Furloughed worker south Belfast mum Debra Smyth pictured with her two sons at the start of her lockdown learning journey with make it click and training matchmaker
My name is Debra and this is the start of my learning and personal development journey with TrainingMatchmaker.com which was created by Watson and Co. Chartered Marketing founder: Trainer Christine Watson.
Christine contacted me after a cry for help with my CV on a LinkedIn post during the Covid-19 pandemic when I was furloughed, however was in desperate need to find purpose and direction in my life.
Debra Smyth LinkedIn post            
In this blog, you can see what challenges I face as an independent parent, the goals achieved (hopefully!) and how to overcome any fears in your own learning journey.
This is my first blog detailing my learning commitments and how I will achieve them: My Learning Plan.

Background

Who am I, well this is usually the one where people list the societal titles upon themselves, I am a mother of two boys aged 4 and 12. I am an independent parent, I reject ‘single mum’ due to the systemic derogatory association with the label. You can already tell I have strong opinions and a secret fire in me when it comes to any injustice. Challenges they have faced in their young lives in which I was their guide, constantly learning myself to ensure they are healthy both physically and psychologically are Autism, ADHD, food allergies and severe eczema.
Personally, I have a first class honours degree in Economics with Social Policy and prior to being furloughed was employed as a working from home Office Manager for a tourism business, managing ten staff members, business relationships, meeting international buyers, and controlling supplies to name a few of my responsibilities across two countries.
Post March 2020, I am home full time with two children, home schooling Year 8 and preschool, and trying to keep a level head and keep everyone safe.

Challenges

There have been two main challenges for me. Firstly, time to focus on myself and my journey. While I may be able to sneak in an hour on the computer while my children watch TV or play outside with the football, there will always be the distractions of Paw Patrol, Cocomelon or Blippi in the background, or ‘mum what’s for lunch?’ when all I can say in reply is, ‘you just ate!’. Children of course like structure, want to know what is coming next and the security of knowing they can ask mum anything at any time. Mum guilt does not allow for me-time when I am essentially their world right now. They cannot see their grandparents and friends.
Secondly, deciding what I want to learn about. We have a world where there is so much going on, so many online courses available, and evolving marketing techniques. It is difficult to decide where I want my career path to go in a changing world to ensure I have the skills for the future. The advice has always been to learn what you enjoy, and you will find a career you love. My issue is, I find lots of things enjoyable! I have a joy for learning. For every new thing learnt, my brain creates the new cell, sending an electric current and endorphins through my body. It is a natural drug and it is addictive.
My first task is to create a learning plan; to list in order of priority what I am going to do. This has therefore been my second challenge but thankfully, my trainer Christine has a list for me to work with. We developed the list from a telephone call where we instantly became acquainted and she had an instant sense as to what would be suited to me. So here goes…

