20. Make a Wise Investment—Investing in Yourself

Once you take a look at your personal brand, you may identify some areas that need enhancing—especially if you’re going to reach your SMART goals. You can invest in yourself by taking classes, seeking out experiences, or acquiring skills. This module offers resources for finding wise “investment” opportunities in yourself. You’ll also learn how to evaluate whether a lead is worth pursuing by assessing its potential Return On Investment.

If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.

–Benjamin Franklin

By now you have collected insights from each of the completed modules and summarized your personal brand in your identity profile. So what are you going to do with all of the self-awareness that you are gaining? In a word: Everything. This information will help you build your social media profile, advance your education, get that first job and create a career.

Your personal brand is built upon all your factors—even the ones that you feel everyone else shares. The unique aspect is in the layering. Imagine yourself as a wheel, and each quality (your needs, values, interests, strengths, personality, freak factor, education, work experience, and so on) is a spoke. You look for the point where they all meet, and you build your brand on that unique point of intersection.

Through this process of self-assessment, you may be realizing that some areas of your brand, or spokes on your metaphoric wheel, require your attention. Maybe you now understand that you need a different path of training. Or, maybe you are discovering a strength that you haven’t yet utilized in your life.

Now is the time to spend time, effort, and, if necessary, money to improve the areas of your life and brand that you think need work. Perhaps you are proficient in Microsoft Office but are not very good at Excel, a key skill you might need in the workplace you desire. Investing in yourself would mean taking the initiative to find a course in Excel either inside or outside your university—and, if you can’t find a class, perhaps hiring a friend to tutor you in Excel (or trading favors—she’ll help you with Excel, you’ll tutor her in French). Whatever gaps you identify in your skill set or experiences, figure out a way to fill them. Then devote money, time, and emotional commitment to making sure you get the education and develop the skills you want, need, and deserve.

Assessing Opportunities

In the business world, success is often measured by the ROI or Return on Investment, which assesses the profitability of an investment choice. When you apply this idea to your learning, ask yourself, will learning this skill or taking this class help me in the future? Or, will it distract me from more important things I am doing right now? Is this worth my time, effort and hard-earned cash?

Those may sound like easy questions, but sometimes the answers are hard to see, as it can be hard to assess whether learning something now could be exactly what you need 10 years from now.

You may feel overcommitted already. But if you think a class or experience will help you round out your profile, or inspire a new passion in your life, you need to go for it. Give yourself the time and tools you need to get where you want to be. Doing so will undoubtedly pay off in the long run.

Seeking Investment Opportunities

Investing in yourself usually takes some initiative on your part. Some of the time it’s just a matter of keeping your eyes and ears open—you’ll happen upon a flyer advertising a class or job or study abroad program, and all you need to do is look into it and apply; the info itself just fell into your lap. But often, you will need to seek out programs to help you learn and build your skills. The first place to begin is with a visit to your campus career center, which has a wealth of resources, from study abroad opportunities to job listings, as well as people to assist you. Other great resources are listed below.

Online University courses. If you can’t fit a class you need into your existing course schedule, check with your university to see what online courses they offer. If a class you are looking to take is not offered at your school, check out the multitude of courses offered online by schools that have specialized education or take one of the Massive Open Online Courses (called MOOCs) offered on sites such as CourseraUdacity, and edX. You won’t get college credit for MOOCs, but you will learn the skill or language you feel you are missing, and most classes are free of charge.

Regional Occupational Programs, Community Colleges, or Private Career Colleges. You may not have heard of PCCs, which are for-profit private institutions which offer courses, and certificate and degree programs, in specific occupational training areas such as business, applied arts, information technology or health services. As with courses at community colleges and regional occupational programs, classes at PCCs can be taken during the summer to enhance your four-year degree. To research such schools, visit the website of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities.

Career-specific Organizations. These professional associations often have websites that list internship and learning opportunities for students interested in a given field or industy. For example, an option in health care is an internship program with Health Career Connection.  To search for a similar association in your field and geographic area, visit The Center for Association Leadership’s Gateway to Associations search engine.

Educational Travel. One life-enriching way to learn is through educational travel programs which allow you to travel with other students, often while receiving college credit. Two interesting options are Semester at Sea, which allows undergraduates to travel by ship while doing comparative studies of the countries they visit, and Sea|mester which takes a similar approach to a “global classroom.”

Voluntourism. Just what it sounds like—a combination of volunteering and tourism—this popular concept allows you to travel while investing in others as well as yourself. You could build hurricane-destroyed homes with Habitat for Humanity, for example, or help clean up national forests through American Hiking Volunteer Vacations.

Fred Pryor Seminars’ CareerTrack offers seminars that teach the practical, career-building skills you will need in the workplace but might not necessarily learn in school. The organization has a reputation for practical business-skills training around the world, in virtually every industry.

American Management Association. – Specifically geared towards late high school and college students, the American Management Association’s Operation Enterprise classes focus on preparing future business leaders for the challenges of the workplace.

Module 20 | Has this article inspired any thoughts in how you can further invest in yourself? Use this space to jot down any notes and congratulations on your savvy investment – yourself!