5 Career Boosts That Cost Less Than That High-End Coffee

5 Career Boosts That Cost Less Than That High-End Coffee
by Kit Warchol
Photos Lauren Kallen | January 08, 2016
This article is part of the final day of our 5-Day Career Kickstart Challenge. We hope you followed along as we helped you turn 2016 into the year you remember as your professional turning point. Today's step? Keeping up momentum.
It's 7:30am and you're counting the minutes until the good-looking barista (possibly sporting a man bun) hands over your cortado.*
You’re probably checking work email on your iPhone, tapping out responses to your boss, cursing autocorrect. Maybe you’re ignoring the fact you’re sick of your job or how badly you need that raise. And when the time comes–despite the fact you’re over your “fun money” budget again–you’ll gladly fork over your $4.75 plus tip because that housemade hazelnut-macadamia milk is unreal.

We get it. It’s your morning ritual. But what if we told you that for the price of your caffeine-laced luxury, you could improve your chances of landing a raise or make a bold move towards a new career? 

So sip on, reader, but while you're at it, consider putting a few bucks toward one of these:

1.  ATTEND A CREATIVE LECTURE OR WORKSHOP

When most of us envision business world events, it ain’t pretty. "My Name Is __" stickers, fluorescent lights, droning speakers, soggy boxed lunches...

But in recent years creatives have overhauled the genre, organizing unique lectures and workshops that stand out from their stuffy forefathers. A couple worth trying:

Creative Mornings is a simple concept: on a weekday morning, an innovator gets up in front of a coffee-guzzling, donut-munching crowd and explains how they got there. If you’re not sure what career you want (or if it even exists), attend for some much-needed inspiration. 

If your interests skew toward the tech industry, try one of General Assembly’s free events or online workshops. You’ll learn practical techniques for a web savvy world–exactly the skills employers love seeing on a resume.

Cost: Free
When you don’t have much time to get out, scroll through some interview-centric blogs. Reading up on young innovators will remind you it’s okay to think differently.

2. READ ABOUT PEOPLE WHO DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY

It’s easy to get comfortable with your routine when you’re limited by a strict work schedule, but repetition makes for atrophy. When you're in cubicle lockdown, break up the monotony by taking a few minutes to scroll through some interview-centric blogs. Reading up on young innovators will remind you it’s okay to think differently, and you’ll probably come across ideas you’ll want to implement in your own life. A couple not to miss: The Great Discontent and Freunde von Freunden

Cost: Free.

3. ORGANIZE LIKE A GROWN-UP (WHICH, OF COURSE, YOU ARE)

Whether you’re deep in the interview process or just trying to juggle copious work-life responsibilities, you need some way to organize it all. Getting your schedule in order guarantees you won’t miss meetings or deadlines and also helps you track your after hours plans so you’ll never forget about drinks with former colleagues again. We're all guilty of shirking responsibilities on ocassion. Writing things down keeps you honest.

Try slipping a weekly planner in your bag and remember to use it. Or, if you’re always online and/or derive strange pleasure from checking off to-dos (oh, we get you), consider trying TeuxDeux for a whopping $3/month. The platform is pared down and easy to navigate, even for the most disorganized among us. And yes, there’s an app for that. Sync your lists between your phone and computer for days on the go. 

Cost: $3 - $5 

4. YOU KNOW WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT PORTFOLIOS...

Well, lots actually. But if you work in a creative industry and don’t have one? Stop reading this article now; you’ve got other work to do.A portfolio lets you curate how you present yourself by highlighting the projects you want potential clients or employers to see. Particularly proud of a piece you wrote for Career Contessa? Put it into your portfolio. Worked on marketing for that new cool Adidas’ women’s line? Add it. You don’t need to be a tech genius to make one, either. Cargo Collective provides free templates for creatives, while the creative world darling Squarespace offers beautiful, mobile-friendly designs starting at $8/month. Set aside a Saturday to focus, and you'll have a website ready in mere hours.

Cost: $8/month or less (3 cold brews a week will put you out around $50/month.)
Sometimes career hacking requires you step away from the computer. Most opportunities will come from people you already know (or you're about to meet).

5. MAKE A COFFEE DATE

So you’ve got blogs to juggle, to-do lists to organize, and portfolios to build, but sometimes career hacking requires you step away from the computer. Most opportunities will come from people you already know (or you're about to meet).  

What’s the best way to make room in a harried schedule for face-to-face connections? Your old friend: espresso.

Consider cutting down your latte intake one day a week, then use that money to treat someone else. Take a walk with your boss to a local cafe and ask for some informal feedback. Or call up a former colleague or new contact and suggest a coffee break. Even if you’re both swamped with daytime responsibilities, almost anyone can meet before heading into the office. You can show them why that hazelnut-macadamia milk really is better than half-and-half, and they can teach you a few things, too. 

Cost: $4.75-$6.75 – depending on whether your beloved barista’s working because we know you’re giving him a $2 tip.

*If you're like: 'huh?!' think: tiny, obsessive, and latte art. cortado: n. From the Spanish for "cut." Espresso mixed with approximately 4-5 oz. of warm milk. Like a macchiato, but not. Like a gibralter...but also not. 

What are some ways that you boost your career for free?