“There’s no greater investment you can make than investing in yourself and your education and your skill set.” — Michael Kitces, speaker and author behind Nerd’s Eye View
Invest in Yourself—and Your Skills
Where do you see yourself professionally one year from now, assuming nothing will change along the way? If you’re comfortable and you’d like things to stay the same for a while, by all means, enjoy where you are. If, however, you see yourself moving up in the world or changing career paths, you’ll need to take action.
No matter how old you are or what industry you’re in, if you want to move up in your company or move on, one of the most important things you can do is invest in your skills. That’s not limited to the skills you currently use either. Develop the skills you’re passionate about—the skills you see yourself using in your ideal job.
“There’s no greater investment you can make than investing in yourself and your education and your skill set,” says Michael Kitces, the speaker and author behind Nerd’s Eye View, a blog that provides advanced financial content and commentary. “I look out over time at the trajectory of my career and what I’ve been able to do and the opportunities I’ve had, and so much of it relates directly to the education and expertise that I have, because I kept getting degrees and designations and investing in myself.”
Kitces says he learned early on that being successful meant investing in himself, and that investing in himself meant continuing his education in order to develop his skills. He took that lesson to heart on his way to earning 12 professional designations and two master’s degrees. Yes, his business cards are tight on space.
Intro to Financial Planning
Despite how successfully Kitces navigated his career path, the future was not always clear for him. In fact, shortly before graduating as a psychology major/theater minor pre-med student, Kitces recognized he didn’t want to go into psychology, theater, or medicine.
“I was graduating and realized I needed to figure out where I was going to go and what I was going to do next,” says Kitces. “It was really nothing more than I happened to meet a sales manager recruiting someone into financial services a month or two before I graduated from college and it sounded good. It was only in the subsequent years that this kind of became the career and the profession that I now love and am so attached to.”
Kitces had a feeling his first job out of college wasn’t the right one for him, but he knew he liked the financial industry. After some trial and error, he identified the elements of his job he enjoyed and began focusing on those aspects of his duties—especially those that revolved around financial planning. In a new role that he described as “more behind-the-scenes than selling life insurance,” Kitces discovered his passion for helping people navigate through their financial decisions.
“I found I really liked the advice world and so I started to pursue that,” says Kitces. “I got my master’s degree in financial planning—and a couple of other designations—and found that I liked the field, so I just continued to pursue it from there. I changed jobs once more to the firm I’m still at now, 13 years later.”
The Benefits of Giving Back
Aside from his commitment to lifelong learning and skill development, Kitces says he owes much of his success to his volunteer efforts.
“When I reflect back, a huge portion of all the good stuff that’s happened in my career I can trace back to things that happened because I was a volunteer and got active, and because of relationships I formed,” says Kitces. “I’ve been active continuously since [two or three years after graduating] and it’s had a massive impact on my career.”
Here are a few more career—and life—takeaways from Kitces:
- Don’t be afraid of trial and error. “Recognize that sometimes you have to take one step back to take two steps forward.” Leave yourself some financial wiggle room to make such transitions easier.
- Don’t wait for anyone to tell you how to move forward. “If you’re stuck some place that you’re not happy with and you don’t have a pass out, then it’s up to you to step up. Do whatever it takes to break that logjam for yourself and move forward. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be hesitant.”
- Find a way to pursue your passion—and pay the bills. “Sometimes, a passion is something that must be pursued on the side” because it doesn’t make sense financially, says Kitces. If so, “build your career around allowing you the flexibility to pursue your passion.”
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This article originally appeared in the Advice & Resources section on CareerBuilder.com, and is part of “I Found My Calling,” a new series by CareerBuilder that highlights people in various occupations who have found success and happiness by pursuing their passion. Each week, we’ll share another inspiring story. Find YOUR career calling now by visiting findyourcalling.com.