How to Build Career Skills on a Budget

by Sara Carter

Perhaps you’re looking to advance your career, or maybe you want to explore a new field of interest. But when you look at your budget, it’s not feasible to return to school or invest a lot of money into expensive networking events. So what are you going to do?

Image of the 10 steps to making a career change
1) Determine your "why"
2) Determine your capabilities
3) List experience, training, & certifications
4) Find the sweet spot
5) Make a budget
6) Build an emergency fund before you switch
7) Pay down debt
8) Be prepared to negotiate
9) Get liquid
10) Pursue financial assistance
The bottom text reads Make a change and head over to this free downloadable guide. with a link to The Guide to Making a Career Change.
Make a change and head over to this free downloadable guide.

Well, believe it or not, various budget-friendly methods exist for expanding your skillset. There are tons of opportunities to add to your resume, from seminars to online courses. Many of these options are free or low-cost, which is great when you don’t have extra funds to spend. Tune in for more budget-friendly ideas to pad your resume or increase your knowledge!

Go to the Library

Harry Potter and Ron Weasley always relied on library frequent flyer Hermione Granger to solve their problems. And there’s a key reason for that; libraries are an excellent source of knowledge and free resources. Not only are there books and magazines, but libraries also offer extended learning programs and other resources. Stopping by your local library can be a good starting point when you’re looking to expand your career skills.

Many libraries have subscriptions for platforms that can cost you hundreds of dollars. Librarians are familiar with many topics, so they can point you in the right direction if you’re unsure where to explore. In addition, libraries often have books or materials necessary for specialized tests such as civil service or BAR exams.

If you’re not looking to leave your house, don’t worry, there are free resources for you to start using today. Look up articles, audio podcasts, or YouTube videos, and follow thought leaders on social media. And it’s not just individuals you should seek; businesses also create great resources. Carve out time every day to flick through these mediums to soak up knowledge. 

Look Online for Classes

It might’ve been a while since you’ve sat in a classroom, but don’t panic about returning to school. We’re not talking about literal school, more like online classes available to professionals. These are courses tailored to the industry or area of interest you want to learn about. While some sites offer free courses, others can charge a fee. Though taking all the classes available can be tempting, try to narrow it down to a focus area rather than tackling everything you see. That’s a surefire way to get you overwhelmed and burned out. Some sites to check out include CourseraUdemySkillshare, and LinkedIn Learning.

Begin Networking

If you aren’t a member of a professional group or don’t have a network of individuals, now is the time to get to it. There are many professional organizations out there for you to join. Most groups have a national or local chapter in addition to numerous resources, from seminars to newsletters, full of great information.

However, if you’re self-driven and want to connect one-on-one with people, start reaching out to other professionals on social pages or during events. It helps to know people throughout your industry and build connections with them. And it’s not just learning opportunities you need to consider. It also helps to have connections or references when searching and applying for a new job.

Outside of traditional networking methods, look into volunteering your time. Nonprofits or other special organizations may not have a budget for the skills you are learning or can offer them. That means these groups are flexible if you’re trying something new or it’s a chance for you to work in different environments. This work is a chance to test out the skillset you’re expanding on and build connections with other industry players. You never know what other volunteers you might meet and to whom they may have ties. Catchafire is an online website that can help match you with a nonprofit looking for your specific skills.

Get Outside Your Routine

Image from the app about salary negotiation based on certain questions like
What's the base salary component of your offer?
How badly do they need you to accept the job offer?
How badly do you need this job?
What's your minimum acceptable salary?
Salary Negotiation tool

It’s time to shake things up in your daily work routine. There are plenty of learning opportunities around your office. Shadow a co-worker or sit in on a different department’s meeting. Have a coffee with a person in leadership to discuss what positions or areas of growth are available to you. Your colleagues are a wealth of information at your fingertips; you can learn many different skills from them. Best of all, this is free!

Aside from other team members, you can challenge yourself to attend industry events. Going to an industry event allows you to sit in on various seminars or talks, which are great learning opportunities. Depending on the event you visit, the schedule could range from panel discussions to one-on-one sessions. Many events are going virtual, so you may not even need to leave your home to attend. And if you cannot go on the day of the sessions, see if the organizers will provide you with postmortem notes or copies of the information presented.

Closing Thoughts

If the time has come to grow in your career and you’re looking for new learning opportunities, then utilizing any of the resources mentioned above will help you on your journey. Starting at a library or looking for online courses are things you can do on the weekend. Next, check out opportunities around your current workplace to absorb information from colleagues. And finally, seek out educational events to attend either in person or virtually.

At first, it can seem daunting to pursue learning opportunities by yourself. But it’s your chance to take the reins of your career! These skills will help you stand out from the crowd in your current or future position while showcasing your drive to improve yourself.

Related Reads

Free or Cheap Ways to Develop or Grow Professionally

Free Downloadable Guide to Making a Career Change

Salary Negotiation

Online Courses to Grow Professionally

Why Join LinkedIn?

The Importance of Networking

Sara Carter is a co-founder of Enlightened Digital. She enjoys spending her days writing about technology and business, writing code, or chasing her kids and dog.

Learn more button links to for employees page.
We’re here to help you break free from the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle and navigate your financial journey, one day at a time. At Work gives you the tools to take control of your financial future.


Get it on Google Play button links to At Work on the Google store on android.
Get it on Apple Store button links to At Work on the Apple Store.
More Stories
may 13 wins
Weekly Wins | Week of May 11th