What would you consider to be your most valuable asset? Some people may think about a retirement account or piece of real estate. What about your career as your most prized possession? A person’s major revenue stream, typically their career, is likely a major key in the ability to achieve life and financial goals.
One of my recent reads was The Start-Up of You by LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman. The book provides some actionable items that you can take to invest in yourself and career. Remember that some of your biggest life decisions also play a major role in your financial life. How you handle and invest in your career is certainly one of those decisions.
If you want to chart a course that differentiates you from other professionals in the marketplace, the first step is being able to complete the sentence, “A company hires me over other professionals because …”
- How are you first, only, faster, better, or cheaper than other people who want to do what you’re doing in the world?
- What are you offering that’s hard to come by?
- What are you offering that’s both rare and valuable?
Your assets, aspirations, and the market realities need to fit together to form a career plan. Developing a key skill doesn’t automatically give you a competitive edge. You may be good at something (asset), that you’re passionate about (aspirations), doesn’t necessarily mean someone will pay you to do it (market reality).
You should be nurturing the network you’re building. Who you know is what you know and according to Hoffman people typically fall into one of three categories;
- Domain experts, people who know the topic at hand. Got a question about negotiating your salary? Ask your lawyer friend who has negotiated a million contracts.
- People who know you well, people who have a good sense of your priorities, personality, and personal history. They can help you unpack feelings of confusion and sometimes even intuit how you’ll likely feel about various outcomes of your decision.
- Really smart people, outsiders that stands a chance of being completely different from anything else you’ll hear.
Find the right balance of people to include in your network among these types of people. Imagine you got laid off from your job today. Who are the ten people you’d email to solicit their advice on what to do next? Reach out to them now, when you don’t need anything specifically.
Develop your weak ties. Weak social ties, or acquaintances, it is argued, are responsible for most of the embeddedness and structure of social networks in society. Weak ties in and of themselves are not especially valuable; what is valuable is the breadth and reach of your network.
Hoffman points out, “It’s impossible to know exactly when an inflection point will disrupt your career. The only thing you can safely know about the future is that it will be sooner and stranger than you think. So instead of trying to do the impossible and predict when an inflection point will threaten, prepare for the unknown. Build up your soft assets and proactively embrace new technology so that if and when the inflection point does come, you are ready to swiftly parlay skills into a Plan B.”
Similar to wealth planning, assessing and evaluating your career is a lifelong process, not something you do once.