A solid financial foundation ought to include a number of diverse investments, but there is one type of investment that often gets overlooked. I’m talking about investing in your own professional development.
Your ability to earn an income is one of the most important elements of your whole financial picture, because it’s the fuel that powers everything else. The more you earn, the more you enable yourself to earn through your investments, your business, or your property. Of course, money isn’t everything, and there are other benefits that can come with your career — prestige, recognition, a sense of accomplishment.
Investing time, energy, and money into the development of your career is one of the best moves you can ever make, in part because it’s a kind of investment that can yield huge returns in a very short period of time. Attending one good conference could lead to a new job offer that doubles your salary. Taking one potential client out to lunch could lead to new contracts that make this your business’s most successful year yet.
Let’s get started.
Invest in tools, materials, and resources to help you excel
I’ve said it before: anything worth knowing can be found in a book. One great way to invest in your work is to set aside a portion of your budget for building a professional library. Whatever your field of work, someone somewhere is writing about it. They’ve written about success stories and failures. They’ve written about new techniques, methods, and equipment, and they’ve written about fundamental changes in schools of thought. Whatever work you do, you should be reading about the work other people are doing in that field.
Of course, books are just one kind of useful media. You might invest in an online training course, audio books, or a video series. You might decide to attend a lecture with a notable guest speaker.
Invest in conferences and organizations to help you network
Professional conferences and organizations can be a great place to learn new skills and to learn about the really cutting-edge stuff being done in your field of work, but beyond that, they’re a phenomenal way to meet people to add to your professional network. Try to make it to some kind of professional meetup a few times a year, even if it’s just a small local one. While you’re there, make it your mission to meet as many people as possible. Get their contact information, and follow up with them later.
Some of the organizations you get involved with might be more general in scope, but that doesn’t make them any less useful. A membership to a Toastmasters club can help you polish your public speaking skills; a membership to the local Chamber of Commerce can put you in touch with local business leaders.
Invest in new equipment and training to make you better at what you do
If your job requires specialized training or equipment, upgrading what you have can be a rewarding investment. If you’re a photographer by trade, a better camera, high-end image editing software, or heavy-duty tripod might be just the thing you need to push your work to the next level. If you want to become an executive chef at a top restaurant, a training weekend with a top expert in a type of cuisine unfamiliar to you could give you all sorts of ideas about how to expand your repertoire.
Of course, it’s easy to go overboard with equipment. A great camera won’t make a mediocre photographer better at composing shots. Practice, practice, practice, so you can effectively utilize the top equipment in your field.
Don’t forget tax deductions
If you own your own business, some of these investments might actually be tax deductible. Conference tickets, training materials, and new equipment may all be written off on your taxes, provided you can justify them as an ordinary and necessary part of conducting your business. Be sure to check with your accountant to see what all you can deduct as a business expense.
Investing in your work doesn’t have to take a lot of money
Conference tickets, membership dues, and new equipment can be pricy. If you don’t have much disposable cash to throw at these kinds of investments, don’t worry! There are tons of amazing free resources out there.
The public library is a fantastic resource for almost any book you need to find. If your library doesn’t have it, they might be able to order it. There are also a wealth of free ebooks available online. PaperBackSwap.com can be a great way to get books for relatively little cost (you pay postage to ship books to others, which gives you credits; credits can be used to request books from others, shipped to you at no cost).
With some creative searching, YouTube and Vimeo can provide videos on nearly any topic you want to learn about, and of course, there are countless bloggers writing about any topic imaginable. If you can’t afford to attend the professional conferences for your field of work, chase down the bloggers who are attending and follow their liveblogs and recaps of the events. Look up videos of the guest speakers on YouTube.
New equipment and training materials don’t always have to be bought new; you might be able to get a nice discount if you look for gently used products. In some cases, you might even be able to DIY your own equipment upgrades.
Teach what you learn
I’ve always thought that one of the best ways to really learn and understand something is to try to teach it to someone else. It makes you think about your knowledge in new ways, and helps you build confidence in your abilities. As you invest in yourself, keep an eye open for opportunities to help others.
How can you teach what you’re learning? Maybe you’ll decide to become one of those bloggers giving great recaps of the conferences you’re attending for people who couldn’t be there, or you decide to launch a YouTube video series teaching people about the new methods your company is developing. Maybe you reach out and become a mentor to a new member of an organization you joined; help them orient themselves within the organization by telling them about your own experience as a brand new member.
Teaching what you learn allows you to become an active member of the professional ecosystem. It allows you to transition from being a follower and pupil of your field of work to being an expert and leader that other people recommend to their friends as someone to learn from and look up to.
Tomorrow: Invest In Your Health
Investing in your relationships and your work won’t help you too much if you aren’t around to enjoy it. Without your health, you won’t have wealth. Tomorrow, we’re going to talk about investing in your bodily wellbeing, and the benefits it can have for your mind, body, and bank account.
Do you invest in your work?
What have you done recently to invest in your professional development? Have you read any good books or attended any conferences? Is there an organization you’re a member of that has been super helpful to you? Tell us in the comments!
Photo by solylunafamilia.