Many things differentiate the average professional from the truly great one. One key determinant? Their mindset about money. When it comes to the average, they only view their finances as an end from their means. They work to earn, then simply just save their paycheck.
On the other hand, truly great professionals see their money as just another resource: instead of focusing on saving, they put that money to work to get an ROI. They invest their money expecting both monetary and non-monetary returns.
With their end goal in mind of truly becoming better in their field, they know that money will help pave the path out for them. Here’s what the exceptional professional invests in to grow their career.
1. Education and 2. Certifications
As a candidate in the job market, one of the few things that employers truly value (aside from experience) is skills. After all, each professional is gauged by how well they can solve problems for their future companies. And the only way to get better at solving these problems is by honing your skills.
When it comes to self-development, nothing beats continuous education—regardless if you’re already done with school. There are many ways to be more competitive than your peers at work, or even the job market in general: online courses; buying books; taking night classes; subscribing to curated content; and so on.
The education itself doesn’t even have to be formalized. You can train yourself with DIY videos online; listen to a podcast; hire a career coach; or even moonlight on the side so that you can learn on the job.
But if you also want formal, you can go that route: if you’re in a field where increasing, technical specialization will further drive your market value, then so be it.
Invest your money on one-on-one tutoring sessions; purchase a slot in a relevant workshop; set aside budget for the costs of taking the exam; and so on. If this certification means that you can increase your earning potential down the road, then it’s worth it. You can even propose a set-up with your direct manager or HR department to see if they’re willing to sponsor your training.
The point is, you want to treat your skills as a continuously renewing resource. As one factor that can help pave your way to a better professional future, it’s wise to invest your money in making them better, even if you only see your results in the long run.
3. Social Outings
Nobody in the professional world really likes the term “networking”. It sounds artificial, forced, and sometimes, downright desperate.
Which is why you should still be doing it. Not a lot of people are comfortable with networking simply because they think it’s too vulnerable: what will X think that I’m at this event? Won’t Y conclude that I’m just being a user? Oh no, there’s my boss, hide!
Hold your horses. When we mean invest in social outings, we don’t necessarily mean cheesy networking events. And when we mean networking, we say it with the broadest sense of the word in mind: after all, what is networking but simply building relationships with people you like?
Many successful professionals attribute their success to being in the right place in the right time. And even many more of them say that, once in awhile, most of their opportunities were given by people who weren’t in their immediate circle of friends.
Chances are, if you hang out with the same people, all of you have access to the same types of information. When it comes to rare professional opportunities, studies show that weak ties usually perform better than strong ones—exactly because these people aren’t in your direct social register.
Given this, you should make sure to set aside budget in ways that you’re comfortable. Invite an old school colleague whom you got along with before, but just lost touch with. Strike up a casual invite for drinks with a like-minded peer you met at your friend’s birthday party. Remember to keep in touch with that fellow manager you connected with at an international company summit.
This isn’t about being fake or using people for their connections: it’s about building genuine relationships with people you are truly interested in, and want to get to know. Chances are, the opportunities will naturally come your way if you keep in touch.
And if they don’t, then you would’ve made a new good friend. Who knows? Maybe you can end up helping them, too. It’s all about sending good karma out there—and making sure you’ve set aside enough finances to ensure it.
To be truly productive at work, you always have to be in tip-top shape: mind, body and soul. As a competitive professional, you should never underestimate the power of a good mood with a healthy, functioning body.
When it comes to health, ensure that it’s part of your daily routine and monthly expenses: invest in healthy types of food; buy yourself a gym membership; hire a personal trainer; purchase workout gear; and even consult a therapist if you need to.
Though this may sound like a lot, every professional knows that they only have one body and one mind to use. Taking care of it doesn’t mean you’re vain—it means you’re smart about what resources are at your disposal to truly excel at your career.
When you’re eating right, exercising frequently, sleeping well and taking care of your mental health, you perform better at work, make better decisions, and come off as a reliable employee that your manager wants to support.
Only good things can happen when you invest in your health, education and relationships—and a flourishing career can be one of them, if you take the right steps.