A decade ago, I decided I wanted to become a better writer.

So I scoured stores and scanned Amazon until I had snapped up nearly every book that had the words "how to" and "write" in the title.

While I devoured several books on writing non-fiction, many of the books I read were about how to write a novel (an aspiration I harbored at the time, but have since put on ice while I focus on getting my first non-fiction book out the door).

What I learned through my extensive reading about the craft of writing-- and through the extensive writing and editing I did in my daily work --had a transformative impact not only on the quality of my writing, but also on how I came to perceive my role at my firm, and the value I create through my work. It also changed how colleagues perceive my role, and the level of impact they believe I am capable of.

Since that intense period of self-education --which I compare to earning the equivalent of a Master's degree in writing, but without having to fork over $60,000-$70,000 in tuition and give up two years of income on top of that -- I learned a powerful lesson: Acquiring new knowledge and skills can change the trajectory of my career, and my life.

Here's a poorly kept secret: Your employer (or school, for that matter) is unlikely to offer exactly what you're looking for by way of professional development.

But you should not use this as an excuse for not seeking out learning resources elsewhere, and then investing your own time and, in many cases, money, to acquire the knowledge and develop the skills you need.

We're incredibly fortunate to have more resources for learning new skills than ever before. On top of an abundance of free learning resources which you can find with a quick Google search, the quantity and quality of paid resources available today is astounding.

With a relatively small investment, you can get from "point A" to "point B" in your learning journey more quickly, with better results, and more cost effectively than ever before.

And best of all, you don't have to be tethered to a chair in an ivy-covered classroom to learn new things. Just about anything you want to learn you can learn in the comfort of your own home. Or your favorite coffee shop. Or wherever.

So my advice is this: Identify a new skill that you're passionate about and focus on learning everything you can about it over the next 12 months so you can master it.

And, of course, don't forget to actually make use of what you learn.

A version of this article appeared on LinkedIn.

Published on: Apr 12, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.