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Invest in Yourself

Investing in your future might mean taking a risk, but the rewards could be priceless. Once you discover where your career could use some improvement, you can take an active role in structuring your future. Consider this advice as your first steps towards taking control. Whether you’re buying a new house or taking the stairs instead of the elevator to work, you’re making small investments in your future. Those investments get bigger and the results become more important when it comes to the future of your career.

Pop quiz: Would you say that everything about your current job is ideal? Think about your employers, your coworkers, your paycheck, your line of work, your job’s future. Even people who call themselves mostly satisfied with their job could surely think of a few things that could improve. But why do we settle for less?

The answer, of course, can be complicated. Your team works well, even when your boss is unreasonable. When your friends were finishing high school or college, you had to work to support yourself or your family. You want to live in a certain city, but you worry you’ll have to settle for a smaller paycheck at a smaller company.

Make A Plan
Now picture your ideal career situation. Perhaps it looks a lot like what you’re doing now, just somewhere else. Imagine bringing home the paycheck you feel you deserve, or being confident enough to say that you’ll be doing the work you love for as long as you want. Now that you have what you want in mind, consider what needs to happen before you can get there.

If you want to move. Do your skills match the job market in the city you’re considering? Mechanics in Detroit start out making $34,600 a year. In Miami, they start at $31,300. Also, consider the way your career can change based on the move. In Detroit, mechanics might find a stable job on an assembly line. In Miami, the ocean view might tempt auto mechanics to learn how to apply their skills to large and small watercraft motors, where ship engineers make an average salary of $46,300.

If you want job stability. We all want a stable future. Certain jobs are growing fast. While not guaranteed, finding employment as a home health aide or computer network administrator could help secure your future.

Other Fast-Growing Jobs:

If you want a new career. If you’re feeling unsatisfied with your current career, ask yourself what could change. Can your skills be used in a slightly different field? Travel agents who want to sell their clients on something more than a plane trip might be happier with a real estate license. The extra $8,000 yearly salary that the Bureau of Labor Statistics averages for real estate agents? That couldn’t hurt, either.

If you want more money. What kind of education do your coworkers have? Is it likely, with your current education, that you’re qualified for a promotion? Education can have a direct connection to salary, no matter how qualified you are in your field. See the average weekly earnings chart below to find how much money people bring home based on their education level:

Average Weekly Earnings

The Next Step
Education might be your key to more money, career advancement, and a more secure future. It’s not easy to go back to school, however. If you have responsibilities to a family, and money is already scarce, it might be hard to consider the financial investment it takes to continue your education. Consider the following options to cut the pain of more school:

Take a Load Off (Your Wallet)

Once you’ve made a financial plan, you still have to consider the time it will take to train for the next phase of your life. You might not be able to go back to school full-time, but there are plenty of opportunities to keep the job you have while improving your qualifications.

Making the Time

It’s important to take an active role in your own happiness. With the right set of plans, your dreams can materialize into something real. Going back to school is a big investment to consider, and you should think about it carefully in terms of your own situation, but the rewards of a degree could change your life. Moving to a great new city or taking the first steps to the career you’ve always dreamed about–that’s when the investment begins to pay off.

Publish date: June 5, 2008