When it comes to your personal development and professional development, long experience tells me that results come from when you consistently invest in yourself and your career.
To not invest in yourself is like floating down a fast river without a paddle, map or knowledge of what’s around the next bend. Things may go fine for a while, but at some point, you’re going to realize you made a giant mistake.
To avoid such unforeseen disaster in your career, you need to invest in it to proactively and thoughtfully create a plan for achieving your career and life goals.
What does it mean to invest in yourself and your career?
Let’s start with the definitions of the verb invest:
…expend money with the expectation of achieving a profit or material result
…devote (one’s time, effort, or energy) to a particular undertaking with the expectation of a worthwhile result
So, investing in your future absolutely involves your attention – time, effort, energy. And it may also involve your treasure – spending money to improve skills, to get professional support, to get perspective, to help you with areas that aren’t your areas of expertise. Like a fitness trainer or personal lawyer, we get help for accountability, expertise and a plan that will get results.
There’s three prerequisites to investing in your future:
Belief: You need to believe that you can control what happens with your career. Maybe not in a 100% micro sense, but overall. Your actions (or lack of) drive certain results. You can make different types of decisions which influence your future. You need a belief that you are unique and that there are better and worse work environments for you. That you have control over your professional reputation.
Agency: Taking action to improve your situation, to make things happen is about personal agency. That is, ownership over yourself. It isn’t your manager’s responsibility. Don’t count on your employer to figure it out for you. And certainly don’t count on society to take care of you. Personal agency.
Prioritization: This will only make sense to you if you see the value in doing fulfilling work, in professional growth, in setting and achieving career goals and in having more control over your professional destiny.
Why it’s Important to Invest in Yourself & Your Career
Invest in yourself. Your career is the engine of your wealth.
– Paul Clitheroe
What are the potential benefits? Here are 10 reasons why investing in your career is a must.
1. The Greatest Return on Investment, Anywhere
The return on investing and improving yourself is astronomically higher than most financial investments you could make. From increased lifetime earning power and unimagined opportunities, to protecting yourself from unemployment and the satisfaction that comes from personal growth and success, if you value both financial and overall well-being, then the returns are enormous.
2. You’re the Boss of You
If you’re the President and CEO of You Inc., then it’s your job to ensure you don’t go out of business. It’s your job to nurture growth and prosperity. You do this by being active participant, in fact, the lead actor in your career development. And that means careful planning, performing consistently, operating true to your mission and investing in the business of you. In essence, you are doing two things:
Decreasing Risk: Guaranteed, the world is going to throw you curveballs. And some might be a long way a way. Some are on the horizon and it takes foresight to anticipate that it will be important 10-20 years from now that you are doing work that is fulfilling, that you have a strong reputation, that you’ve created a situation where you have options, and where you are highly employable and in demand.
Increasing Opportunity: A well-managed career can be characterized in part by the degrees of freedom you have in what you do next. When it feels like you don’t have options, when the phone isn’t ringing, when you aren’t seen as highly valuable, … Investing in your career development helps to generate options.
3. Become More Valuable – Increase Capability
Draw up two balance sheets for yourself. The first one should be a list of your financial assets and liabilities. The second should be a list of your skills, ideas, knowledge, marketability, personal networks, passion and ability to make things happen. Increase your personal net worth by investing in your second list. That’s how you’ll increase the assets on your first list.
4. Become Your Best Self
You are capable of great things. And you are unique. Most of us settle for just getting by, using a fraction of our capabilities. This is tragic. Realize your greatness by identifying your talents and investing in your potential.
5. Achieve Your Goals
Your career and life goals are far too important to be just wishes. A mismanaged career can derail your life goals. Investing in yourself dramatically increases the probability of achieving your goals and is a real demonstration of your commitment to achieving them.
6. Create Your Own Future
Your career is yours to mold. Investing in yourself gives you the clarity, power and tools to create your own future and take the path less traveled. Sometimes, investing means taking a risk, but that’s the price of entry for success and happiness.
7. Because the World Is a Complex Place
You cannot know everything you need to know or do everything you need to do alone. You can’t be your best without help. Find and invest in those who can teach you, show you the way and help you achieve your goals.
8. Life Is Too Short for Mediocrity
You don’t have the luxury of being mediocre. Whether you opt for self-improvement or outsourcing your weak areas to someone who can do them better, determine where you are mediocre and get help.
9. It’s a Cliche, But on Your Deathbed?
The reason we hear this often is that it is so true. The passage of time will provide a perspective we don’t have now. One day, you’ll look back at your problems and successes and see them as bumps in the road. Your focus will be on the big picture: the life you led, opportunities pursued or abandoned, how happy you were and the legacy you left behind. Investing in yourself will give you the courage and determination to be happy and do your own thing.
10. Who Else Can You Count On?
Let’s face it: You’re alone on this. No one has as much to gain or lose as you do. No one else is going to make those consistent investments in your development to maximize your career and life.
Ways to Invest in Yourself & Your Career
It begins with intention. Determining what you want and the steps needed to move forward.
And it requires your time and attention. To invest in yourself is not about completely outsourcing the activity. In order for the investment to pay-off, you need to be an activate participant.
These are the minimum requirements.
- Understanding yourself and your professional assets better
- Developing and pursing your professional goals and plans
- Identify and develop key professional skills and knowledge
- Upgrade and practice your career management skills
- Build your networks
- Design and build your personal brand and profile
- Taking an intentional approach to your career growth
In addition to your own efforts (thinking, planning, reading and making habits out of the repeatable actions, etc) you can invest in self-assessment tools, consulting with experts, getting coached, outsourcing key deliverables, taking courses or enrolling in a program.
For some, it can be scary putting a stake in the ground and declaring this is what I want and I’m going for it.
Recognize that investing in yourself and your career often requires that you don’t play it safe.