In our jobs, we tend to take on roles and projects that might not normally come with our title. But knowing certain skills you don’t necessarily need to fulfill your role could help you execute your job more efficiently, expand your role into something bigger, and could be useful when you least expect it. 

Most of the time, we learn these one-off skills when something is thrown at us and we have to navigate our way through it on-the-job, but with the internet, we are able to get ahead and tackle these skills beforehand, setting us up for success when we do need them. 

Below are some skills to brush up on when you have free time and how you can do so on your own. Originally posted on Hubspot, they list 13 skills, but this article pulls out a few relevant to the construction industry. Like stated in the original article, the key is finding the educational material that's high quality enough to be worth your time, and this article provides you some resources that can help teach yourself these skills for free.  

1. How to negotiate better.

Whether you're negotiating with your team to implement an idea, negotiating with your boss for a raise, or negotiating with a client on contract terms, negotiating skills can be very useful in our industry. Being confident in your negotiating skills can position you as a leader and can also help to manage conflict. 

For a quick read: 

For a deeper dive:
  • Perfecting Your Pitch: How to Succeed in Business and in Life by Finding Words That Work by Ronald Shapiro
  • Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving by and William Ury
*Head to the library – It’s free!

Take a class:

Also, check out Coursera to see if they have any free classes on this topic!

2. How to use Microsoft Excel for more than just simple tables.

Most people have some experience with Excel, whether it's gathering ideas or making simple tables or equations. But if that's the limit of your Excel knowledge, you're missing out on a whole world of reporting automation that could save you hours upon hours of time.

Want to work more efficiently in Excel and avoid the tedium of updating your spreadsheets manually? There's a lot you can learn about Excel for free online. Actually, we've created a whole bunch of educational content about Excel here at HubSpot. Here are a few of the best ones:

  • "How to Use Excel: The Essential Training Guide for Data-Driven Marketing" (free ebook)
  • "9 Excel Templates to Make Marketing Easier" (free templates)
  • "How to Use Excel: 14 Simple Excel Shortcuts, Tips & Tricks" (blog post)
  • "40 Handy Excel Shortcuts You Can't Live Without" (blog post)
  • "How to Create a Pivot Table in Excel: A Step-by-Step Tutorial" (video & blog post)
  • "10 Design Tips to Create Beautiful Excel Charts and Graphs" (blog post) also offers courses for Excel at a cost.

3. How to write better.

Even if it’s not the main aspect of your job, everyone has to write at one point or another during the work day. This is especially true as most communication is done electronically. It’s important to make sure you look professional and can catch errors as you’re sending an email out or writing up a contract.

  • This video talks about how to generally become a better writer. Hubspot also has a free ebook called “The marketer’s pocket guide to writing well.”
  • Macalester College's lecture series on writing well offers full videos on topics like sentence structure, how to write intro paragraphs, how to engage readers, and so on.
  • There’s also an app called Hemingway that can help you cut back on spelling and grammatical errors. All you have to do is paste your text into the app and it'll assess how readable your writing is, as well as identify opportunities to make it simpler.

4. How to read faster.

Need to get through a long list of books that have been recommended for training purposes? A free online program, Spreeder, claims it can help people learn up to double, triple or even quadruple the speed at which they read passages. Simply paste the text you want to read in the text box, choose your settings (like how fast words are flashed, and how many words are flashed at a given time), and press "play." From there, the app will flash one or more words on the screen at whatever pace you choose.

Once you've gotten used to the app, you'll want to practice speed reading "in the wild," which you can also do for free using all the content that's out in the world already. (Remember, improving your reading speed will take time.) Start with easier reading material, like blog posts and short articles. If you're reading print, use your finger or a pen or index card to set the pace.

5. How to code.

Even if your job doesn’t require you to code, it doesn’t hurt to know the basics!  Here are some resources you can use to teach yourself the basics: 

6. How to become a better public speaker.

If you ask most people if they thought professionals in the construction industry had to do a lot of public speaking, I’d bet the majority would say no. But no matter your role, construction professionals find themselves having to speak and present in front of clients on a pretty regular basis. There's a lot you can do to improve those skills for free, without textbooks or public speaking classes. Here are a few places to start:

  • "The Uneasy Speaker's Guide to Confident Public Speaking" (blog post)
  • Knovio: A free app that lets you upload your presentation slides and then record yourself giving the presentation using the camera on your computer or smartphone. You can either review the video yourself, or share it with coworkers or friends for feedback by posting your Knovio presentation to YouTube, Vimeo, or simply emailing it out. It might seem awkward at first, but watching yourself speak is the best way to know what you need to fix.