Want a Raise? Strengthen These 3 Key Career Skills

make more money
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We all want to make more money, right? Some of us start a side business, like selling used books online, and others use possessions to bring in extra cash, like renting out their backyards.

But you’ll make the most difference to your bottom line by focusing on what’s likely your biggest source of income: your job. How much extra money would you have each month if you could get a raise or land a better-paying position? How could you use that cash to pay off your debt, boost your savings or even pay for a dream vacation?

Before you get too excited about your extra money, you need to make sure you’ve got the skills to back up your request for a raise or your application for a new job.

Here’s a look at three in-demand skills that can help you earn more money, whether it’s at your current job or by transitioning to a new role, plus free or low-cost ways to get the professional development you need.

Ready to build your skills and make more money?

1. Communication

Effective communication helps you earn more money in a number of subtle and not-so-subtle ways. First, better communicators negotiate better salaries. The next time you change jobs or have an annual review, your enhanced communication skills can help you be more comfortable speaking about your skills and goals. You’ll be better able to identify with your audience, and your skills will help you earn a more lucrative salary.

Good communication also helps you build connections with co-workers, clients and acquaintances. These relationships lead to a stronger network, which again leads to a better salary.

Finally, better day-to-day communication simply makes it easier for you and your co-workers to do your jobs, leading to all around increased efficiency and productivity. And, coming full circle, you can point to that improved efficiency when you make your case for a raise or interview for another position.

Free and Low-Cost Resources

You might think you’re already a great communicator, but even the best of us can improve. The only way to get better is to educate yourself and practice. Hit the library and scan these books for communication tips:

Blogs and articles about communication are also great ways to learn for free, but eventually you’re going to need to get out there and practice your new skills.

Toastmasters International provides supportive public speaking groups all over the globe that can help you get more comfortable speaking your mind and crafting your delivery style. But you can just as easily practice using your new skills in any context, from chatting with your neighbor on an airplane to getting a refund on a purchase at the mall.

2. Data Analysis

While a full-time position in data analytics requires a lot of technology skills, the basics of data analysis are novice-friendly.

In fact, you probably already manipulate data in many ways in your daily life. Do you track your car’s MPG and use that to plan your gas budget each month? Do you monitor changes in your health and talk to your doctor about them? If you do, you already understand the basic relationship between collecting data and identifying trends.

Use these skills on the job by becoming an agent of change and improvement. Every job involves some kind of data, whether it’s soft data such as a customer service representative’s number of positive customer interactions or hard data such as a writer’s grammatical errors per piece. Track your data and performance as evidence for growth and improvement worth a raise or bonus.

You could even show initiative by sharing your tracking system with co-workers so they can measure their own performance, or pointing out areas for improvement to your boss or manager.

Free and Low-Cost Resources

You don’t have to go back to school to apply data analytics to your current position. Start with Coursera, which provides free courses from top universities, like several sections of a Data Analysis course from Johns Hopkins University. Or try edX, a partnership between Harvard and MIT that offers a free Foundations of Data Analysis course from the University of Texas.

If full-on courses aren’t for you, you’ll find tons of free articles about data analysis tech websites like Wired, Forbes, Computer World and Fast Company. For more targeted advice, do a quick web search for “Data Analysis + [Your Job Title].” You might be surprised at what comes up!

3. Marketing

Much like communication, marketing skills can have a number of trickle-down effects on your career, your network and your income opportunities.

For starters, understanding the basic principles of marketing will help you position yourself better as a job candidate. When you write a resume and cover letter, interview for a job and negotiate a starting salary, you’re really “marketing” your skills and yourself. And when you’re making your case for a raise after being in your job for a while, you’re marketing your performance and skills.

Learning about marketing can also enhance your communication skills in other ways. As you learn about target markets and developing a pitch that resonates with a particular audience, you’ll become a more effective communicator around the office. For example, you’ll know how to convince your co-workers it’s time to buy a new coffee maker, and what to do differently when you present the same idea to management.

Developing additional skills in digital marketing, like email marketing, social media marketing and content marketing, can also help you take on more responsibilities within your company. You can offer to support your company’s marketing team with their efforts (because believe me, they would welcome help!) and test your skills in real-world situations.

As you continue to learn more about marketing, you might come to a crossroads: you might be interested enough in marketing to move to a full-time role in that discipline, or you may realize that the intersection of marketing and your current job could make a great side business. Use your experience in your current position as a basis for insight to market your company — or your side business — more effectively.

For example, if you’re an account executive at a pharmaceutical company, you may realize that you enjoy blogging about best practices for pharmaceutical account executives. You might convince your HR team to start an internal blog or newsletter. You could also consider launching a consulting business for other executives, writing a blog on your own time or taking on content marketing contract work for companies that target account executives or the pharmaceutical industry as a whole. (Though before starting this kind of side business, you’ll want to make sure you’re not violating any terms of your employment contract!)

Free and Low-Cost Resources

Digital marketing has become incredibly popular, making it easy for a novice to catch up on the industry and stay abreast of new developments with a few clicks. Start with HubSpot to learn about the basics, then expand your reading to websites like Search Engine Watch, Mashable and Quick Sprout.

To get hands-on practice, consider starting a blog. You’ll develop your writing, social media and other marketing skills in a niche you enjoy, and you’ll get to connect with others who share your interests.

To learn more about using marketing skills in work situations, try these books:

You don’t have to get a second job or go back to school to make more money. Boosting a few key skills and changing your approach to work can help you maximize your income from your job.

Your Turn: Have you focused on any of these key career skills to make more money?

Disclosure: We have a serious Taco Bell addiction around here. The affiliate links in this post help us order off the dollar menu. Thanks for your support!

Sarah Greesonbach is the magic bean behind Greesonbach Creative, a distinctive copywriting and content studio, and a former budget-hater. Compare mistakes in personal finance and eating Paleo at Life [Comma] Etc.