One of the worst mistakes you will ever make in your career is waiting for handouts or waiting for permission to act.
Often times, we want something but we are waiting on a ‘Go ahead’, ‘I will support you’ or simply a ‘YES’.
Whether you are fresh in your career or a few years in — investing in yourself should always be your business. It’s your responsibility. Not your supervisor’s or your boss. So what if everyone one else in your workplace is endorsed to get more qualified in their field through opportunities to attend conferences or training offerings and you’re not? That reality shouldn’t hold you back. In my professional life, I have experienced what it feels like to be overlooked for opportunities, not because I wasn’t deserving but because (perhaps) others positioned themselves better than I did or simply, I wasn’t in my boss book of “favorites”.
It may seem like everyone is being promoted and you are stuck. But you can only be stuck by choice, not by the result of others actions. Being and feeling stuck is a fixed mindset and you can always change it by cultivating habits that will help you to grow. Feeling stuck is also a result of a lack of clarity, inaction, and the need for validation.
If you want something, you equip yourself with the willpower and discipline to go for it! Be your own cheerleader and promote yourself. Here are five simple ways you can invest in yourself even when your boss or others don’t think you are qualified.
1. Make online courses — free and massive online open courses— your new best friend
There are countless free online courses for everyone. Whether you are breaking into a new industry, new to job or simply just want to enhance your skillset, the power to enhance your knowledge is at your fingertips. Gone are the days when you had to sit in a classroom to learn a new course, platforms such as Coursera, FutureLearn, Lynda, Skillshare and Udemy are great resources that offers both paid and free courses that can help you to grow to the next level in your career. Find the time to invest in yourself.
Your Action Plan: Scout online courses that will position you higher in your workplace and your career. While there are many free online courses, don’t get caught in the trap of trying to do everything at once. Identify courses that align with your career goal and allocate a few hours to invest in yourself and enhance your knowledge. Whether you are juggling 9-5 and a side hustle, allocating at least two (2) hours weekly to an online course will pay off in the long run. Pursuing online courses can help to sharpen your knowledge on a subject matter and will help to build your confidence on a specific topic that may help you to stand out among your peers. The job market is quite competitive. Equip yourself with knowledge — it also makes for better conversations in social gatherings and the boardroom.
2. Attend workshops and conferences yearly
Identify events that will help you enhance your skill set and broaden your knowledge on a particular area. Also, it’s a great opportunity to network and meet people within your industry. Attending an event where you know no one can be scary, but it’s also an exciting way to meet new people who you can possibly work with in the long run.
Your Action Plan: Identify at least three (3) events you want to invest in yearly and plan for them! For instance, when I wanted to attend an international conference my company wouldn’t fund, I got friends and family to help fund the trip and I negotiated for one-week time off from work to attend the conference. The opportunity helped me to connect with a network of people in my industry. If you would like to attend a conference that you can’t afford, find creative ways you can add value and pitch yourself . For instance, if you are a blogger or photographer (or at the very least have the skills) you can volunteer your services in covering the event — by sharing your experience and insights from the event while getting an opportunity to connect with like-minds and experts.
3. Network outside of your circle
Leave your comfort zone and reach out to people. Last year, I decided to reach out to at least one new person daily. While I didn’t quite stick to the plan, I reached out to people whose work I liked or persons I would like to partner with in the long term at least once a month.
Social media has made it so easy to connect with others, so make LinkedIn your best friend. Use Twitter Chats to your advantage. Also, scout out people in your industry and schedule coffee and 30-minute meetings to learn something new or share what you know. Set up informational interviews with persons who would like to learn more about — Skype calls work perfectly too, especially if you have a low-budget. Please bear in mind, don’t bombard new contacts with ‘wants’ instead share your ‘value’ and seek to find synergies. Also, when you get that meeting, don’t forget to send a follow-up email or thank you note — so many of us, including me mess up on this part. Don’t just take the information or knowledge you have gained and run, seek to cultivate a relationship.
Your Action Plan: Create a list of people you would like to connect with and reach out to them — try to find their email address. Hunter is a professional tool I like to use for finding emails. Also, send personalized LinkedIn messages. Create a goal sheet of what you hope to learn from each contact as well as what you can bring to that person’s table. Struggle with networking? Read Never Eat Alone for practical tips and advice on connecting with people and growing your network. When reaching out, always be clear about what you want.
4. Trade Netflix for More Reading
Nothing beats reading widely and avidly. There are tons of resources available online — make use of free resources and equip yourself with new knowledge in your downtime. Are you spending more time being entertained or learning? If you want to learn something new or position yourself as an expert in your field, invest time in enhancing your knowledge through books, white papers and other reading materials. I especially love Fast Company and Harvard Business Review for diverse reads.
Your Action Plan: If you are always on the go, all you need is 15 minutes a day. Keep a hard copy in your bag or make use of the Kindle app for on the go reads. I have found reading while waiting in long lines or in between meetings is quite advantageous. Apps such as Kindle provide free books on a variety of topics. Also, purchase used books, start a book exchange club or take advantage of the library to get access to new reads monthly. Also, take advantage of the Pocket App, which is super useful for saving online reads.
5. Source opportunities online
Make the internet your network. I’ve found Twitter and LinkedIn to be quite useful in finding opportunities such as scholarships, jobs, pitch challenges or conferences that challenge me to step outside my comfort zone, learn something or apply my knowledge. Be clear on the area you want to enhance — whether it is your leadership skills, communication skills or a specific area in your industry, then use keywords to search for opportunities and apply for them. Also, let others around know you are seeking opportunities for growth.
For instance, I recently found the Unilever Youth Entrepreneur Awards opportunity by simply using the hashtag #innovationmanagement and also the Rolex Young Entrepreneur Awards via LinkedIn— you’d be surprise to see how many opportunities are out there waiting for you to tap into. Also, I was recently invited to speak at the Women Economic Forum in India through my network because I expressed interest in public speaking and women advancement. Don’t be coy about sharing your interests and where you want to go — let people around you who genuinely want to see you grow will keep an eye open for you.
Your Action Plan: One of the things I have dedicated myself to doing of late is occasionally sending an email to my contacts informing them of what I am doing and how I want to enhance my skills. I suggest you do the same, keep your network in the loop by informing them that you are seeking opportunities for growth. Be clear on the type of opportunities you are looking for so they can keep you in mind.
With all the knowledge you gain, don’t sleep on it — APPLY IT! Nothing beats execution. Equip yourself then execute. Now, do you still think you need your ‘boss pass’ to grow in your career? Don’t sit around waiting for others to acknowledge you — instead, identify areas in where you want to grow, enhance your knowledge and go for it! Also, don’t allow not being validated to turn into second-guessing your greatness.
Carey-Lee Dixon enjoys using her passion for helping others grow to design purpose-filled lives and careers. She regularly shares her career experiences and lessons gained to equip others with practical tips and advice. She’s also the Creator of For Women to Women (www.forwomentowomen.com), a digital resources platform fostering a culture of meaningful conversations, community and growth for purpose-driven, career-oriented and entrepreneurial 20-30-something-year-old women who want to continually grow in their personal and professional lives.