7 New Skills You Can Learn (or Refine) Without Leaving Your Desk

Today’s education world is wide-open — with online university schools, coding bootcamps or even learning-based game apps, you can pick up knowledge from almost anywhere. For many, this learning can happen while they’re at work, especially for this in project-based positions or during slow seasons (summer slowdown, anyone?). Don’t feel bad about using the time you have to be at your desk anyway to add to your market value, or even just learn a cool, new skill to talk about at parties.

And to help you refine your brand, we went ahead and got the hard part out of the way by researching the ways you can add to your portfolio and resume while waiting on your next project. Don’t let your downtime go to waste, become a pro at something new.

Microsoft Excel (no, seriously!)

A basic spreadsheet is easy to maneuver, but the more advanced ones require some training. Learn to create the most eye-catching charts, identify trends, and run a tight budget with Chandoo, a blog with the tagline “Become Awesome In Excel”. You can even learn to automate some of the more boring facets of Excel with an expertise in macros. Become a real Excel wizard and let the spreadsheet do all of the work. 


There are countless resources to take advantage of if you want to learn to code. Whether you want to learn Python, Ruby, or Java, there’s a resources out there for everyone. While you’re looking for your next programming language to learn, some of the most popular learning platforms include Lynda, Udemy, and Codecademy. These will walk you through the very basics all the way to more advanced coding lessons.

A new language

Whether it’s Spanish, French, Japanese, or American Sign Language, learning a new language can be daunting. While you can learn by taking class or immersion, sometimes your schedule doesn’t allow for those options. With the right pacing, you can be conversational in another language in a couple of weeks. The DuoLingo app is specifically geared at those learning another language and is available in both the iPhone and Android app stores. It’s ideal for a train or subway commute to work!

Public speaking

If you clam up every time you have to speak in front of a crowd of more than five people, this one’s for you. Public speaking is the number one biggest phobia in America — beating out spiders, clowns, and heights. Luckily, there are sources like Toastmasters that give tips on the best public speaking practices and even offer meetups where you can practice and learn by doing. There’s also courses on Udemy that study some of the most popular speeches ever made and delve into what makes them powerful. No more of that “picture your audience naked!”

Mental math

Though doing quick mental math may seem like a skill that some are naturals at and the rest of us aren’t, it can actually be learned. Try The Human Calculator app, created by a man of the same namesake who holds the Guinness World Record for fastest human calculation abilities. You’ll never have to pull out your phone to calculate a tip again.


The rule of thirds in photography is one of the more basic rules of photography. But how many of us actually know how to use it correctly? If you want to be able to take the perfect Instagram-worthy selfie, take a few lessons from sources like Lifehacker or PetaPixel.


With your newfound expertise in photography, the next step could be Photoshop. Photo editing and design are becoming more sought after skills in many markets. Learn how to do the basics like cropping, filtering, and image correction and with time you can get more advanced and learn the ins-and-outs of ambient occlusion and removing whole backgrounds. Try a basics course on Lynda.