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What does “investing in yourself” mean?
It means spending some money on improving your “human capital”, or the economic value of your entire being, but mostly your skills.
Adzuna.co.uk, the jobs website, thinks that graduates can earn £500,000 more than non-graduates over a lifetime.
If the average UK degree costs £27,000 in tuition fees and earnings thereafter are £500,000 more than you would have earned without the degree, or £10,282 a year over 46 years, then your total return on investment over your working life (with a retirement age of 67), is not far off 1,000%, or 17.5 times your initial outlay. You’d be hard pushed to find that on the stock market or property market - even over 46 years.
Develop a higher level of expertise if you’re passionate about what you are doing. Specialising in highly technical fields such as civil engineering or computer coding is a good idea if you want to increase your worth, as there is a lot of demand for these specialisms. But if you like baking really good cakes, or drawing, then getting really good at these is an investment too, if there is a high demand for your cakes and drawings at the end of the process.
The better you become at something, the more you can demand for what you do. And you’ll enjoy it too.
Vocational courses and qualifications
Qualifications that relate specifically to what you want to do, rather than broad subjects can boost your earning power, but choose wisely. There are thousands of courses out there. Research which qualification is the most widely recognised and the most useful in the field you would like to work in. You can find this out on industry body websites and from people in the industry. The Open University is a good place to start for those already in employment who might not live close to a university or college that runs the course they want to do. The Open University also has a free module called Managing My Financial Journey which looks at how the UK financial industry has changed over the years.
Local authorities also run adult education centres with a surprising range of courses for very little money.
If you’re a self-starter, there are also plenty of free online courses out there for you to choose from, as qualifications can get expensive. You may have heard the term ‘MOOCs’ which stands for ‘Massive Open Online Courses’. These are free online courses offered by many prestigious universities from all over the world. Coursera.org and edx.org have a large selection of courses to choose from Data Science to Graphic Design.
Build your own website
A website detailing all of your past experience, clients, qualifications and examples of your best work is a good way to present yourself. You can build your own basic website for free using sites such as Wordpress. You will usually have to pay for your URL and for domain hosting, through hosts such as Google, Fast hosts and Vidahost.
And if you’re interested in becoming an analytical whizz and learning how people interact with your website, Google offers free online analytics courses athttps://analyticsacademy.withgoogle.com/
Use social media prodigiously
There is value in visibility. Post on Linkedin, connect with people in your network on Instagram, post about what you are interested in on Facebook. People spend their lives online, including future employers. Be an active member of the professional networks you want to be involved in on social media.
As above, face-to-face contact cannot be beaten. Some people think a person is only as good as their business network, and if you know the right people well enough to share a juice or two, you increase your value to potential employers. Aim for at least one networking event – a conference, a seminar or a drinks evening, every month.
Well-rounded, range of interests, travel
Can you hold a conversation on the merits of a written Constitution? How about the best places to eat in Phuket? Name Beyonce’s latest album?
It doesn’t matter what you know about, but having a clue about what is going on outside the office will usually help you in some way within it. Learning horse-riding because your boss is an amateur showjumper might be taking it a bit far, but there is plenty to be said for being able to connect, via the medium of non-work related interests, with colleagues, future employers or fellow students.
The investment is the cost of the interest or activity. If it’s golf – a classic investment for business people – then it’s quite expensive, requiring kit, clubs, memberships and lessons. If it’s learning about Scottish history, you might only need to buy a book.
One of the best bits of advice from a very successful media boss was this: “Dress for your next job, not this one.” Buy some quality wardrobe pieces and look the part for what it is you want to do. If people can see you looking as though you fit a certain role, you are more likely to get it. Professional wardrobe: £500. Three-monthly haircut and colour: £150.
Good health is a commercial asset as well as just being generally important. There is a reason why many firms look for sports’ interests on CVs, even if the job you have is a non-physical one.
Healthy people have more energy and better stress management – both very important foundations for giving your professional role a good base – and you more confidence in your own staying power.
If you are not into sport it doesn’t matter. Looking after your health can mean going for regular medical check-ups or good nutrition. If you feel good physically – that’s an asset to you and your work, although clearly not the most important thing. Unless you are actually an athlete.
So there you have it, plenty of options and inspiration for you to start investing in yourself.
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Money Means is a news and information series written by independent financial and consumer journalists and experts. FSCS launched Money Means in 2016 to help give people clear and useful information about personal finance, to increase their understanding and confidence when dealing with money.