Learning Plan

Let’s create my learning plan together now; because I skipped it earlier to write this blog. One of the pieces of advice I give my son doing schoolwork and tests, if you cannot do it, move on to the next question.
Here is the initial list sourced from the free learning opportunities listed on the Make it Click portal
  • WordPress – create a free website or blog
  • Create a CV in Google Docs
  • 50 Free Microsoft Word CV Templates
  • Canva – online image designer and editor
  • What exactly is Twitter and how does it work?
  • A guide to Twitter for new users
  • What is Twitter?
  • Speaking in public (excuse me, my youngest wanted an ice lolly, where was I?…)
  • Build confidence with self-promotion
  • Get noticed with social media
  • Master social media
  • How to create a Social Media Content Calendar
So here goes, first I am going to put some at the bottom of my list. I have created CVs before using templates, but I am no expert and for now, my CV does not have anything new to add, so the following will be towards the end of my journey:
  • Create a GV in Google Docs
  • 50 Free Microsoft Word CV Templates
Next, we added a quite a few social media and Twitter courses as I have not had an active social media account for two years (except LinkedIn) and I have never had a Twitter account. So, we will put these in order of priority:
  • What is Twitter?
  • What exactly is Twitter and how does it work?
  • A guide to Twitter for new users
  • How to create a Social Media Content Calendar
  • Get noticed with social media
  • Master social media
That is a sizeable chunk organised now; what is left, only four:
  • WordPress – create a free website or blog
  • Canva – online image designer and editor
  • Speaking in public
  • Build confidence with self-promotion
I would like to start with some actionable courses therefore I will put WordPress and Canva to the top, with confidence building courses after the social media courses as I do not think I will have the opportunity to speak publicly for the next few months, maybe I am wrong, but it is a start.
Let us put it all together.
  1. WordPress – create a free website or blog
  2. Canva – online image designer and editor
  3. What is Twitter?
  4. What exactly is Twitter and how does it work?
  5. A guide to Twitter for new users
  6. How to create a Social Media Content Calendar
  7. Get noticed with social media
  8. Master social media
  9. Speaking in public
  10. Build confidence with self-promotion
  11. Create a CV in Google Docs
  12. 50 Free Microsoft Word CV Templates
And that is step one complete; one I had previously put off in favour of writing a blog instead. Maybe that is a sign I enjoy writing? Now I am on a roll.
Next on my list of tasks is to make a plan regarding being a Learning Ambassador, Digital Champion or maybe it will be a Online Facilitator, the name hasn’t been finalised yet. After starting my initial courses through the Good Things Foundation and learning about their Digital Champion ambassadors, a spark ignited in me. I have always been aware of the gap in technological capabilities between generations, social classes, and adults with learning difficulties, or anyone who would benefit from the advances in online usage, both in personal and professional lives. Sending emails and online shopping are some of the things many take for granted but for others is still a strange concept and the idea of turning on a computer is met with fear and anxiety. If I can make a difference to someone’s life in this way, what an amazing achievement it would be! Here is my plan: Become a Learning Ambassador/Digital Champion/Online Facilitator – Firstly, we will not worry about the title for now, as would a rose by any other name still smell as sweet.
Secondly, I have already identified my sister (adult with learning difficulties) and my mother as my first trainees. Both are highly active on social media, more than me however would still struggle with emailing, online shopping, identifying secure attachments or scam emails. I want to empower them to feel safe online and to enrich their lives with the positive benefits, especially when going out at this time is wrought with fear and uncertainty.
Thirdly, we will need to work on how to facilitate remote training. Who doesn’t like a challenge; time for the creative thinking cap to go on.
Google Digital Garage – This is another course I have seen a few people post about on LinkedIn. It looks ideal as I can take it at my own pace and participate at any time of the night or day.
That is the start and what I can pull together on a Sunday morning while my pre-teen gets a lie in and between helping my 4-year-old colour in tractors and unicorns.
Wish me luck!

About Me:

Learner Debra Smyth getting started with her first ever blog        
I am a mother of two boys aged 4 and 12. I am an independent parent. I have a first class honours degree in Economics with Social Policy and prior to being furloughed I was employed as a working from home Office Manager for a tourism business, managing ten staff members, business relationships, meeting international buyers, and controlling supplies to name a few of my responsibilities across two countries.
I am always open to new opportunities and new connections – you can find me on Linkedin.
If you are inspired by my learning story please do feel free to share on social media – you can add the hashtags: #GetLearningNI #GetBloggingNI #MakeItClick and #TrainingMatchmaker.
If you would like to get started or reinvigorate your learning journey you too can guest blog for TrainingMatchmaker.com – contact

About TrainingMatchmaker.com:

With a mission to ‘inspire learning’ – trainingmatchmaker.com signposts aspiring learners to thousands of free online learning opportunities. It is also a platform where active trainers across Northern Ireland can come together as a community.  

About the Make It Click project:

The ‘Make It Click‘ programme aims to help adults achieve positive life and work outcomes, particularly around employment, by supporting them to understand how digital skills can change their life, and give the practical skills and knowledge to build their confidence to do so. Make It Click is a collection of online learning resources and TrainingMatchmaker.com as an online centre of Good Things Foundation will, throughout the course of 2020, take active steps to enable and support over 100 learners to build their digital skills. This project is funded by Google.org. To find out more or to chat to us about partnering with us or to become join as an active learner like Debra contact us  

About Learn My Way:

Learn My Way is a website of free online courses, built by Good Things Foundation to help people develop their digital skills.

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