You don’t need any money to invest in your career.
In fact, all it takes is determination and the will to keep going.
Investing in yourself comes in many forms. For some, it’s about making connections and building a network. For others, it’s important to build on existing skills. Both are excellent ways to focus on yourself and bolster your career.
It will likely take time and focus when you decide where you want to put your effort, but don’t let discouraging thoughts get the best of you. That’s an important part of investing – where it is motivational or in your bank account – it takes time. You might not see the effects right away, so be patient and keep going.
These 20 tips will help you build on skills you already have and propel you into a bright future.
- Find a mentor: Never underestimate the role a mentor can play in your career! They’re able to share advice, wisdom, and help you make connections. Asking a more experienced colleague is a good place to start if you’re unclear how or where to start.
- Get ahead of your day: If you feel like you’re always running behind, it’s time to invest in a system that will keep you on track. A planner that incorporates your plans, tasks, and reflections is sure to take you even further. Afterall, you’re more likely to accomplish your goals when you write them down.
- Take a chance: Jumping into the unknown can be one of the scariest parts of a career. By nature, we want to stay in situations we consider “safe.” You don’t have to throw caution into the wind, but you should get comfortable with taking calculated risks. It’s never a guarantee that they’ll pay off, but they are crucial for growth.
- Set micro-goals: Big goals are good to have, but they can take time. Micro-goals by contrast keep you moving and motivated. Push yourself a little at a time. While not a big investment of time, micro-goals overtime add up and make a difference.
- Know when to say ‘no’: So much about career development is taking on various opportunities, but it’s sometimes more important to know when a job, project, or goal isn’t serving you (or won’t serve you). Remember to practice saying no so that the yes’s are even more clear when they come your way.
- Always be learning: A curious mindset is important. If you’re always looking for something new to learn, you’ll always be growing and pushing yourself forward.
- Celebrate your wins: It’s easy to downplay your successes, but they’re valuable! Sometimes even recognizing a minor achievement can help you recognize progress and growth — this can also be helpful in showing others your wins and strengths.
- Ask for feedback: This might feel a little awkward at times. Learning to ask for feedback — even when it’s not offered — is a way to take initiative, learn about your strengths, and help you spot areas that need extra focus.
- Organize a personal advisory board: Having a mentor is important because they can help you grow. A personal advisory board can help you make decisions. These are people who know you well, respect your work, and will give you honest feedback. Even though these may be people from your personal life, they have your best interest in mind and want to see you succeed.
- Start a side gig: There are lots of reasons to start a side gig. Some do it to earn extra money to put away for later in life, while others do it to develop skills or fulfill their passions. Whatever your reason is, pushing yourself to take the jump will help you go even further.
- Expand your network: Even if you’re in a comfortable place in your career, expanding your network can connect you to others who share your goals, knowledge, and passions – this can be helpful for when you may want to try something new or need help overcoming a problem.
- Learn a new skill: Investing in learning a new skill will help you on two fronts: You’ll get to add something valuable to your toolbox while also signaling to those around you that you’re willing to put in the time and effort to try something new.
- Set non-negotiables: It’s important to have boundaries, especially when you’re in a stage of your career that’s focused on growth. Non-negotiables can be items as simple as having time to attend a workout class three times a week or eat dinner every day. These promises with yourself will help you keep a healthy work-life balance so that you can continuously be your best.
- Master your self-care routine: It might not be a part of your job duties, but taking the time to practice self-care and finding an activity that invites a little bit of stress relief into your life is especially important when you’re juggling so many responsibilities. Start by journaling your ideal self-care day and see where it fits into your schedule. Taking a step back can sometimes be just the thing you need to keep going.
- Practice gratitude: The power of gratitude is well-documented. It reduces stress and burnout and makes for happier employees, according to one study. Whether it’s a practice that you put on paper or act on in real life, try it for a week and see how your mood changes.
- Build your confidence: It may be easier said than done, but it’s a big part of life. It changes how you feel and how others perceive you. Start by speaking up in a meeting, sharing an idea with a colleague, or practicing an affirmation that will bring out your best.
- Ask questions: A common mistake is not asking any questions for fear of appearing under qualified or behind the curve. Fear not! Most times, others are happy to share insight and it shows them that you care about your work. This valuable skill will propel you ahead and always return the investment (even when it’s hard to do!)
- Take advantage of personal time: It can be tempting to forgo taking personal leave, but it’s there for a reason! Taking advantage of your benefits is the simplest way to invest in yourself when you work hard.
- Find your ‘why’: Make sure you’re not going through the motions. It’s important to pinpoint your motivations so that when you need to be reminded of why you started, you’ll have a clear answer that will help you make your next moves.
- Focus on soft skills: Skills that aren’t specific to your role may be just as important to getting ahead. Good communication, time management, and the ability to empathize are all considered “soft skills” but are usually traits we associate with good leaders.