4 Ways to Improve Your Professional Skills On a Budget


I recently received a question from April, a member of my private Facebook group – the Career Success Circle – that really resonated with me.

She asked: "How can I focus on improving my professional skills, without going into debt?"

This is such a great question.

As a high achieving and ambitious woman, you may be at a point in your career where you're looking to level up. 

Maybe you're feeling stuck and like you want to make a switch, or you want to expand on your skill set, but 1) you're not sure where to start and/or 2) you're not sure where the coins are going to come from to make it happen.

I've spoken to many women over the years who share these sentiments and I'm a firm believer in the fact that money should never hinder you from going after personal and professional development opportunities.

Here are four ways you can work toward building and expanding your current skill set, without breaking the bank in the process.

1. Job Shadowing

Job shadowing is learning from someone who is actually doing a job or has a skill that you want. During a job shadow you'll sit with them and see what they do. They'll walk you through their process, answer questions and help clarify the nuances of their specific role. 

The great thing about job shadowing is that it doesn't have to be a formal process. You can literally find someone whose skills you want to learn (they can be from either inside or outside your company/industry) and ask if you can learn more about their processes and what they do. You can meet during work or after hours - it's completely up to you.

Your whole goal with job shadowing is to find new and creative ways to solve problems. Taking the time to look over someone's shoulder as they do their jobs will allow you to gain tremendous insight and improve your skills in the process.

2. use the internet

It is 2018 and in this day and age, there's absolutely no excuse to feel uninformed or uneducated. We literally have knowledge at our fingertips and the good thing is that most of this knowledge can be obtained for free (or just about free).

When you're on the hunt for skill boosting information, reading books and articles, listening to podcasts, watching training videos, etc. are great ways to improve skills.

Challenge yourself to focus on one topic for three to six months at a time. Start consuming knowledge on this specific topic and watch yourself become an expert with a deep understanding of the skill you're trying to develop. 

3. Get Your Job to Pay for Your Education

Shout out to the person who came up with the idea of tuition reimbursement! If you're not familiar, tuition reimbursement is the practice of employers providing financial assistance to employees who want to participate in professional and/or personal development opportunities. 

Tuition reimbursement programs can range from a monthly or annual stipend, to subsidizing a percentage of training costs, to paying for a whole graduate degree - as long as you maintain a certain GPA.

As someone who's been a recipient of tuition reimbursement during my career and attended various conferences and certification programs, I can tell you from first hand experience that this is one of my favorite ways to expand my skill set. 

4. DIY Education  

The face of education has made some huge shifts over the past few years. Traditional schools are no longer the only way to access education.

Online Courses: A vast majority of schools provide a set of online courses that even non-students can access - even the Ivy Leagues! Here's a link to over 250 online courses from Ivy League schools.

Online Schools: I'm sure you've heard of the many online schools out there - whether it's UdemySkill ShareMaster Class or the dozens of others. No matter what skill you're trying to learn, there's a class out there for you.

DIY MBA: I recently came across Tierra Wilson's website and she had a link to 18 free online courses that follow the curriculum of an MBA program. Yes, please!

As you can see, if you're serious about improving your skills, there are many ways for you to do so. It's a matter of getting clear on what you want to learn and then mapping out the most cost effective way for you to get there.

If you're interested in learning more about this topic, listen to episode 26 of my podcast, Deeper than Work, where I go into more detail on each of these cost effective ways to improve your skill set.