I recently had breakfast with a friend who was between jobs and joined a coworking space for networking opportunities. Given the cost — hundreds of dollars a month — I was surprised, but she felt it was a great way to bump into people every day and to take advantage of on-site happy hours, events and learning opportunities. She saw it as an investment in her career prospects.
That got me thinking about additional ways to invest in yourself professionally, both when you’re happily employed and when you’re hoping to make a shift. So here are a few ways to kick off your self-investment — no matter where you are in your career.
1. Use LinkedIn Learning. I’ve been developing a “microlearning” habit, bite-sized learning that is often 3-5 minutes long and designed to meet a specific learning outcome, with LinkedIn Learning as I get ready to launch my own LinkedIn Learning course, and I’m impressed. With a breadth of courses, ranging from technical skills like upping your game on Powerpoint or WordPress to management topics like stepping up to a leadership role (with the author of the One-Minute Manager) LinkedIn Learning has a course for everyone.
You can access all courses online or on your mobile device at LinkedIn Learning. Some courses — like those led by LinkedIn Influencers — are free for everyone. For example, Sheryl Sandberg’s course on resilience or Ryan Holmes’ course on social leadership. And you can always learn something, whether you have 15 minutes or 6 hours over the course of a month.
2. Try group or virtual coaching. I’ve long been a fan of working with coaches, and I’m convinced you can learn as much in a group setting as in a one-on-one relationship. Plus, there’s also a new crop of coaching plans that offer access to virtual coaching or newfangled methods like online chatting. Whether you opt for traditional coaching or newer methods, the goal is to receive support in making informed decisions about your career development and trajectory.
3. Volunteer. Giving of yourself has so many benefits. Of course, it helps the cause. It feels good to do something that fits with your values. It can even make you healthier. And it can be a great way to maintain your skills and learn. I’m a committed volunteer to two organizations, Girls Write Now (where I serve on the board), and The OpEd Project (where I serve as a mentor editor, offering “micro-mentoring” to new and promising voices). Both have been great learning experiences for me. Plus, I’m constantly meeting like-minded people with whom I’ve cooked up countless professional projects. Quick tip: LinkedIn’s Volunteer Marketplace is a great place to start looking for the right opportunity.
4. Host a recurring gathering. For years I’ve hosted a monthly poker game with a group that started, back when I worked as a freelance journalist, with a bunch of my writer/editor friends and colleagues. That game eventually helped me land a column and a blog at The New York Times. I often talk about it as my equivalent of a regular golf game. My Encore.org colleagues and I just launched a periodic happy hour to connect with people in our network. A good friend hosts salons in her home for friends and colleagues who are struggling with a business challenge. What kind of event could you organize around a common interest?
5. Share your knowledge on social media. In just a few minutes a week, it’s possible to use your LinkedIn status update to share something you’ve learned that will help others in your network. For example, the next time you go to a conference, read a relevant book or article, listen to a useful podcast or hear a good speaker, let your network know what you learned. If you want to go further, write a blog post about it. That simple habit will remind you what you learned when you look back over time. At the same time, you’re reminding people that they should think of you the next time they need ‘that thing you do.’
Got other ideas for low or modest-cost ways to invest in your career or professional development? If so, I’d love to hear them.
Originally published at www.linkedin.com