Four Ways to Invest in Your Career

Investment goes beyond spending your money. The best investments are often those that come in the form of time and effort.

thinking and looking positive

For many people, having a job and getting a steady paycheck is enough to be content, and that's a valid way to see the world. But if you're reading this, having already reached a senior role and are hoping to climb the ladder further, that's probably not the right route for you. To grow your career as much as possible, you need to invest in it.

Investment goes beyond spending your money. The best investments are often those that come in the form of time and effort. Although there are some differences in what you should do depending on your strengths, aims and industry, a few universal principles hold.

Make Learning Part of Your Daily Routine

When people talk about learning in terms of professional development, they usually think of courses paid for by the company you work for. But learning will be so much more powerful if you're doing it on your own terms and enjoying it.

Pick a topic you enjoy (that relates to your career in some way), find a book about it and make it part of your routine to read a little of it every morning or evening. Once you've learned something, don't just leave it there. Try to apply your learning to take it to the next level. You could email a thought leader in the relevant area about a book you just read or publish an article on Medium and become a thought leader yourself. What do you have to lose?

Double Down on Your Strengths

Most people associate self-improvement with working on their weaknesses. Sometimes this can be helpful at a lower level in your career, but often, you need to do the opposite to really make it: Identify your strengths and become even better at them. For instance, you might think you need to take public speaking classes because you're shy when giving presentations. But if you're a skilled data analyst, why work hard on being relatively good at both public speaking and data analysis if you could spend that time learning a coding language that takes your data analysis to the next level?

We often fail to recognize our greatest skills since we take them for granted and don't realize that others aren't as good at them as we are. Of course, you'll need to account for where the actual demand lies in your industry. But assuming there's a need for the skills you're best at, becoming a true master of them could catapult you to the level where your perceived weaknesses are no longer relevant.

Be Strategic About Your Relationships

It's not exactly a secret that your network and connections can help you get to the next level in your career, but many people get the wrong idea about exactly how this works. Although networking and asking people to coffee can be a valuable part of building connections, don't forget to nourish the relationships you have already.

Instead of thinking of your network as a list of hundreds of people you've interacted with over the course of your career, try to think of the different groups and levels they fit into. You might find you have the following categories:

• Mentors—People ahead of you in their careers that you can look up to.

• Inner circle—Your closest relationships and the people you see the most.

• Outer circle—People who you see frequently but don't interact with much or your inner circle of the past.

• Loose acquaintances—People who you know of and could reach out to but don't speak to much.

If you had all the time in the world, you could nurture all of these relationships, but you don't. Instead, you're going to have to pick and choose. Many people make the mistake of neglecting their inner circle and taking them for granted, but these might just be the people who can give you the advice you need to drive your career forward. Or maybe there are some people in your outer circle or loose acquaintances who have the right skills or experience to guide you.

Don't Forget Your Values

When you're deciding on a strategy for investing in your career, it's easy to fall into the trap of doing something that sounds good in theory but doesn't quite fit into your reality. It might sound great in theory for you to hire a coach to teach you everything you could possibly need to know about cryptocurrencies, but if you're a traditionalist at heart, that's probably not going to pan out very well in the long run. Even if it somehow ends up winning you a job, what's the point in having a role you get no intrinsic enjoyment from doing?

So, before you go ahead and make any drastic decisions, ask yourself what your values, motivations and interests are. Even if you can't tie your passion for medieval food into your career, you might at least be able to point it more in the direction of a few interests or values.

Be Patient

When it comes to applying the advice outlined above, you're not going to get an immediate payoff — a little patience is needed here. Choose the strategy (or strategies) that you want to use to invest in your career and apply them continuously for an extended period before you start asking yourself when you're going to start seeing results. Also, remember that investing your time and effort isn't quite as easy as throwing your money at something. Try to pace yourself so you don't run out of steam.

The Newsweek Expert Forum is an invitation-only network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.
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