Five Most Effective Ways to Invest in Your Career
By Glenn Llopis
You are accountable for your own success. As such, it is your responsibility to discover your special gifts, attributes and capabilities that can give you a competitive edge and the greatest probability to have a flourishing career. Career management requires quality networking, being in the right place at the right time, earning a voice at the table, knowing your unique value proposition and how to use it, managing your personal brand, being influential – to name a few essentials. But in the end, all of these factors require one important thing: a personal commitment to manage and invest in your career the right way.
On the surface, this sounds simple – but it is actually quite time consuming and requires strategic thought and planning. Making an investment in your career requires you to know what you should invest your time, money and resources in. Think of it like the stock market; most people rely on financial experts and / or online tools to help them manage their portfolios based on a multitude of factors that include: the amount of money they are willing to invest, how much risk they are comfortable taking, what type of commitment they will make to manage their investment decisions and keep track of their desired outcomes – amongst many others. Similarly, when you invest in your career and personal development, you must do it with the end game in mind. For example, what performance improvements and career advancement outcomes do you expect, and when will you be able to see favorable financial results and lifestyle changes as a result of your investment?
I have seen too many people waste time and money on making career investments that don’t align with their passionate pursuits and ultimate career ambitions. They can’t see the opportunities around them that they can effectively seize for their own advancement and personal satisfaction. For example, I have seen many invest in learning about the real estate market because their friends made a lot of money in it. However, after spending thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours, nothing tangible resulted from their investment. This is a common occurrence with people who are so influenced by what others believe they should do in their careers that they become disconnected from themselves.
This is what initially happened to me when I started my career. My older brother (a successful executive in his own right) wanted to direct and guide my career. He wanted me to be like him. What he failed to realize was that we were different people, with different skills and completely different personalities and character traits. This is an example of why many people get career anxiety. They begin to hate their jobs and / or become dissatisfied with the succession track they are on – because they are now regretting the career choices they made based on how they were influenced by others along the way. In my case, I soon realized that my brother’s well intentioned attempts didn’t make sense for me as I began to lose touch with my goals and aspirations.
To invest properly in your career, you must know yourself extremely well. Knowing yourself requires you to understand the factors that positively inspire you to achieve something substantive and relevant – with passion – every day. For some people this takes a long time to discover. For others, they know themselves well enough to make good career investment decisions. What do you believe are the most important areas for your career investment? What areas have you already invested in and what were the outcomes? What areas are you currently focusing on now?
Many people don’t have career investment plans because they rely on the organization they serve to provide them. A select few recognize that the investments your employer makes in your career are no longer enough – and most of the time these investments align with the company’s goals, not your specific performance improvement needs for skills and experience that must be transferable across all industries and organizations that you may choose to engage with in the future. In today’s global market, you can no longer afford to wait for your employers to invest in your professional growth and development. You must know yourself and your career ambitions well enough to recognize the necessary career investments you must make and determine your wisest career investment path.