It’s 7:30 AM, and you’re counting the minutes until the barista 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 house-made 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 toward 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, and 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.
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.
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 occasion. 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 or derive strange pleasure from checking off to-dos (oh, we get you), consider trying TeuxDeux for a whopping $3 per 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 to $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? 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 per month. Set aside a Saturday to focus, and you’ll have a website ready in mere hours.
Cost: $8 per month or less
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 to $6.75—depending on whether your beloved barista’s working, because we know you’re giving him a $2 tip.
This article was originally published on Career Contessa. It has been republished here with permission.