Five Ways to Invest in Your Career

Your career is your own journey through life and is a huge part of who you are. When someone asks you, “What do you do?” more often than not, your answer revolves around the work you do. The success of your career is your own responsibility, and you are accountable for the path you decide to take in order to fulfill your goals and hopefully, one day land that dream job. Therefore, you need to figure out what it is you're talented at, what your skills are and which skills need developing, and what attributes or capabilities can give you a competitive edge to have a successful and prosperous career.

Career management is crucial for any professional in any field and requires proper networking, working to get a voice at the table, building and managing your personal brand, knowing how to position and sell yourself against others, plus a little bit of luck when it comes to being in the right place at the right time, although some may argue that's a skill as well. However, all of these factors require the same one thing, which is your commitment to investing and managing your career.

It may sound easy when it's laid out this way, but in actuality, it involves a lot of time and planning. To put it simply, it's very much like strategizing to win a game – you have to plan out your next moves with some thought, rather than just hoping everything will work out. So, if you want to strategize and plan, here are the five best ways to invest in your career.

1. Get your degree

First and foremost, the best way to invest in any career is with an education. When looking at the market, which really has evolved into a global market since applicants can come from around the world, the baseline standard is a bachelor's degree. Most, if not all professional careers will expect you to have your bachelor's.

If you want to go further, investing in your master's or MBA, or even your PhD should be a major consideration. Some people who have already started their careers are hesitant to make this investment because it doesn't just involve a cost, but a major commitment for their time as well. Pausing their careers while they go back to school may not work for them, but there are other ways to get your degree without sacrificing your job, especially if you already are in a position you think is highly beneficial for your career.

Getting your MBA online is the solution. Many schools offer programs like these: They're flexible for people who are already working and they offer support, mentors, and networking opportunities.

2. Get certified

Technical fields, and some professional fields like human resources and project management, require certain certifications to help advance your career. There are different courses you may be encouraged to take in order to further your understanding of a particular aspect of the job, whether it's how to use specific equipment, how to manage a team effectively, or how to use specific software. Some jobs may not even require a formal education at all—although it's still beneficial to have a relevant degree to set yourself apart—but will require certification in the field.

3. Learn how to communicate across different cultures

Many positions today involve global communication when working in your home country, but if you take a position that's abroad and are experiencing some language or cultural barriers, there are classes you can take in order to further your language skills or understanding of foreign business etiquette. Some employers will make it clear that you should be focusing on these skills, but if they don't and you realize you are being passed over for promotions or on projects, this could be the reason.

4. Build your online brand

This point is more about a time commitment than a financial investment unless you recruit the help of experts and their services.

Your online brand is so important in today's digitally connected environment and it has essentially become the norm for any professional spanning most fields. Monitoring your online presence on the web and on social media is the first step, so you can ensure potential and current employers don't find any negative information about you. It may be a good idea to even create separate professional social media accounts, so you can separate your personal life from your career.

You should also have your own domain for your own website so that you can showcase your best work. Think of it as your digital business card that you can give out when networking. Since you're using your website to help make a good first impression on potential employers or clients, you should make sure it's designed well and the content is succinct. You want to ensure people visiting your website can tell exactly what you do without having to search for a long time to figure it out.

If you've got the marketing skills to do this yourself, there are website builders that look professional and are easy to set up in a day or weekend. If not, it may be worth investing in hiring someone to work with you to get your website up and running.

5. Improve your professional profile

Highly competitive fields require you to be at the top of your game all the time, meaning you need to always show employers and clients that you have a unique value proposition and know how to position it. One effective way to do this is to raise your professional profile by joining professional associations. Not only will it help with your networking, but it will give you clout and improve your expertise. There are professional associations in many industries that you can find and join, although it is a financial investment and time commitment.

You can also improve your professional profile by serving on a committee or board in your organization or for a relevant organization – but be wary of conflicts of interest. The experience you gain from being a committee or board member is invaluable, and will also provide excellent networking opportunities, as well as opportunities to market yourself better at your next job interview.

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