Two experts on how to build career-boosting skills, or achieve financial independence
There are a huge number of courses out there. Before you charge headfirst down a rabbit hole, think about your goals and why you want to learn something new. Are you looking to channel a secret passion? Write a novel? Get a promotion? Meet new people? Or just find a fun project to fill some free time?
Setting a clear goal, whether it’s personal or professional, will make it easier to find the right course. Think about your learning style too. Everyone learns differently. Some people prefer to talk things through, others just want to be left to work things out on their own. Some like to learn in the comfort of their own home – online courses are great for that – but others prefer a classroom setting.
Top tip: Be yourself. Think about what fits your goals - and your learning style.
If you’re struggling to settle on a subject, don’t get completely stalled – just try whatever catches your eye. Any course can be a good course. It’s always an opportunity to learn.
You could learn how to speak French, become a yoga master, or scale up your social media skills. At the end of the day, whether you’re learning how to put up a shelf or mastering the mysteries of Excel, showing that you are actively developing your skills looks great to employers, builds confidence and opens up opportunities. If you’re not enjoying it, try something else.
There are lots of online resources available that make this easy. Massive Open Online Courses offers many online options, for example. If a structured course doesn’t appeal, there are some fantastic YouTube tutorials and books to help you pick up new skills. You can be learning even from the comfort of your sofa.
Top tip: If you’ve got your eye on a course that isn’t free, you might qualify for grants and bursaries for adult learners.
Picking a course is sometimes the easy part. Staying motivated can be a totally different story.
When you’re chasing the kids around, cleaning the house or working 9-to-5, it’s easy to forget about your learning goals. Carve out time in your schedule, perhaps every Monday night, just for this. Making your course part of your weekly routine and being strict with yourself will help you stay committed.
It also helps to create yourself a workspace free of distractions. A study or spare room is perfect, but if you don’t have that kind of space at home try creating a regular window of time when you know you’ll have the place to yourself. A quiet, undisturbed workspace makes it much easier to focus.
Top tip: If you struggle to work at home, try your local library. It’s a great place for peace and quiet.
The time it takes to get to financial independence depends on the % of your income you save. And, let’s be honest, it’s easier to save more on a higher income.
Everyone’s situation is different but, to get started, here are five simple ways you could earn more:
- Work harder – work overtime, get promoted
- Take more risk – for example, could you go self-employed?
- Do a job that others can’t – become more skilled
- Get a side hustle – could you start a small business alongside your job?
- Negotiate a pay rise
It’s up to you to take ownership of your career. You could start by trying for a raise at your current job. Maximise your leverage by working hard and walk into your next performance review with a competing job offer in your back pocket.
Or what about getting a lodger? Many people are rattling around in houses or large flats with spare rooms. You can earn £7,500 a year tax-free in the UK by renting a room out1. Check out sites like www.spareroom.co.uk.
Escape Artist hack
What if you could get paid to do something you love? Why not take a course at The Pop-Up Business School where they’ll teach you how to start a side hustle or small business? It’s free!
By itself, earning a lot won’t get you to financial freedom. You also have to save hard.
Begin by tracking where your money goes. After a month of that, attack your spending. Start by reviewing the larger items and working down the list to smaller impulse purchases.
Ask yourself some questions. Are you on the best mortgage rate? Are you on the best gas/electricity deal? Do you really need that second car? Why not cancel that cable TV subscription? Could you shop at a lower cost supermarket? Instead of a beach holiday, what about a staycation? Could you cut down on the takeaways and ready meals and prepare food at home instead? Why not turn down your thermostat by one degree?
You might think that more spending brings more happiness. But studies show that, above a certain level, additional spending won’t make you happy. Many people could cut their spending whilst becoming happier.
Escape Artist hack
Could you drive to your European holiday destination rather than fly? If you have kids, this can save you thousands in school holiday season.
Now you’re saving, it’s time to look at how you might invest the surplus into wealth-generating assets (such as shares or property) that have the potential to compound in value over time.
It is much easier than you think to manage your own investments, but it does require some learning. Make sure you’re not paying too much in fees and expenses. The sooner you start this, the longer and the harder your money will work for you.
However you decide to proceed, remember to think long-term and consider the ups and downs of the stock market or property. Don’t forget to think about risk as well as return – and keep in mind that there are no guarantees when it comes to investing.
Escape Artist hacks
Do you even know what’s going on in your pension? Why not start by finding out. What are the fees? And what % is invested in shares (the asset class that has historically done best over time)?
To see how easy it can be to invest your own portfolio, why not open a practice account with The Share Centre – you can learn while investing “monopoly money” with no risk and no cost.
These baby steps can add up over time to create amazing results. Remember: the most important thing is to get started!
Halifax is a division of Bank of Scotland plc. Registered in Scotland No. SC327000. Registered Office: The Mound, Edinburgh EH1 1YZ. Bank of Scotland plc is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority under registration number 169628.