Everybody wants to be more valuable. While assigning an absolute "value" to a person has unfavorable moral implications, there's no question that some workers are more valuable to their employers than others; workers who have more skills, more experience, and a greater drive to work hard tend to get paid more than their underperforming counterparts. Accordingly, building your value as a worker can help you earn more money in your future career (and hold a greater reputation throughout the process as well).

What stops most people from actively building their value is a misconception--that such value-building is a long, expensive, tedious process. After all, you may have went to college for four years and spent tens of thousands of dollars to get where you are now. But while additional college education and formal training do add substantial value to your resume, they aren't the only ways to do so. In fact, if you know what to look for, you can build your own value in as little as one hour per day.

Take an Online Class or Tutorial

Advanced degrees consist of tons of classes and tons of work. The classes are the expensive part. But it's 2015, and classes aren't exclusively expensive. In fact, there are dozens of online platforms committed only to connecting potential students with completely free online courses, like Coursera. There, you can learn from actual professors at accredited universities and follow the same outlines, lectures, exercises, and quizzes that paying college students are taking. The only difference is you won't get to walk away with a formal certification or degree in most cases (unless you pay extra). But since the skills are what you're really after, it shouldn't make much of a difference.

In a similar vein, there are many tutorial sites available, which help guide you through basic principles of a given subject rather than explaining it and leaving the practical work to you. A good example of this is Code Academy, which offers intuitive, step-by-step exercises for dozens of different programming languages. It's perfect if you're looking to learn how to code.

Watch YouTube Videos

You'd be amazed how much quality content is available on YouTube (aside from those hilarious memes and cat videos). Major universities publish full-length lectures from their most popular classes. Industry experts explain the basics of their industries. Career experts will teach you how to get started in a certain field. Watching the right YouTube videos for merely an hour a day can yield substantial value for your career, whether you're interested in making a shift to another department in your organization or you're just looking to brush up on your Microsoft Excel skills. The only problem is that these courses aren't always easy to find, and sometimes the true quality material (like Harvard Business School classes) get buried behind more popular videos.

Find (and Talk to) Experts

One of the best ways to learn a new skill is to simply talk to someone who already has that skill and learn from them directly. Usually, it will only cost you a cup of coffee and maybe some small talk in exchange. Find someone within your organization or look for fresh blood at networking events. Once you find someone who can teach you something that will improve your resume, ask them to sit down with you occasionally and guide you through the ropes. You typically won't find a start-to-finish course-like instruction this way, but if you spend an hour a day on your own trying to advance your skills, you can consult this person (or multiple people) whenever you hit a roadblock.

Join Groups With Regular Meetings

There are plenty of meet-up sites you can use to join professional groups in your area that meet regularly--MeetUp.com is one appropriately named example. There, you can search for whatever piques your interest, whether it's a group of CPAs helping each other solve tax problems or a group of coders pushing for the next greatest development in their community. These groups are generally open to the public, free to join, and you'll immediately have access to dozens of professionals who are more than willing to help a newcomer find his/her skillset. Generally, these types of groups meet weekly, so if you want to spend an hour a day improving your skills, you'll have to dedicate some personal time to practicing in between sessions.

The Challenge: Finding the Time

As you can see from the possible methods above, increasing your value isn't necessarily a challenge. There are many free resources available to help you improve your skills and countless people around to guide you through the process. What stops most people from doing this is the time commitment--even one hour a day seems like too much to fit in.

If this sounds like you, I encourage you to find a way to squeeze that hour into your day. Carpool so you can multitask in the passenger seat most days. Start taking lunch breaks again. Get to the office an hour early to get a head start on your work. Read or listen to podcasts while exercising. If you're really pressed for time, try going down to half an hour a day instead of an hour. If you make any time for this, it will be worth your while, but you have to remain committed to the plan.

Published on: Sep 3, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.