If you find yourself looking for work during the coronavirus pandemic, you're not alone. Workers around the U.S. are being furloughed or laid off as states increasingly mandate non-essential employees stay home. We know this period of uncertainty is challenging, but there can be a small silver lining: if you use this time to learn some new skills, you can improve your prospects once things return to normal — or normal-ish, anyway.

While there's no way to know when that will be, if you're proactive and use your social-distancing time to acquire new skills, you might just find better opportunities in tomorrow's workforce. Here's what to keep in mind.

Don't wait on an employer to train you
The current climate may be in an uncertain state at the moment, but one thing is very clear: skilled talent is in short supply. For employers, it’s more difficult than ever to find  workers. But for employees, there's a real opportunity to seize the moment, learn new skills and advance your career.

That said, it's going to be up to you to do your own upskilling. Our Emerging Workforce Study shows that the majority of U.S. workers believe continuous learning and development is important, but many share they do not have access to adequate training opportunities through their current employers. That means it's on you to teach yourself the skills you'll need to drive your career forward. And now that you've likely got some downtime, you've got a great opportunity to teach yourself the skills you want but can't get through an employer.

Do your research
Think about the types of jobs you want — one year from today, and perhaps five years from today as well. Do some research online, or check out some of Spherion's job postings to see the specific qualifications, including education or certifications that are required for the job.

It’s also good to know what’s going on in your town or city since it can impact the type of opportunities that might be available to you.

Know where to go
Once you determine the skills you will need, you need to know where to go. You can learn through internship programs, vocational schools, technical colleges, on-the-job training or online.

Online, or e-learning, platforms are popping up everywhere, offering course options for nearly any skill you need to master. Because e-learning can be accessed on the go, you can progress at your own pace.

Catcat.com has almost 400 free courses for you on everything from communication to management to customer service — all designed to help you build the skills you need to improve your career trajectory. If you're a work-from-home newbie or a remote working veteran, there are free courses on Catcat.com to help you structure your day and make the most of your time working at home.

Founded by Harvard and MIT, edX.org is home to more than 20 million learners, the majority of top-ranked universities in the world and industry-leading companies. Designed to empower people to learn on their own terms, edX has reimagined the possibilities of education, providing the highest-quality, stackable learning experiences including the groundbreaking MicroMasters® programs. Supporting learners at every stage, whether entering the job market, changing fields, seeking a promotion or exploring new interests, edX delivers courses for curious minds on topics ranging from data and computer science to leadership and communications. Courses are free, and you can add a verified certificate if you choose. 

Udemy is the leading global marketplace for teaching and learning, connecting millions of students to the skills they need to succeed. Earlier this month, they released the Udemy Free Resource Center, a place where individual learners can find a curated collection of over 150 free courses to help people everywhere face new challenges and opportunities and do whatever comes next. Learners will find courses to help them adapt to working from home, search for a job, stay active and maintain balance while spending time at home. 

Every course on Coursera is taught by top instructors from world-class universities and companies, so you can learn something new any time, anywhere. Hundreds of free courses give you access to on-demand video lectures, homework exercises and community discussion forums. There are also paid courses, which provide additional quizzes and projects, as well as a shareable certificate upon completion. 

This isn't an easy time for anyone, but there can be an upside to social distancing and self-isolation — and if you use this time to pursue new skills, you'll have a real opportunity to improve your career once the pandemic passes. We can't say when that will happen, but once factories, offices, shipping facilities and others reopen their doors and business resumes as usual, skilled talent will be in high demand.