We’ve just passed Thanksgiving here in the U.S. – which also signifies the start of the busy holiday retail weekend.
Today is Black Friday, tomorrow is Small Business Saturday, and then we have Cyber Monday. Everyone wants to find that steal of a deal. We want to find great bargains on the new Kate Spade purse, TVs, iPhones, or electronics and gadgets.
We don’t mind spending money on tangible items and who doesn’t like a great bargain? But what about your career? Will you invest a little money and time in yourself?
In a perfect world your boss would be a phenomenal mentor, guiding your career development. The world’s not perfect. The reality is you own your career and you are accountable for your success.
Owning your career requires one thing: Making a personal commitment to yourself to manage and invest in your career. You know yourself better than anyone else so leaving your career development in the hands of others is a risky proposition.
Four Ways to Invest in Your Career
When you invest in your career, your return on investment will be seen from increased lifetime earning power and greater opportunities from protecting yourself from possible unemployment – not to mention the things you can’t measure like satisfaction that comes from personal growth and success.
1. Invest in Your Strengths and What Matters
Ah, strengths and weaknesses. We’re taught from an early age that there are things we do well - our strengths. But, there are also those things we’re not so great at doing – our weaknesses. Once we zero in on the weaknesses, we’re then told that we have to continually work to improve our shortcomings, sometimes at the risk of developing our strengths.
When it comes to your career, don't let your boss define your weakness. Don’t worry about how much time you should devote to improving your weaknesses. Rather, become more aware of your strengths. When you become increasingly more aware of your natural strengths, you’ll begin to thrive easier than being weighed down while focusing on your weaknesses.
2. Invest in Your Personal and Professional Development
Never stop learning. Know the industry trends in your profession. It’s easy to figure out by doing a simple test. Pretend you are looking for a new job. Now, conduct a quick internet search to see what’s out there. After you review several position descriptions you will start to see a pattern reflecting current industry trends.
What qualifications do they require? Do they call for a degree or advanced degree? Are they looking for specific industry certifications? Are they seeking a certain type of technology expertise?
Proactively researching current industry standards keeps you on your toes. But, it doesn’t stop there. Now that you have the information, you’ll need to conduct a gap analysis. In business, a gap analysis is used to decide what course of action should be taken to move from the current state of operations to what is desired in the future. Your personal gap analysis is the same theory. It’s as easy as the “back of the envelop exercise.”
Grab a piece of paper and list the industry trends you’ve seen from your research on one side. On the other side, list your skills, education, certifications, etc. The skills and expertise you cannot account for is the gap. Where you see a gap, you have to devise a plan so that you can go about closing that gap. That’s where you need to invest your time and resources.
3. Invest in the Right Relationships
Your network should:
- Inspire you
- Teach you
- Facilitate and foster strategic partnerships
- Introduce you to people you need to know
- Assist you with new professional opportunities
- Support you
Your support system is paramount. Achieving success is much easier when you are surrounded by the right people. There’s a pretty decent amount of research that shows having friends is important to our mental well-being but you also need the right type of friendships.
Some friendship is formed by happenstance. Other friendship is formed early in our life and we stay connected with those friends. But what doesn’t stay the same is our goals. They change as we evolve and grow. It can often be a stark realization that the friends we grew to know and trust may not understand our new path or journey.
Your environment molds who you are and can also shape who you become. But we have control over that. We can choose to place ourselves in environments that are positive. We can choose to surround ourselves with people who are on a similar journey. If your friends or your networks aren’t on the same path as you are on, can you continue your essential growth?
4. Invest in Your Online Brand
Keep your online presence professional and up-to-date. When people Google your name, you want to be sure they find useful information and relevant. You may also want to consider buying your own domain name or creating a blog for greater online presence and to showcase your professional expertise.
Think of your career investment as an investment that is always working for you because it focuses on making you a better person in and outside of the workplace.
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Johnston Osburn is a Career and Life Coach who helps people turn dreams into realities. After years as a Global Talent Acquisition Professional, she realized how frequently people limit themselves because they lack belief in their abilities. They are afraid to dream, let alone dream big. [...]