16 Advanced Learning Options and Tools Federal Employees Can Leverage for Professional Growth

Professional growth can be defined in a number of ways. For some federal employees, it’s a function of time and experience, i.e., the knowledge and skills they develop while simply discharging their duties. Others externalize it and perceive professional growth to be the promotions and their elevation through the ranks. However, just as with private employees, a significant portion of the federal workforce is realizing that professional growth is much more than that. In fact, it can be one or all of the following:

  • Upskilling and making yourself better, more efficient at your job, and consequently, become more valuable for your department/agency.
  • Reskilling and pursuing a federal career that’s a better match for your temperament, aspirations, and strengths than the current one.
  • Self-motivated or organizationally encouraged cross-skilling to become a more valuable and diverse asset for the team.

Federal employees who acquire new skills to reorient their careers, advance through the ranks, or simply keep up with an evolving role are seen as valuable assets. They are relatively indispensable and more fiercely retained if they decide to leave. More importantly, these are the employees that are likely to survive job cuts and budget cuts and get promoted ahead of or in the absence of a time-bound career ladder.

If you understand the value of acquiring new hard and soft skills that can make you a better federal employee, prepare you for a competitive market, and fast-track your professional growth, you already have the right mindset. The next steps are straightforward, albeit not very simple: Choosing the right skill, researching if it matches your professional goal(s), and choosing the right learning tool/technology. The good news is that there are plenty of free advanced learning options and tools available online (and even more paid resources) that can help you with self-paced skill development and learning.

Communication Skills

Communication skills are crucial to individual and professional success. The key is to learn which facet of communication you want to develop or improve your skills in. In a professional setting, your verbal and written communication skills matter the most. You can also learn a new language to improve your connection to the community you are serving.

1. Speeko (AI Speaking Coach)

Pricing: Free Basic Version and Paid Premium Version ($4.99/month if you buy a yearly subscription)

Speeko is a relatively unique tool that allows you to practice your speech, and it gives you feedback on your pacing, use of filler words, sentiment, tone of your voice, and even your word choice. It may feel weird speaking to the phone rather than using a phone, but it can really help you analyze your speech patterns and work on them to sound more confident and interesting, even eloquent. It’s available on Apple and Mac products. Likeso and Ummo are more affordable alternatives to the Speeko paid version. You can also go for communication courses designed specifically for federal employees, like the persuasive speaking course offered by Management Concepts.

2. Grammarly (Writing assistant)

Pricing: Free Basic Version and Paid Premium Version ($12/month)

Grammarly is a great tool to help you improve your writing skills. The basic version is great at identifying basic grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes. The paid version helps you rephrase full sentences, provide valid word alternatives, and help you improve or stick to your target tone (casual, formal, etc.). You can still improve your overall writing quality a lot with the Grammarly free version and other free tools like Hemmingway Editor (which helps you write bold and clear) and readability tools like the one offered by WebFx and Readability Formulas. From your emails and grant applications to proposals and presentations, you can improve every piece of writing you perform at work and come across as a better, more refined professional.

3. Duolingo (For Learning New Languages)

Pricing: Free

The US has one of the most diverse populations in the world, and in your duties, you are highly likely to come across people who speak languages other than English, and communicating in their native tongue can help you connect with them better. Duolingo can help you learn a new language, and it supports over 40 languages, including Spanish and Chinese, the second and third most widely spoken languages in the country.

Organizational Skills

There are several organizational skills you can pick up to become a far more efficient and productive professional. One way to learn these skills is to start using the relevant tools.

4. Clockify (Time Management)

Pricing: Free

Clockify can help individual federal employees and teams manage their time better, whether it’s during routine work hours or working on a specific project. The tool allows you to keep a timesheet, track time, scheduling, project management/assignment, and even cost-tracking for projects.

5. Clickup (Goal-Tracking)

Pricing: Free

Setting realistic goals and keeping track of these goals is an important organizational skill you can develop to improve your personal and professional life as a federal employee. Clickcup can help you with that. It’s a comprehensive platform better suited for teams, but since it’s free and has a wide variety of goal-tracking features, including target types and priorities, you can use it for personal goal-tracking as well. If you are looking for more personalized variants, you can check out Joe’s Goals (Free)If you want to pick up better organizational habits, you can also use apps like Habitica (Free) and Way of Life (Paid).

