How and When to Invest in Your Career

Listen up. The basic rules of financial wellness are as follows: earn more, spend less, and invest the rest.

And, when it comes to earning more, your potential is unlimited. Better still, investing in your career and bolstering the value you bring to the marketplace will help you grow your money the most. So, now you’re probably wondering: when exactly is the best time to invest in your career? The answer is simple: Right now.

Now is always the right time to expand your knowledge, expertise and network,” says Lydia Frank, vice president of content strategy at Payscale. “When you stop learning and growing, you stop being as valuable to your employer,” says Frank.

To start investing in your career to elevate your earnings potential, try following these tips:

Get Your Education On

No matter what type of job you have, expanding your skills and knowledge will boost your value in the workforce. There are plenty of ways to learn. Take a look at these three easy ways to gain skills:

1. Take an online course:

 If you want to learn more about marketing, social media, or even SEO, check out platforms like HubSpot or Moz Academy. To sharpen your software skills, you can sign up for a course on Udemy or Lynda. The point is: there are plenty of online courses available for rock-bottom prices (some are even free!) Just do your research and enroll in a course today.

2. Get Certified

If you have a knowledge gap, or need to learn X to get to Y, a certification can help you land the jobs you want. Certifications can be most valuable in highly specialized fields, such as IT, software development, or cyber security. So, look around for either in-person certification courses or online versions. You’re bound to find something that works for you.

3. Go back to school

This educational option is likely the greatest investment of your money and time, so this may be a last resort if you can’t find an online course or certification program that suits your needs. Before you head back to school, make sure you consider whether it’s worth the price.

Network

While we may traditionally think of networking as going to professional conferences and mixers, you can also expand your network in the comfort of your home. For example, try allocating at least 10 minutes each day to reading and making thoughtful comments to posts written by people in your field or an industry you’re interested in, suggests Lynda Spiegel, a longtime HR professional and founder of Rising Star Resumes.

“Connect with people who engage with your comments,” says Spiegel. “This provides you

with a network that will serve you well when you’re looking to change jobs, meet other industry colleagues, or learn more about your field.”

For starters, provide an intro for two colleagues, refer a friend for gig, or share an article, tweet or post from your network.

Volunteer

Volunteering is a resourceful way to both expand your network and gain more skills for a cause you care deeply about. You can scour for opportunities on sites such as VolunteerMatch or Idealist to find places for you to help out.

For instance, if you’re passionate about the environment, you can volunteer at a non-profit focused on sustainability. While you may have to do some entry-level tasks to start, you can also let the organization know you want to bolster your skills in a specific area such as blog management. You may be surprised as that non-profit may let you run the blog, create articles and videos, and do other relevant tasks.

Think of it as free education. Plus, you’ll be expanding your network, and giving back.

Design Your Roadmap

Figure out where you are, where you want to be, and how you’re going to get there. While you should always be investing in your career and in your education, what you choose to focus on depends on your priorities and the industry you work in, says J. Kelly Hoey, author of Build Your Dream Network.

Ask yourself questions like:

  • What do you need to do to succeed in your immediate role?
  • What can you do to make strides in the industry?
  • Do you want to stick to the same industry, or hop to another?

From there, you can create a personal roadmap, which encompasses ways to use your time and resources to invest in your career.

Let’s say you’re working in tech and are just starting out. If that’s the case, staying on top of tech certifications can give you a leg up on the competition. But, if you change course and want to transition to another field altogether, then taking night courses, side hustling to get some relevant experience, or going back to school for another degree may be your best course of action.

Grow Where You’re Planted

No matter what kind of job you have, you should always take advantage of free opportunities to keep growing.

For instance, by tackling a project that nobody else seems to want, perhaps you’ll gain relevant skills. Here’s another example: offer to step in and help an overworked colleague. This will not only help you learn something new, but you might gain an important ally in that co-worker.

Lastly, don’t be shy about asking your employer for a proper sit-down to talk about areas in which you’d like to expand your knowledge.

Find the Crosspoints

Back when I had a day job working at an entertainment labor union, I looked for the crosspoints. Think of it as a Venn Diagram where your interests and the needs of your workplace intersect.

In other words, I tried to discern both the types of skills that could make me a stronger team member, as well as how I could help save the company time and money. As a member of the communications department, part of my job was to work on the magazines. So I took classes in Photoshop and graphic design. My boss agreed to foot half the bill, which spared me the expense of paying for it entirely out of pocket. Ultimately, the courses helped me become a more valuable employee and boosted my knowledge.

Another perk: those skills helped me land my next job, where I was able to negotiate a higher salary.

Final Word

While there are many ways to make yourself more marketable and earn a higher income, you’ve got to start somewhere. By following the steps above, you’ll be well on your way to creating a custom roadmap to help you hit your professional milestones.

 

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