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Why is it important to invest in yourself?
Employee Centricity

Why is it important to invest in yourself?

Sudhakar Reddy Gade
February 29, 2024

If you are like most people, you trade your time for money. And like most people, I'm sure you want a bigger paycheck, a fancier car, and that corner office with the C-suite title laminated on your door. But what we fail to realize is that time is a limited resource. There are only twenty-four hours for you, your CEO, and your janitor. And what you make will largely depend on what you do in those twenty-four hours and is limited by the number of hours you work and the relative value you provide.

Since you cannot (and do not want to) increase the hours you work, it only makes logical sense to increase your value. Anyway, increasing your work hours can only stress you and cause you to reach a burn-out sooner than later.

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The key to this is to invest in yourself and thereby increase your value.

Though many might agree with this idea in principle, most of you might cringe at the thought of opening your wallet to pay up for a personal coach, an online course, or making time to read a good book!

Last week I got a call from yet another senior executive who was laid off due to the pandemic. He sounded so stuck and desperate. I suggested a book to read to get out this mire and help him charter a new way forward. He called me back three days later, saying, 'I don't want to spend time reading and figuring out how to use the principles in this book. Isn't there an easier or quicker way? Couldn't you tell me what to do?'

I was shell-shocked and lost for words. It baffles me that anyone who wants a great career or a new start or wants to own a successful business can expect it to happen without putting in the necessary effort first.

On the other hand, organizations are continuously backing this idea by making learning and development a considerable part of their offering to you as an employee. Financial and personnel resources are poured into this department to hone all their employees' skill sets continuously. They hire experts to conduct training sessions, coaches to help you prepare for the next career jump, and provide access to learning platforms so that you can upskill at your own pace. They even offer rewards and recognition for you investing in yourself!

But the numbers of online learning platforms paint a different picture.

In 2015, the global market for online marketing was valued at $107 billion. This number attracted many educators and entrepreneurs to create more products to meet the market's growing need. In 2017, the market more than doubled and reached $255 billion. This was a 238% growth!

On the flip side, as many varied online courses were created and marketed in response to this demand, the completion rates reached a new low.

A recent study by Katy Jordan, a respected education and technology researcher, estimates the average completion for MOOCs—Massive Open Online Course—to be as low as 15%.

Seth Godin was recently on the Tim Ferriss podcast and stated that most online courses have a 97% drop-off rate and that his courses on Udemy and Skillshare have an 80% drop-off rate.

What is stopping is from investing in ourselves and increasing our value?

To illustrate this idea better, allow me to share a story with you.

Sumit and Laura were two youngsters who started their careers together at a large digital healthcare firm as management trainees.

Laura was hardworking and dedicated, while Sumit relied mostly on his past glory and achievements. He was the topper of his college and got some medals and thought he was better than the rest.

Their reporting manager gave them a market research project before the launch of a new drug.

Laura worked hard, found secondary data, validated it, interviewed doctors, spoke to hospitals, and met patients to better understand the problem before putting a presentation together.

On the other hand, Sumit went online, looked for similar drugs, and used secondary data to draw his conclusions.

When they both presented, Laura appreciated her efforts and asked to present it in the next board meeting.

"They are partial," Sumit fumed!

As time went on, Laura spent more time learning what she thought would help her get the next career jump. Apart from the medical and technical knowledge of the drugs and the medical industry, she felt she needed to understand the markets. So, she signed up for an online course to understand the basics and set up a couple of meetings with the marketing team to know how it works. She even shadowed one of her colleagues in the marketing team to really get down to the brass tacks.

When the time came, it paid off. They both were given the task of figuring out the decline in sales of one of their popular drugs.

Being in the medical field, they were not adept at Sales or Marketing and did not understand the nuances of selling drugs. But Laura was more prepared as she saw this as an opportunity to use her newly acquired skills. She researched the customers, their needs, and the competition. She then could pinpoint to a lag in the supply chain that caused the delay in the drug's availability, hence losing sales to the competition.

Sumit made a standard presentation but was unable to figure out the decline in sales. He pinned it on the change in the customer choice and the aggressive marketing of the competitors.

Laura's insights were valued, and she was soon promoted to a Manager.

"Laura knows the chairman's daughter. They chose her," Sumit grumbled.

Five years later, Laura was heading a business vertical while Sumit was an Assistant Manager.

"Laura is just lucky," Sumit complained.


Like Laura or Sumit, we have opportunities galore. More often than not, the organizations you work for make learning available to you - in many different forms. Many of you may not even open the learning platforms even to take a peek, and the few who do, drop off before they learn anything.

More than 80% of the organizations have structured learning and development programs in place, with 38% of the experts stating that 'improving employee performance' is the prime focus of their programs.

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Roughly half of the organizations spend Rs 7,000-33,000 per employee annually. Average L&D spends per employee increases with the size of the organization, with smaller ones (less than 1,000 employees) spending Rs 16,350 per employee, compared with Rs 52,879 per employee in large organizations (greater than 1,000). Overall, the average L&D spend per employee is Rs 41,838. The average spend per employee at the senior level (Rs 86,277) is three times that of entry-level employees.

In some organizations, they even have learning drives or apps to promote learning. They ensure they invest in enough external motivation factors (rewards, recognition, leader boards, etc.) to set you up for success.

Are you really reaping the benefits of the money organizations are spending on you?

Think about this for a moment: You are willing to spend thousands on a fantastic holiday in a beautiful destination, on expensive clothes and shoes, on the latest gadgets. All these are your 'golden eggs,' but they would not exist without the golden goose - your career. But you hesitate to spend on yourself. You are the most significant investment you can bet your money on! Without your income, you would not have the resources to spend on the fantastic things that you want.

According to the Economic Times, Indians took more than 182 crore domestic and international trips in 2018, spending upwards of $94 billion ( Rs 6.5 lakh crore), equivalent to about 3.5% of gross domestic product.

Domestic trips accounted for the majority of the travel at close to 180 crore domestic trips last year and an expenditure of roughly $72 billion. Meanwhile, 2.6 crore international trips were undertaken by Indians during the year, running up a bill of $22 billion. Indians spent close to 11% of their average disposable income on travel and tourism.

So how much should you invest in yourself?

According to Brian Tracy's book 'No Excuses,' he says, "Invest 3 percent of your income back into yourself." This can almost guarantee your success – and possibly make you rich. As the breadwinner (or co-breadwinner) of the family, you can get the best investment return when you invest in yourself. You are worth it!

Based on the numbers cited above, compare the money you have spent on your last holiday versus the money you spent on your own development that can help your career grow. And now, think about the long terms benefits of each. Investing in yourself and your career progression is a long term investment.

Your investment in your career and yourself demonstrates your commitment to your career. To have a great career and satisfying life, you need to continually keep upskilling yourself and be ready for the next big jump.

As Actor, Director, Blogger, and Cartoonist, David Black points out: "How can you expect someone else to invest in you if you aren't willing to invest in yourself?"

Let that sink in for a moment - Are you ready to invest in your own career, or do you think it is your organization's responsibility? If you are not prepared to put your money on you, how can you expect someone else? How are you taking responsibility for your career progression?

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