6. Trello (Productivity)

Pricing: Free

Being productive is not an organizational skill per se, but it’s what most organizational skills eventually lead to. Trello can help you be more productive. It has a lot of overlap with Clickup, but it may be a better match for your inherent organizational style.

Other tools that may help you stay more organized or improve your organizational skills are:

  • Google Keep – For taking quick, color-coded notes. (Free)
  • Tiny Decisions and Pros and Cons: Decision Making – Apps that can help you with decision-making. (Free)
  • Lumosity (Free and Paid), Neuronation (Free), and Peak – Brain Games – Puzzle and game apps that can help you improve your problem-solving skills, an important subset of organizational skills.

In addition to these tools, you can also look for training courses designed around a specific organizational skill, like problem solving.

Marketing Skills

Marketing skills are often limited by the mindset that they are all about “selling” products or services. A better definition would be the skills, tools, and technologies that can help you reach and connect with your target audience and effectively convey your message. The audience can be a single individual, like a department head that you need to reach out to for a grant or the HR officer of the agency you wish to transfer to. Marketing skills (including research) can help you present your case for a grant or your candidacy in the best possible way.

These skills can also help you choose the best services to outsource marketing to. If you are tasked with finding the right freelancer/digital agency to revamp the online presence of your department, a good understanding of marketing can help you choose the perfect fit and allow you to use the available budget more efficiently.

You can learn the basics of marketing from YouTube, free courses, and free resources (guides, blogs, etc.) available online. However, learning to use the following tools might help you develop marketing skills meaningful to your profession.

7. Canva and Visme (Designing Creative Assets)

Pricing: Free and Paid

Presentations, flyers, pamphlets, informational ebooks, and infographics are just some of the digital assets you can create with ease on Canva and Visme. The good thing about both these websites is that if you spend enough time building up your design skills, you can create high-quality assets with free resources alone. There are several free templates available that can give you ideas and help you get started on what you want to create. The websites are quite intuitive, and the design tools are very user-friendly, ideal for beginners with no prior knowledge of designing. These are also useful in the freelancing market.

8. HubSpot Academy Certifications (Free Digital Marketing Courses)

Pricing: Free

HubSpot Academy offers free courses and certifications for several digital marketing and other technical skills (in the same vein) that you can complete and achieve free certifications for. Apart from typical alternatives, i.e., free courses on Udemy and Coursera, there are also Neil Patel Marketing Training and Google Digital Resource courses.

9. Research Tools and Resources

Pricing: Free and Paid

Research is an important part of marketing, but it’s a skill that can help you in several other aspects of your professional life. As a federal employee, Census.gov is an important research asset. There is also Statista and Google Trends. Then there are tools that might be specific to your domain. As a nurse or another professional from the healthcare sector looking for active clinical trials, you can look into the official database ClinicalTrial.gov. If you are looking for real estate trends in the area you are serving as a federal employee, there might be realtor websites that collect and publish that data for free.

Technical Skills

Some of the most advanced learning options and learning resources you may find online are dedicated to helping people develop certain technical skills. Even if they don’t overlap with your specific domain, picking up technical skills like web development and data analytics can significantly improve your value in your department/agency and the federal workforce as a whole.

10. Google IT Support Professional Certificate (Entry-Level IT Support)

Pricing: Paid (Coursera Subscription)

The Google IT Support course is available via Coursera. You have to subscribe to the premium membership of the website ($59 per month), and the certificate coursework spans six months. However, it’s one of the most well-respected comprehensive IT courses out there and promises to help you land an entry-level job. Even if a career move is not your inspiration, the course and this certification can help you expand your role or assume a more promising role within your preferred federal agency/department.

11. Codecademy (Web Development)

Web development, or, simply put, developing a website, has become an incredibly commonplace and easy-to-attain technical skill, thanks to the massive number of resources online. It’s important to understand that the right tools like Wix, Bubble, and Carrd can help you create a website with no coding experience or knowledge, simply using drag-and-drop functionalities. The free versions of these tools are powerful and intuitive enough. You can also use YouTube to learn web development using simple tools like WordPress (for free). But it’s a good idea to take the time to learn basic coding/programming, and Codecademy is one of the best places to start as a beginner. You can learn the basics of languages that you can use for more than just web development (app development, game development, etc.).

