We all work hard to get ahead. But working hard isn’t always enough to increase our earning power significantly. And, for many of us, the idea of changing careers isn’t appealing. So what can we do?

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Fortunately, there are ways to boost your earning power without changing careers. Here are just a few.

Back to the classroom

Plenty of people go back to school or head to training courses so that they can change careers. But even if you’re dedicated to staying in your current career, there are a lot of reasons to consider going back for further training. You may rise faster or be able to access new positions in your line of work if you earn a new degree or improve your credentials. Your company may even be willing to pay for your schooling – speak to your human resources department and find out if they have any policies on this. And don’t worry about fitting your schooling into your schedule: thanks to part-time, low-residency, and online courses, getting an education has never been more convenient. Fully accredited institutions like the University of South Dakota are online, so you really can get a high-quality education from your computer.

Specialize within your field

In almost every industry, from medicine to law enforcement, there are generalists and specialists. And, as a general rule, specialists tend to make more money.

So it pays to look around your industry and try to spot opportunities to specialize. A good specialty is widely useful but not widely known. Becoming the resident expert on your company’s proprietary software is not a good specialty, because it only makes you useful to one company, and that doesn’t give you much leverage for a raise. But becoming the resident expert in a widely-used piece of software, like SalesForce, can make you appealing to lots of companies – and boost your worth and earning power.

Your industry almost certainly has specialists. If you look hard enough, you’ll spot them. Manufacturing and machining offers financial opportunities, but you’ll make more in custom machining, where pieces are carefully made to order. You’ll make more as an expert in plumbing systems than you will as a handyman.

Networking for getting ready for a career change

It’s who you know

Sometimes, you don’t really need to improve your skills at all. Maybe you just haven’t met the right people yet.

Networking is invaluable in business, of course, but it’s surprisingly useful in just about any line of work. You may think that accountants and investment brokers are measured strictly by dollars and cents, or that actors and writers find their big breaks through luck, but in all of these industries, networking is the secret.

You probably already know that bigger raises come from changing companies than from promotions within a company – and that companies sometimes match big raises from competitors in order to keep great talent. But you can’t be poached by another company if nobody in your industry (outside of your own company) knows you exist! So head to industry events and attend conferences. Get to know the competition. Gain a mentor, or mentor someone else. The more connections you have, the more opportunities will follow.

Strike out on your own

Who makes more – a mechanic, or the guy who owns the shop? You know the answer, of course, so apply it to your own life.

Maybe you work for the best plumbing company in the region. You get calls from a few towns over, because your company is the best, and there are no good competitors out there. It’s a long drive! Well, what if you struck out on your own, headed to that town, and founded a new plumbing company? The market is clearly there!

Maybe your company can’t get by without you, but they don’t need you to work long hours, and they don’t want to pay you much. Well, what if you did this same work for more than one company? You could strike out on your own, become a freelance consultant, and see your services back to your old employer – as well as to a few other companies.

It’s not possible for everyone, but becoming a business owner can be a way to gain a larger share of the value you create. Ultimately, whether this or any of these other tactics work for you is dependent on your unique situation. But no matter what your skills are or what line of work you’re in, there are things you can try in order to increase your earning power without leaving your industry.