Investing in your career, like any other asset

Getty ImagesGetty ImagesInvesting in yourself is all the rage these days.

New York Magazine just ran a special advertising section called "smart investments," which had me expecting plugs from mutual fund companies. Instead, it was a spread on summer course offerings from The International Center for Photography, Pratt Center for Continuing and Professional Studies and a few other adult education programs.

People are spending money on everything from education and coaching to wardrobe overhauls, makeovers, and plastic surgery as long as they think that these expenditures will spiff up their image or their skills.

This thoughtful piece "Jobs Are the New Assets" in last week's Time Magazine, sums up the thinking perfectly.

Barbara Kiviat writes:

Your portfolio is down 50%, your mortgage is worth more than your house, and your savings account is barely visible. The job, meanwhile, is making a roaring comeback. Not in a statistical sense, of course. We are in a recession, after all: at 8.1%, unemployment hasn't been this high since 1983. But in terms of the American psyche - and a household's balance sheet - we're rediscovering the job as the most valuable asset a person can have.

When I read this, it all came together for me. If jobs -- or more broadly careers -- are our most valuable and dependable assets, then of course we should be manage them in the same ways we take care of other assets.

Getting more education is the most obvious way to invest in your career, but why not go further?

If we keep our houses marketable by installing Sub-Zero refrigerators and planting perennial gardens, why not work with a personal stylist to update our wardrobe or indulge in the occasional hit of Botox if we feel we're losing market value? Like it or not, the aging, the less beautiful the overweight or unfit are all discriminated against.

So maybe it's time to start thinking of our hair styling, shopping sprees, gym memberships, personal training sessions and splurges at Whole Foods as business expenses.

Sounds like some revisions to the tax code might be in order.

Have you spent on anything that you think has had a huge payoff in your career?