12. Python (Data Analytics and Visualization)

Pricing: Free

Python is one of the most famous and easy-to-learn computer languages, and there are numerous online resources where you can learn Python for free. There are websites like FreeCodeCamp, hundreds of YouTube courses, and books if you want to take the traditional route. Python is one of the most widely used languages for data analytics, and unlike professional tools like Microsoft Power BI and TIBCO Spotfire, which are paid and, in some cases, quite costly for individuals, most Python resources and tools are free. It can also be your gateway to Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning if those are the technologies you aim to pursue.

Leadership Skills

Leadership skills are important for all federal employees and not just the individuals perceived to be in a leadership position. That’s because some of the most universally agreed upon traits and qualities of a good leader, like integrity, self-awareness, and the ability to motivate, can help you become a better person. These qualities can also help you, as a federal employee, recognize the big-picture impact of your regular job and take pride in it, making you more efficient.

A few advanced learning tools (and assessment tools) to help you develop leadership skills are:

13. Self-Assessment and Leadership Assessment Tools: DiSC, MTBI, Gallups, and MindTools

Pricing: Both Free and Paid

Self-awareness is an important leadership trait, and tools like the DiSC assessment (paid) help you with that by measuring the dimensions of your personality. It also helps with identifying personality traits specific to different roles in life, including leadership and the ability to manage others. The assessment is quite useful by itself but you can maximize its potential by taking a deeper dive into DiSC via specially designed workshops and modules.

MBTI is a more complex personality assessment tool that can help you identify your personality type and what roles/jobs you might be better suited to. You are more likely to assume a leadership role in a position naturally suited to your personality, or you may have strong leadership traits that can help you take the lead regardless of your position. Either way, it’s a good place to start, and it’s also free.

An assessment tool like Gallup’s Strengths Finder (paid) can help you identify and work on your strengths. Leadership-specific assessment tools MindTools (free), USC’s leadership style assessment (free), and Saville (paid) can help you gain crucial insights about your leadership abilities.

14. Leadership Training Tools: GLSnext – Leadership Training and Bunch.ai

Pricing: Free

GLSnext by Global Leadership Network offers hundreds of short and impactful leadership videos that can equip you with the right knowledge and leadership skills. Bunch.ai is an AI-based leadership tool that coaches you and helps you improve a little bit every day. It offers a personalized experience.


In addition to the tools above, you can also look for free leadership courses on websites like Udacity and Coursera, or paid leadership courses offered by Management Concepts, which may prove more potent as they are designed especially for federal employees. Additionally, there are thousands of videos available on YouTube that can help you develop and improve your leadership skills.

Financial Skills

Understanding how to handle finances is part of becoming a functional adult. But they are far more important for you if your job routinely or occasionally requires you to handle finances other than your own. It may be something simple like fuel expenses or calculating the total cost of a trip or something sophisticated like financial planning for an entire project that falls under your domain. Also financial skills may also help you become better with your personal expenses and family budgeting.

A few educational and financial tools that can help you develop and employ your financial skills in relevant settings are:

15. Zogo (Financial Learning)

Pricing: Free

Zogo is good for bite-sized financial learning through its mobile and desktop apps. It has over 800 lessons that can help you learn more about investing, cryptocurrency, budgeting, spending, loan management, etc. The financial topics are covered for all levels of financial literacy, making it ideal for individuals building financial skills from scratch.

16. Microsoft Excel, Apple Numbers, and Google Spreadsheets

Pricing: Both Paid and Free

MS Excel is one of the most widely used spreadsheet tools in the world. Whether your job requires you to keep detailed records, create budgets, or run data analysis, you need to learn to use Excel or one of the more commonly available alternatives like Apple Numbers and Google Spreadsheets. However, they may have their limitations compared to Excel.

It’s a sophisticated tool but a must-have for professional growth in several different domains. You can start with the basic resources provided by Microsoft or complete courses available for free on Udemy and Coursera. Advanced courses, especially in data analytics and visualization, might come with a fee.

There are also free budgeting tools like Intuit Mint and bookkeeping/accounting tools like GnuCash that may not actively facilitate learning, but since they are intuitive and free to use, you can use them to develop budgeting and other accounting skills.

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