The notion of career is often distinct from the notion of happiness. Over years of separating jobs and free time, and establishing a work-life balance, we tend to split our lives into two: the life where we work, and the life where we do what we want and are happy.
But shouldn’t every aspect of your life be fulfilling? Shouldn’t your career be built around you and what you want out of life? Easier said than done, but possible. But where exactly do we start?
In this post, we’ll talk about 5 ways you can invest in yourself to help you live a better life and become a stronger asset to your company.
1. Get a Certification or Invest in Learning
Our access to learning has never been higher, and we can use this to create and build our skill base.
Certifications are a great way to add value to your career while making you more attractive to employers. They generally boost you into the rank of an elite professional in your field, and open doors to a variety of different career paths.
However, before investing in a certification (which can sometimes have high cost), make sure you’re in a field you enjoy. Investing thousands of dollars in a certification doesn’t look so glamorous when you hate your job.
If you want a less expensive, more relaxed approach to investing in your learning, you can browse courses on LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, or at your local library or community college. These won’t change your title, but they’ll reinforce skills you’ve learned, or help you discover new ones to aid in your career. You can explain to current or future employers why you took a specific course and how it added to your personal or career development.
2. Seek Out Mentors, Coaches or Career Groups
Investing in a career can seem like an individual endeavor, but it can be lonely on the path to building your dream job. Finding a mentor, coach, or career group can help you navigate tough slopes and develop skills for your specific job and your overall career.
Mentors and coaches are very similar but have a subtle difference. Mentors are often within your organization, are development-driven, and guide you through your job and your career as it pertains to the organization. The advantage is they know the company and have likely been in your shoes.
On the other hand, a coach helps you develop skills and create milestones or tasks to achieve on your journey. They generally come from outside your organization and look to build your career as a whole as opposed to within your current role.
Career groups are more informal and focus on specific areas of your career, such as women leaders or entrepreneurs. They can also be found within your organization, and are based on career field, age or outside interests.
If you’re more interested in meeting people and networking or feel more comfortable in a group setting, a career group will help you develop skills, share stories, and learn from others.
3. Evaluate Your Values and Integrate Them Into Your Work
One area people tend to skip over in a career is aligning values with work. What issues are important to you? What gets you fired up? What can you consistently learn about and never get bored? Think about what’s important to you, and where you want to make an impact.
After you’ve realized your core values, your next step is to integrate them into your work. Now, this doesn’t have to be a full-fledged career change. If you care about cleaning up the environment, start by requesting volunteer time off to help clean up local waterways.
If you want people to be healthier, then you might develop a monthly newsletter focused on the health of your organization. These are small steps you can take to integrate your values into your work and feel fulfilled during your career.
4. Build a Support Network
We talked about mentors and support groups, but what about your relationships outside of work?
There are mountains of evidence showing that strong, trusting, supportive relationships are an essential element to happiness. Humans are social beings, and having meaningful relationships with friends and family will make you feel more fulfilled in every aspect of your life, including your career.
If you’ve been feeling down and out in your relationships, there are tools to help you build more connections and overcome that slump.
Try Meetup.com or Facebook and search in your local area for groups that share your interests. Then, commit to showing up to these meetups as often as possible. Over time, you’ll develop connections with people who share your interests, and you’ll cultivate a greater sense of fulfillment in your life.
5. Find a Disconnected Activity That Makes You Live in the Moment
As we become more technologically advanced, the line between work and free time becomes more and more blurred. We can continuously feel on call and checking our work email before bed can become a nasty habit. This constant pull can lead to feeling like we are being strangled by work. Luckily, there is a cure.
Research shows that activities that help us live and appreciate being in the present will make us feel more fulfilled. Try to develop a mindset where you’re living in the present moment and not always worrying about your job. In the long run, it will be an essential step to having a career you love.
If you’re desperately searching for an activity to help you live more at the moment, here are a few ideas:
- Meditation — this one takes practice, but there are classes and apps out there to help.
- Exercise — This one is tricky because some exercises are monotonous and can lead to excessive thinking. Try taking classes where there’s a constant variation of movement or pick an activity that requires “now” thought. Believe me, when you’re hanging off a 40-foot rock wall, you’re not going to be thinking about how many emails you have in your inbox.
- Go for A Walk — This is a good one for mid-work days. Go for a short walk, preferably in a natural place, and try to focus on your steps and your breathing.
- Get Out in Nature — Go hiking, go mountain biking, go skiing, go running, roll around in the grass, climb a tree, swim in a lake. Nature has this uncanny ability to bring out the child in each of us, and your child self was more interested in splashing around in puddles than answering emails.
It’s easy to get caught up in the details of each of our days and forget to invest in the big picture of our life. But this is your one life to live; use these tools to actively and consistently invest in yourself to live your absolute best life.