By Lisa Quast

Are you a recent graduate looking for ways to be successful in your career (or mid-career, looking for a boost)? Try thinking of yourself as a product and find ways to ‘upgrade’ yourself every year. Even if you’re still paying off your college loans, there are creative and cost effective ways to continuously learn and grow.

Think of yourself as a product. That’s right! View yourself as a competitive product with features, benefits, assets and liabilities — all waiting to be improved upon year over year, carefully differentiating yourself from others and creating your personal brand.

Companies spend time every year listening to their customers’ needs and then they work on upgrading and improving their products. Why? So they can sell more of their products and services in the marketplace. You can use this business process of continual product improvement to make yourself more valuable as an employee as you progress through your career.

Determine how you can ‘upgrade’ yourself. Improvement doesn’t have to be expensive. For example, what would happen if you picked one topic each year? Let’s say you have a new job and you want to be able to take on new and challenging projects, so you choose the topic of project management. Then, let’s say you went to the library and each month or so you checked out (or downloaded) and read a different book about project management. How much of an expert on the topic of project management could you become after one year and reading six or more books?

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If you started this practice now, of picking one subject per year and reading books on that topic, just think about how many subjects you could learn about and become an expert in over the next 10 – 20 years. It’s truly amazing when you think about how such a small change like this could have such a huge impact on your career and your life.

Culled from Forbes