training: If you're looking for an application-centric approach to job training, Robert Medford's Top 10 Websites for Free Job Skills Training Online features sites offering free training in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other Office apps, as well as for Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and Flash. There's even a link to a free HTML training program.

Career Explorer: You'll find information on this site for all aspects of your career: from finding your calling to finding a school to finding a job. Career Explorer's video library can't match the breadth of Education-Portal.com's video collection, but the site provides a handy list of job descriptions and a free aptitude test.

Career Explorer career resource center
The resources on the Career Explorer site cover career guidance, schools, and job searches. screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET

Best of the Web Distance Learning Online Resources: For a throwback, Yahoo Directory-style list of online training and education programs, BOTW's page is about as up-to-date as you'll find. In some ways, this site is the anti-Education-Portal.com: nothing here but a list of links and very brief descriptions.

You won't find a simpler approach to the subject, and you certainly don't have to worry about being bombarded with advertisements. But considering the depth of training and education information available on other sites, BOTW's list is paper-thin.

JobMonkey Career Training: This site hides its content amid a ton of ads, but if you can get past the flashing billboards and prominent video ad in the middle of the site's home page, you'll find useful information about online computer training courses, foreign languages, personal finance, and management. JobMonkey even covers farming, drafting, and typing.

I particularly like JobMonkey's advice for avoiding distance-learning scams and degree mills. At the risk of sounding like Sister Agnes Marie, my third grade teacher, there are no shortcuts to success.