Last summer, I had a serious cold brew coffee addiction. Once (sometimes twice) a day, I’d leave our offices to take a “walk,” which really meant stopping by a high-end coffee shop and shelling out $3 or $4 per trip. Think about that. $4—sometimes $8—of my daily budget went into my caffeine fix. That’s like $30 a week.

With that in mind, we started talking around the Career Contessa offices about more productive ways you could spend $4 a day—specifically on your career. Unsurprisingly, there are a whole slew of options. Here are my favorites:


 1. Attend a creative lecture or event.

When most of us envision business world events, it isn’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 where they are. If you’re not sure what career you want (or if it even exists), attend one for some major 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

*photo by Julia Robbs via Studiomates


2. Take some online classes, bask in your genius, repeat.

Let’s hope you didn’t give up on learning new skills when you graduated from college. Every savvy career woman should pursue picking up new skills as she goes. What are some areas you could stand to learn a bit about? Think about HTML or CSS. Or what about Adobe Creative Suite? Having those items on your resume is a huge boon regardless of whether you’re job searching or just angling for a raise. Skillshare is a great resource for this—some of my favorite classes include The Modern Marketing Workshop with Seth Godin and Making the Most of Instagram: Build Your Brand.

Cost: 3 months for $0.99

*photo via Treasures & Travels 


3. Organze 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 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

*photo via Weekday Carnival


4. 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

*photo by Frances Davison via Fashion Me Now


5. You know what they say about portfolios…

Well, lots actually. But if you don’t have one? Stop reading now—you’ve got work to do.

An online portfolio lets you curate how you present yourself by highlighting the projects you want potential clients or employers to see. You don’t need to be a tech genius to make one, either. We’re breaking the whole process down during our Digital You Month. Set aside a Saturday to focus, and you’ll have a website ready in mere hours.

Cost: $12/month (3 cold brews a week will put you out around $50/month.) Plus, you can use code CONTESSA to score 10% off a Squarespace site.

*photo by Milena Mallory via Trouve


6. 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. If you need help getting started, download this free list of networking email templates. I know they work because I use these exact templates on the regular.

Cost: $4.75-$6.75 – because why not leave your barista a good tip?

*photo by Wynn Myers via our Brunch in the Garden 


Check out more Work Life posts here!

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