Upgrading Yourself without Breaking the Bank!

Published on 18 Sep 2015 . 7 min read

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You wake up and get through your usual routine and finally get to work only to find yourself daydreaming and wondering if this is all there is. Is the routine you’ve come to know so well and the work you’re doing now is what will soon become a rut you want to pull yourself out of or will there be some exciting adventure and career turn up ahead? Is there something you could do right now to spring from where you are to whatever lies just around the corner? Well we know the feeling and so here are seven ways (one for each day of the week!) that you could try to get that jumpstart to an upgraded, more advanced you and who knows, possibly a career boost or change when the time comes, without that horrible hole in the pocket along the way!

1. Learn on the job - Is there an office tool or application you want to get better at using? Got a helpful colleague who is a genius at spreadsheets? A great boss whose presentations you’re always impressed by? A friendly HR person who keeps approaching you with the latest trainings and fun workplace learning events that are upcoming? Don’t hesitate to reach out as most times people love being approached for being good at something and more often than not would gladly share their time and expertise with you. Even if they’re not able to set aside a whole lot of time to train you they would most likely be able to share their tips and tricks a little at a time every other day or week. The office is more alive with learning opportunities than we usually give it credit for.

2. Online - The internet is a vast and wonderful if sometimes crazy and scary place but so is our planet and the universe and these are the best places to learn. With the advancements in technology, network connectivity reach and data plans and wifi more feely available in more public spaces and outside establishments the internet is a free and powerful self-learning space. We all know about the abundance of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) these days being offered by some of the best and brightest traditional educational institutions around the world like Stanford and MIT and even by several innovative new organisations like Coursera,edX.org and Udacity. But often forgotten are some of the online platforms we access everyday like YouTube where one can find a variety of well designed and professional lessons uploaded everyday on almost every topic under the sun so whether you want to learn basics of design or how to develop skills to create a wordpress site or just how to quilt your own baby blanket this and several other tools and platforms out there like TedX Talks etc. should not be overlooked.

3. Sign Up -  Whether it’s classes, clubs, interest groups, networking circles, entrepreneurship and startup hubs, women’s groups, conferences or the like, sign up for something today. These are not too hard to find these days and what’s even better is most are free or even if they’re not they don’t require much by way of a nominal registration fee. So sign up! There are professional certificates one could try or a writing course at community organizations and institutions like your regional British Council. If it’s speaking you’d like to improve join a local chapter of Toastmasters or a similar organization that would give you tons of opportunities to practice and volunteer to host or compere at your own local community gatherings or church or religious organizations’ get-togethers. Skills like communications or computer savvy are always in demand and give you an edge no matter which industry you’re in or where your career heads next so find a class or club or learning centre nearby that could help you brush up on these for next to nothing.

4. Shadow a Mentor -  There is nothing like learning from experience and it doesn’t necessarily always have to be your own. Everyone could use a mentor both personal and professional and everyone should find themselves one now if they haven’t already. There’s just too much out there to learn in life and you can’t possible learn it all from your own experiences so why not take the shortcut and get yourself a mentor or two to show you their own scars, falls, ups and downs and what they learnt along the way so you can circumvent the long path that they’ve already been on. Whether it’s the Vice President of your department at work or a strong woman leader you’ve only known from afar people will surprise you with their generosity of time and wisdom if you only are brave enough to approach them to mentor you.

5. Volunteer - Yes, this may seem counter-intuitive after all we usually want to upgrade our skills so we can increase our incomes and better our careers hence volunteering and doing things we're good at or trying new things that seem an awful lot like work that we aren't going to get paid for may not seem like the brightest idea but trust us it's brilliant in a twisted blessing-in-disguise kind of way. Apart from the satisfaction you will experience especially if you volunteer for causes close to your own heart which will be its own reward there are many ways you will be stretching yourself and discover new skills you didn't know you had. Also not all volunteering needs to be for social causes and if you're looking to switch to a different stream or planning a career change this is a great way to do it. Just find a burgeoning field like medical tourism or healthcare or e-commerce and find a way to volunteer - not only will you learn what skills are required and how to acquire them but the hours you put in will pay for themselves later as you will have already acquired some of these just by volunteering with an organisation in that space.

6. Learn a Language - Any language. And no we don’t mean a fancy European or International one. One of the several Indian languages would do just fine (though if you do have the time, inclination and money is no object and you want to sign up for that beginner’s French course go for it!). There’s something about learning languages that awakens and stimulates your brain in ways that awaken many other facets of learning as well. So even if it is just learning the basics of Telugu from that neighbour across the hallway or picking up some Hindi fluency from a colleague who would be more comfortable conversing in Hindi anyway or just learning to identify the letters or read and write in your own native tongue that you’ve till now only known how to speak, start with a language today and your brain will thank you for it!

7. Start an Outside-of- Work Project - Whatever that pet project you've been procrastinating on - whether it's that blog you've been meaning to start or that confectionary business you've always dreamed of starting on the side or that website project that you've just not gotten down to now is the time to dig in as the skills you'll uncover and sharpen and the lessons you'll learn about yourself if you only gave these a little nurturing and time would definitely prove priceless!

Personal development and investing in oneself doesn’t have to be expensive - yoga, arts-n-crafts, gardening and composting, theatre, baking, self-defense may all seem like simple hobbies or things you do to make yourself happy or that help you pass the little leisure time you have to spare but all of these are skills that help make for a better you. Not only do they make you more productive at your work and more balanced all around but they’re key to ensuring you stay emotionally, mentally and spiritually healthy so that you can get ahead no matter what you choose to do next. 

Chrishelle David
Chrishelle is a creative, confident and driven communications professional with a passion for impacting the lives of children in particular and all those she works and interacts with in general.

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