12 Free (or Low-Cost) Ways to Invest in Your Career
Do you assume investing in your career means going back to college to get an additional degree or complete one you left unfinished? While that is one way to invest in your professional life, there are many other things you can do that cost less (and take less time).
Here are 12 free and inexpensive ways to invest in your career.
1. Read at Least One Book a Month
Deepen your expertise and acquire new knowledge by reading at least one book a month relevant to your career. This easy but impactful move improves your work performance and benefits you both personally and professionally.
2. Attend a Workshop at Your Library or Community Center
If it’s been awhile since you’ve visited your local library, you’d be surprised to find out what a valuable resource it is. Most libraries offer a variety of free workshops and lectures led by professionals. Likewise, local community groups hold similar offerings for free or at a minimal cost.
3. Join a Trade Group or Professional Association
Becoming a member of a professional association is a wise investment. Benefits include access to events, exclusive resources, and opportunities to network. Memberships range from free to paid. To find groups related to your career, search online for your industry along with the word “association.” Or browse this list of trade groups in the U.S.
4. Attend a Conference
Going to conferences related to your career is an excellent way to boost your skills, gain creative ideas, and build relationships with others in your field. Search online for conferences within driving distance with a low admission fee.
5. Take an Online Course
Pick up new skills or sharpen existing ones by taking a course online. Platforms like Udemy and Udacity offer free and paid classes starting as low as $10. Additionally, edx and coursera provide access to thousands of free courses from top universities and institutions including Harvard, MIT, Microsoft, and The Smithsonian.
6. Join a Mastermind Group
Build some accountability into your career goals by joining a mastermind group. Regularly checking in with others who have similar interests and are aware of your goals will help you achieve them. You can find a group by looking on Meetup.Com, asking colleagues for referrals, or you can start one on your own.
7. Find an Internship or Become an Apprentice
Think internships are only for college students? Think again. Professionals can take on a mid-career internship or apprenticeship to acquire new skills, navigate a gap in employment, or to help make a career transition.
8. Get a Mentor
Identify someone you respect and admire in your field and ask if they would be your mentor. Most people will be flattered by the proposition and will be more than happy to spend time mentoring you. This can be done at no cost to you or for no more than the price of a meal or coffee.
9. Subscribe to Podcasts
There is a wealth of knowledge available in podcasts, and listening to them is a good way to expose yourself to new ideas and thought-leaders in your industry. Search for podcasts related to your field, and subscribe to one or two for a regular dose of information and motivation.
10. Join a Facebook Group or Online Community
Find an online community related to your career or specifically for professional development. This is a fantastic way to ask questions, provide solutions to others, and network. You can easily find Facebook groups covering a variety of topics or look for websites and blogs with a relevant online community.
11. Subscribe to a Trade Journal, Magazine, or Newspaper
Stay on top of the latest happenings in your field by reading trade journals or other publications. This will increase your breadth of knowledge and keep you up-to-date on changes and trends in your industry.
Offering your expertise on a volunteer basis, mentoring, and teaching peers are all ways to hone your skills, and they also make a great addition to your resume. Additionally, volunteering at conferences and other industry events provides an opportunity connect with others in your field.
Whether you’re in the early stage of your career, are well-established, or you’re in between jobs, choose to invest in yourself with one or several of these ideas, and you’ll reap dividends that will benefit you throughout the life of your career.