Investing a small amount in yourself can yield big improvements in your career.
If you were lucky enough to get a bonus at the end of 2015, or if you’ve got a tax refund coming, you may be hunting around for the right place to put your cash. Fortune’s got plenty of tips on where to invest in 2016, but why not throw yourself into the mix?
Committing to investing at least $1000 in yourself, your earning potential, and your happiness has several upsides. First, there’s diversification. “It’s always safer to have something under your control,” says Bryan Franklin, co-author with Michael Ellsberg of the new book, The Last Safe Investment: Spending Now to Increase Your True Wealth Forever. You can’t do much to alter the performance of an emerging market ETF, but you can have a lot of impact on whether you score a raise.
Second, the returns can be vast. “If you invest in yourself and in your value to other people and your community and your tribe, you can actually change your possibility or position in life,” says Franklin.
Here are some investment approaches with the biggest potential returns.
Invest in developing super-skills. Everyday job skills are great, but you get plenty of practice at those already. Certain super-skills, on the other hand, launch you into a different level of value. A great lawyer who can speak well in public offers disproportionately more value to a firm than an equally great lawyer who can’t. Likewise, being able to convey ideas in writing is useful in any context, Franklin says, as published articles turn you into a thought leader.
The connection doesn’t have to be obvious. “If you’re in a job or work environment where creativity is rewarded, taking an art class—not to learn how to paint but to learn how to access your own creativity—would be an example of a creative super-skill,” says Franklin.
So see what’s most valued in your industry (hint: sales, leadership, and connecting are high in most) and invest in coaching or courses to help.
Invest in what’s valuable to people you admire. If you’ve got a business mentor, volunteer with (and donate to) the non-profit she cares most passionately about. You’ll spend time with her and cement the relationship in a way that’s not just about you pestering her for advice. Or if a valued professional acquaintance is grappling with an important issue, organize a small retreat to brainstorm solutions. Relationships pay off in many ways, but like any other investment, you have to put in capital to get returns.
Invest in gathering people together. Networks are valuable, and tightening these ties raises their value to you. When you introduce two people who decide to work together, they both want to help you in the future. Also, being a host or convener can help you be seen as a leader in your community. “Other leaders align behind leaders to help them win,” Franklin says.
So throw parties. Or organize a mastermind group. If buying snacks and drinks for a group of interesting people you convene at your home leads to you landing a new client, that would massively trump the yield on the S&P.
Invest in shoring up weak spots. It’s always wise to focus first on investing in areas where you’re weakest, Franklin says. He suggests asking, “Which investment is going to enhance the value of all the other investments I’m already making?”
If you’ve polished your negotiating skills, and you’re building a great network, but you’re chronically sleep deprived, you’ll have limited energy for seizing on victories. So buy the sleep tracker, the white noise machine, or soundproof your bedroom to block out your neighbor’s dog. A great wardrobe could make people take your great ideas more seriously, so hire a stylist to help you look smart. Or if the fastest rising people in your field are all bilingual and you’re not, a language tutor is the way to go.
Invest in buying time and focus. “One of the most powerful resources we have is our free attention,” says Franklin. When you can focus, he adds, “the quality of what you can bring to the things you do goes way up.” If an extra hour or two of childcare per week would help you feel more relaxed at work, that would be a good investment. So would outsourcing household chores or errands that have become major sources of negativity.
Investing in good health can likewise increase your energy, which makes massages or healthy meals good options too. Just be careful: “It does no good to buy a pair of running shoes without the accompanying commitment to running,” Franklin says.
But, if you commit to making changes in your life, $1,000 can go a long way.