Usually, people think of IRA’s and 401(k)’s when “investing” is mentioned. Or, they think of saving 4-8 months of liquid reserves in case of a layoff.

These are both important, but there’s another type of deposit you can make for your future – additional knowledge. We all know that a college education is a valuable career investment, but many don’t think much beyond that. Everything else they need to know, they learn on the job.

This may not be enough to stay competitive. To advance, reduce the risk of a layoff, or get hired at a new company, it helps to stay up on trends and learn the latest industry tools.

Most people think any kind of continuing education has to mean college – that’s not the only option. Many times, employers want to know that you know something, and they don’t care HOW you know it.  One of the simplest things you can do is regularly Google your job function/industry for news. You can also follow industry leaders on Twitter, to get a good idea of the latest trends. These options, of course, are available at no cost.

If you only do one thing to invest in your career future, join an industry association. Not only will you have access to the latest information (for example, through a newsletter, teleseminars, and/or conference), you’ll be networking at the same time! Whether by e-list, private LinkedIn Group, or in-person event, you’ll continue to grow your knowledge base while simultaneously building relationships (BOTH of which are investments in your future). Though you’ll have to pay a membership fee, it’s usually nominal compared to all you’ll receive. Plus, you may have the option of getting a free or discounted membership by volunteering – yet another way to network!

It helps to invest your finances, but it’s almost as important as investing your time in continuing education. Being up-to-date is too important to your career to neglect!