How Can Millennials Determine Which Networking Opportunities Are Worth Their Money?

I spent four years of my career in sales and learned very quickly that in business you must look at the return on investment when considering opportunities to grow your book of business. Money spent should always bring money back in whether it comes back today, tomorrow or years from now.

With every opportunity you are taking a risk and not every opportunity will result in growth. Taking a look at the possible return on investment with your business will help you to weed out the opportunities that you clearly should pass on. 

If businesses can calculate their return on investment, wouldn’t it be great if this could be applied to your career? Guess what? It can! This view on seeking dividends for business also applies to you and your career. Think about it. You are an asset and just like bank accounts you should be investing in yourself.

So how do you outweigh risks and predict the return on investment for your career? It's simple and doesn’t require any fancy mathematics. Just look at yourself with a business point of view and give your money a job.

Start by thinking of all the possible outcomes and benefits the opportunity may provide to take you to the top of the corporate ladder. Is it worth it? Will it make you a better person? Will you gain new skills? If you can't say, “yes,” to any of these questions, then maybe it's not the opportunity for you.

Let's make it even easier. I like to ask myself the following questions to find out if an opportunity could be a leap or a flop for my career. 

Salary Increase

Will this opportunity help me to increase my salary?  There are plenty of things you can do outside of asking for a raise that would help you to increase your salary.

The biggest and most known way is going back to school to earn a degree. Many management jobs now require a Master's Degree to go along with your work experience, but paying for the degree will cost you a pretty penny. Think about how much your salary may increase and weigh it against the tuition cost. 

Go a step further by considering tuition costs among a variety of schools to gain an even bigger return on your investment. Attending an engineering school with a hefty tuition for a communications degree may not be the best option when you get that student loan bill in the mail. Just speaking from experience.

An out of pocket expense to increase salary could be investing in a new suit for a job interview. What you wear could make or break an employer’s decision to hire you so you’ll want to look your best. Plus, the suit can be worn more than once and for different occasions.

Another investment may also be a new computer to complete tasks more efficiently. A quicker return on work completed could be just what’s needed to ask for more money at review time.

Career Advancement

Will this opportunity allow me to advance in my career? Every week my inbox is flooded with networking opportunities and if I was to say yes to all of them I'd never have a chance to be home and sleep at a normal hour. I love all of you but I also need some, “me,” time.

Networking opportunities are great whether you're looking for a job or not because you never know who you may meet. That new person you met may mean a new job in the future. The issue with networking is the cost of the tickets, drinks, meals and even the uber ride to and from the event. It can all add up if your employer does not pay for them. With the rising costs of conferences and events you definitely need to see a return on investment when attending to advance your career. 

When considering which events to attend I think about the type of people who may attend. Are they part of any industries I want to mingle with? Is there an RSVP list available and if so, is there anyone on the list that I NEED to meet?

See where I'm going with this? The event means nothing to you if there isn't even a promise of opportunity. Don't go and waste your money if you predict you may just be standing in the corner or are unlikely to gain a new experience or contact.

Fulfill A Business Need

Will this opportunity fulfill my business needs? This question is for those of us who are entrepreneurs. Millennials have taken entrepreneurship to a new level and many of us are working on finding a way we can change the world with our brilliant ideas!

Whether you have a side job or entrepreneurship is your full time job, there are opportunities that may come your way that must be taken in order to increase your business revenue or build your business brand. You’ll have to decide if the opportunity is inline with your business and if it could possibly put money in your pocket.

For example, investing in graphic design software may be a business need that could increase sales. If you live on Instagram and need beautiful graphics the investment would do wonders for you. What would the #wanderlust hashtag be without those gorgeous images?! Without proper graphics to brand your business you won’t be able to market as a reputable business to your audience. 

Also, realize in some situations it may not be beneficial. Again, in the case of the graphic design software you may find that you are just not skilled in the artistic department and the software would be meaningless spending and less money in your pocket. Your next best bet is to hire a graphic designer to ensure you have your money’s worth and ensure that return on investment through sales with your new marketing materials.   

As our parents say, money doesn't grow on trees! The reality is that you have to spend money to earn money so be smart about your financial decisions when it comes to your career. Set aside an “investing in myself,” portion into your budget, so you also know exactly how much you can spend as well.  Using the three questions to figure out your return on investment will help you to make good decisions, stay within your budget and excel in your career. 

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Antoinette is a program manager for a financial counseling agency and blogger at The Young Professionalist where she documents her experiences as a millennial in the corporate world. When she’s not climbing the corporate ladder Antoinette can be found on Twitter, Instagram or spending time with her puppy, Maci.

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