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Did you know there are many ways to develop new skills and improve your income potential at work without spending thousands going back to school? Some of the most important skills successful people have aren’t easily taught in a classroom. They take personal reflection and practice, and very little money. Before you head in and ask your boss for a raise, take the time to develop some of these free skills to earn more money at work!
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1 – Public speaking skills
Warren Buffett is known to believe that if you could online improve one skill to boost your career, it should be public speaking. As a man who struggled with public speaking himself, he took a speaking course taught by Dale Carnegie when he was 19. It changed his life.
Your job may never require you to speak in front of the massive crowds and intimidating Board meetings Buffett faces. But how you speak (both verbally and through body language) impacts how your colleagues and managers feel about you. You don’t have to feel confident to appear confident.
After my most recent promotion at work, I had the opportunity to work with a speech coach. As a naturally shy and nervous person, she taught me a lot. One of her messages that speaks loudly in my head each time I walk into a speaking situation is this:
Promotions early in your career are about your work product and your competence. Who makes it to the next level is softer. It is about networking, how people feel speaking to you and working with you, how confident they feel in your abilities to lead and teach as you walk out of the room.
Personally, every time I walk out of a conversation, I want people to feel like I am confident, competent, and approachable. Those are things that I can control with how I speak, how I stand or sit, and how I control my nervousness. And they are things you can control too!
Low-cost ways to become a better public speaker
Public speaking is all about practice, but you have to have the right principles in place. What is the point of practicing just to enforce bad habits? You can learn some great habits from Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People or Carmine Gallow’s Talk Like Ted. These could be acquired from your local library for free!
If you want to get live practice, you could always join a local Toastmasters group! For only $45 every six-months you could learn the skills you need to be a confident speaker and strong leader. You’ll practice speaking and get feedback from your group members. A valuable experience in seeing how others perceive you.
2 – Professional writing skills
In a digital age, written communication has become even more important. Most of the time, your colleague or client isn’t going to pick up the phone to talk to you. So, you don’t have to be able to write the next bestseller. But you do need to be able to construct a grammatically correct email or memo. Without emojis.
Some typos are par for the course with constant communication. But if you want to develop a persona as an educated and competent employee, your writings need to be clear and easy to understand. People need to get the point of what you are saying quickly and not wade through grammatical errors to find your message.
My job is numbers focused. But we’ve passed on hiring highly intelligent people more than once who couldn’t write clearly. Your ideas aren’t valuable if you can’t express them. Take the time to practice and improve your writing skills!
Low-cost ways to become a better writer
Luckily, learning how to write professionally and clearly isn’t that hard. We have that lovely thing called technology, remember? Start with the basics like running your writings through spell check and Grammarly. Grammarly is a free service that checks your writings for basic grammar. To go the extra step, you could also copy and paste your content into the Hemingway App. This service highlights when sentences are hard to read when you can simplify, and when you are getting too wordy. Shocker, this app doesn’t really like me…
If you prefer reading, there are a lot of great grammar and writing books out there. A top book on business and professional writing is Writing That Works by Kenneth Roman and Joel Raphaelson. It covers all types of business communication and the different rules you should follow. For grammar, one of my favorites is Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss. It is quick, humorous, and memorable.
As you learn, be sure to take into account the writing and communication styles of the other managers and senior people at your company. Some businesses prefer more detail, some are very quick and to the point. Try to mimic your writing to those styles so that your ideas are fluent with the culture and more likely to be understood.
3 – Creative thinking skills
Our world is constantly changing and the best businesses are the ones that can adapt quickly to their environment. The more senior you get in a company, the more you have to be willing and able to think outside the box. What do your customers need? How can you attract and keep the best talent? Where can you cut cost to improve profitability without sacrificing quality?
Different companies receive creative ideas in different ways. Some are always looking for the entrepreneurial spirit in their employees. Some are stuck in the “this is how we’ve always done it,” mindset. But if you have great verbal and written communication skills as developed above, you can present your ideas in a way that will be well received, or at least listened to, by senior people.
Unfortunately, studies have shown that we lose creativity as we age, particularly in an education system that teaches to one right answer. With practice, you can buck this trend. There are easy ways to exercise the creative parts of your brain and learn to look at things from new and exciting angles.
Become a thought leader, not a follower!
Low-cost ways to improve your creativity
Creativity is a skill that is incredibly hard to teach. We find it in ourselves and we nurture it with our actions. For instance, people who are overly self-critical tend to be less creative. They shoot down their own ideas without ever giving them the chance to blossom!
As such, the best ways to improve creativity aren’t about spending money on courses or certifications. It is all about giving yourself room to be creative and work that part of your brain. Commit 10 minutes a day to doodling or brainstorming with no expectations. Purchase and play with some brain teaser puzzles. Use an adult coloring book in a quiet place to access your artistic side. (Coloring books interestingly put many people in a near meditative state, a great way to open your mind and step away from a problem.)
When you encounter problems at work, use your new creative skills to look at things from new angles. Approaching something just from the end result is limiting. Ask yourself many questions about the situation to help you zero in on different potential avenues to solve your dilemma. Soon, people will be turning to you as the problem solver. Making yourself valuable is the first step to making earning more money!
Developing your soft skills & getting paid what you’re worth
The most successful people at any company are rarely the most educated. Instead, they are the best communicators, leaders, and thinkers. These people make themselves indispensable and they get paid for their value. If you want to jumpstart your career without going back to school, work on your soft skills. With a next-to-nothing cost, you don’t have any excuses to avoid getting started today!
What do you think is the most important skill for long-term success as an employee or business owner? What class, book, or real life lesson has had the biggest impact on your career? Drop a note in the comments so we can all earn more together!