How To Invest in Yourself Without Going Back to School
Do you really need to get another degree to invest in yourself? If you don't have the time or money to do so, these options can be equally effective.
Depending on where you currently rank on the corporate ladder, you might have to improve your skills to receive the next promotion. How do you do that without going back to college in the evenings to earn your Master’s or Doctorate degree and borrow thousands of dollars in the process? Believe it or not, you might be able to invest in yourself with a few of these methods and earn the promotion without going into debt or sacrificing your nights and weekends for several years.
Do You Really Need Another Degree?
When most of us think about improving our resume so we can earn a promotion or raise, we think that we need to go back to graduate school or postgraduate school to earn an advanced degree. While some professions do require more formal schooling, like earning an MBA, RN certification, or a graduate degree to become a public school administrator or college professor, this isn’t always true.
For example, one-third of college graduate never find work in their field of study. With the average student loan debt at $37,000 just for an undergraduate degree, will spending another $30,000 (or more) for a graduate degree be worth the investment of your time and money?
Before you enroll or take a sabbatical from work, you need to ask yourself that question.
If the answer is no, you might consider these other options to invest in yourself. You don’t always have to earn a degree to learn a new skill or become a more competitive candidate.
Are you familiar with the phrase, “It’s not what you know but who you know?”
If you have at least one year of professional experience or have ever applied for a job before, you have probably been surprised at which co-workers received the promotion. Even though you might possess more laudable educational credentials or have received more “employee of the month” awards, you might not have been selected because you didn’t know the right person. You have experienced first-hand the potential benefits of networking.
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Building relationships at work and in the community can provide huge benefits, professionally and personally. You never know when a co-worker or former boss can provide a pivotal letter of recommendation or make a personal phone call to the hiring manager so your resume gets an extra look. When the Human Resources office uses automated resume screeners to automatically select candidates based on keywords and key phrases to quickly generate a shortlist of candidates, friends in high places can still add your name to the list to receive an interview.
How do you start networking? It’s fairly simple. Have genuine conversations with your co-workers and bosses, take an interest in their life. You might actually become friends outside of work. As both of your careers progress, you never know how your friendship can help you get the extra resources or advice you need to meet a project deadline in addition to receiving that coveted promotion.
For some more ideas on networking, you can also read the book Make Your Contacts Count.
Take an Online Course
Sometimes you may need to learn a new skill to improve your professional apptitude. If you don’t need to take formal courses for continuing education hours to maintain a certification, you can use one of these platforms to learn the necessary skills for a fraction of the cost. For example, maybe you need to learn how to use the newest version of Microsoft Office or how to create advertising campaigns on the latest and greatest social media platform. Usually, you can take a self-paced course for a small fee that can be completed in your free time.
Lynda is the online classroom for the LinkedIn (a social media platform ideal for networking) with self-paced video courses. There are over 6,220 courses you can take for a variety of professions to learn new skills to maintain your competitive edge. The monthly cost is $20 or $30 depending on if you want offline access and additional practice materials. You can take as many courses as you want each month.
If you would rather pay by the course, you can also choose Udemy. This site can benefits learners of all ages so you might have to filter through a few more options. Courses can cost as much as $200, but, they usually run sales that let you buy most courses for $10 to $20. As the course creator determines the potential sales price, some courses might always remain at the same price. You can read user reviews of each course to determine if it’s worth the purchase before investing your time in taking a course.
Your HR Website
Some companies also partner with similar online learning platforms to provide self-paced courses for free! You might want to check here first because the content will be very similar. If you need to learn how to make advanced spreadsheets or learn how to use Microsoft Access, you can sign-up for a class through your company website. You might even be able to take the classes during company time so you can have your nights and weekends free!
If you do need to take a career-related class that isn’t offered through your employer, they might even offer to pay for the training as well. It doesn’t hurt to ask!
Join a Toastmasters Club
Annual performance reviews can be a love-hate opportunity. They can be beneficial because they might be the only time each year when your boss tells you how well you are doing and what you can do to improve. If your boss cares about you, he will be honest and tell you what skills you need to improve to be considered for a higher raise or the next promotion. If one of those necessary improvements is better public speaking skills, you might consider joining your local Toastmasters Club.
Ask For More Responsibility at Work
Another way to invest in yourself is to ask your boss for responsibility. By showing some initiative, you might raise the eyebrows of your superiors who never knew you had an interest in climbing the corporate ladder. The promotion or pay raise might not happen right away, but, it can come sooner. Sometimes you need to make the first move to create opportunities.
An advanced degree can definitely add value to your resume, but, sometimes going back to school is out of the question if you cannot commit the time or money. In other instances, a degree might not be required but rather you will be hired based on your personality, relevant work experience, and maybe even your connections who can provide an honest, trustworthy reference. Investing in yourself does take a little effort, but, it doesn’t have to consume your entire budget or schedule to improve your professional status.
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