Laid off? Shifting from Earning to Learning

A good chunk of the world has been effectively put on pause and millions of people have been laid off due to no fault of their own. I have first-hand experience with what unemployment is like and how to battle through it and want to take the time to share some of my thoughts.

First off, I want you to realize that this is not your fault. Second, as challenging as this may get, I want you to realize that this is not a permanent situation. Your job right now is to find way to endure and move forward while we all work together to battle and defeat Covid-19. This is a mental game and there are some tools you can use to increase your odd of winning.

Your normal routine is out the window and you’ve likely been spending the last month or so trying to find a new rhythm that works. If you are at home and happen to have a family, then you’ll likely have a full house, which can be a challenge in and of itself.

I’m going to tell you first-hand that you’ll need to be on the lookout for two very powerful enemies. These are depression and despair. Not just in you, but in your family members and friends. Early detection and prevention are important.

Depression can set in when we feel like we’ve lost control of our lives and things are slipping away on us. I want you to take this to heart, you are valuable and matter regardless of your employment situation. You need to find ways to focus on things you can control and let go of the things you can’t.

Now let’s talk about despair. Despair shows up when you start having the sense that nothing you are doing is having any effect. Here’s what I’ve learned through experience. Even though it may seem to you that you’re not having an impact, quite often you are, you are just not picking up on it and there is usually a delay between your actions and the effect they have. If there is anything good we can learn from Covid-19 it’s a lesson on how interconnected and dependant we are on each other. You need us, and we need you.

So now let’s get into the main content I want to share in this post. It comes down to focusing on the things you can control and one of them is how you decide to use some of your new-found time. Since my background is in teaching and learning, this is where I think I can help you the most.

It’s going to be really tough right now finding work for a lot of people. I’m not saying you shouldn’t keep an eye out and by all means, if you see something come up it doesn’t hurt to apply. You can set up a routine to check for opportunities, but I can tell you for experience, you can become obsessive in your search, so try not to go overboard.

I’ve always held the motto that if I’m not earning, I’m learning. So this is what I propose. With a chunk of the free time you have, I want you to focus on learning and improving yourself. These tough times will end and when they do, I want you to be ready to seize the opportunities that are coming and maybe even make the jump into a new career. Also, keeping focused and busy working towards an objective is a very potent way to head depression off at the pass!

Now, if your situation is like millions of others out there, money is tight right now, so let’s talk about some low-cost ways to supercharge your learning.

Hands down, online learning is going to be your best friend. Let’s have a look at some great starting points. Remember, most of these have free or low-cost options and they can all be done online, at your own pace and have short videos you can watch and rewatch as you see fit. If this is your first time doing online learning, it’s going to be quite a bit different than traditional learning and if you give it a chance, I think you actually learn to really like it.

I also want you to change the mindset that education only counts if you get a degree, certificate or diploma. All learning is relevant and more and more top tier employers are de-emphasizing formal degrees and acknowledging alternative learning paths.


Coursera offers hundreds of free courses give you access to on-demand video lectures, homework exercises, and community discussion forums. Paid courses provide additional quizzes and projects as well as a shareable Course Certificate upon completion.


Except for professional education courses, there is no cost for taking edX courses when you enroll in the audit track, which does not offer certificates or provide graded assignments. However, if you want to be able to earn a verified certificate for a course and complete assignment, there is a fee that will vary depending on the course. The fees for the verified track usually range between $50 USD and $300 USD.


Udemy offers a smorgasbord of free or very-low cost courses and have frequent flash sales. You can take a course on just about anything form this site.


Khan Academy

While Khan Academy started out with a focus on math education for kids, you can find high quality, interactive content on science, engineering, computing and arts in the humanities and more!


Udacity began as an experiment in online learning, when Stanford instructors Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig elected to offer their “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” course online to anyone, for free. Over 160,000 students in more than 190 countries enrolled.  Udacity has continued to grow and add to their technology and computer science-based offerings. Check out their interesting Nanodegree programs that currently have discounted prices for those facing economic challenges due to Covid-19. is a fantastic site for those of you out there looking to upgrade your computer, software or business skills. Outside of these core subject areas, you can learn about things like photography, painting, animation, music production and even learn to play the guitar! first month is free and I’d recommend you check if your local library to see if they have partnered with to give you free access. Make sure you check out the many learning paths Lynda has created that could help you shift into a totally new career when the time is right!

I recommend you find something that’s relevant and interesting to you and start with a single course.

Unlike traditional school, you can work your way through the lessons and videos at your own pace. Some courses may have an instructor you can contact when you need to, but many may not have any instructor at all. Remember to focus on developing your skills and understanding. This is not about trying to pass a frivolous test and then immediately forgetting everything a few days later. A half an hour here and an hour there over the space of a few days or weeks and you’ll have completed your first course.

I like to keep a notebook close by when I’m working through online courses, but if you feel more comfortable typing up notes, that works too.

As you progress through your courses, don’t forget to update your resume with your newly acquired skills and celebrate your victories.