Careers are not defined by jobs.
Our career success is determined by our ability to develop assets and use them to acquire the value we seek.
Jobs are simply transactions — mechanisms through which we exchange our assets for that which we value.
When we see career development through this prism, we can reframe how we approach our career.
It’s no longer about landing a “great job” or working our way up through a company’s ranks.
If career success depends on an exchange of assets for value, then there are two keys to building our career:
- Our ability to develop assets.
- Our ability to exchange them for the right values.
With that in mind, here’s a breakdown of the four core assets we need to develop and the four types of value we should seek in exchange for them.
The Four Assets We Need To Develop
While we each emphasize these differently depending on our personal goals and interests, all four of the following assets play a key role in our career success.
The more we develop each asset, the more we have to offer others, and the more valuable we become.
Asset #1: Skills
What are your abilities? What do you know how to do? What have you mastered? What can you bring to the table that other people cannot?
Skills can be industry specific or more general, but they’re crucial to our success. No matter how much innate talent we may (or may not) have, skills must (and can) be developed.
That’s part of what makes them so valuable.
Asset #2: Knowledge
How much do you know? What have you learned? What’s your expertise? What are you able to teach? What do you know that others don’t?
Knowledge is a never-ending asset. Since it can’t be “mastered,” there’s a huge spectrum on which we all fall in different places. This creates an opportunity to stand out from the crowd.
Knowledge is about more than just what we now know — it’s also about our ability to learn new things and how quickly we can do so.
That ability to learn, which can be practiced and honed, is just as important as the knowledge we already possess.
Asset #3: Effort
How hard do you work? How much physical, emotional, and mental labor do you put into things? How determined are you? Mentally and physically strong? What’s your work ethic? How productive are you? How self-motivated?
We can’t just work our way to success, but we also can’t succeed without hard work. Effort matters and some people are willing to exert more of it than others. It’s an asset.
Asset #4: Time
How much time will you give to a project? How much time do you have available? How patient are you? Do you have a long-term mindset? How well do you manage your time? How well do you manage other people’s time?
Time is our most limited and measurable asset. There’s a reason so many people are paid based on their time.
But if we’re able to develop ways to master time and make it work for us and others, we become significantly more valuable contributors.
The Four Values Our Assets Can Unlock
Once we develop our assets, we must choose what we want to use them to acquire.
Remember, a job is simply a transaction in which we trade our assets for something we value — and we have more options than we realize on how that transaction can work.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of judging a job based on the money it pays us, but money is only one type of value available to us in exchange for our assets.
And it’s often the least valuable of what we can get.
Here’s a breakdown of what we can use our assets to acquire.
Value #1: Money
This is the obvious one and unfortunately what drives too many career decisions.
How much money do youwant or need? How much do you value security? What do you need the money for?
Money matters and there’s nothing wrong with seeking it, but recognize that often times choices made based on money tend to be geared toward short-term interests as opposed to long-term goals.
It’s valuable, but it’s not the only thing we should seek.
Value #2: Learning
What will this job expose you to? What can you learn? How will it enable you to grow your knowledge? What will you see that you’ve never had a chance to see before?
Learning can happen in a million different ways and it’s important to make choices that generate opportunities for us to learn new things.
When we do, we ensure our assets continue to grow and unlock more future value for ourselves.
Value #3: Opportunity
What opportunities will this job create for you? Will it open new doors? Introduce you to new people? What may come from it that wouldn’t otherwise be available to you?
Never take a job solely based on what will happen in that job. Consider what that job may lead to next.
To build a successful career we must stack opportunities on top of each other and avoid dead-ends. A seemingly terrible job that’s likely to lead to an incredible opportunity in a year or two isn’t a terrible job — it’s a means to an end.
Don’t underestimate the value of opportunity.
Value #4: Experience
Will a job lead to interesting experiences? Will those experiences be valuable to others down the road? Are you collecting experience that’s different than what you already have, yet still complementary?
Life is meant to be experienced, not just lived. We should assess the value of job opportunities with that in mind.
It’s worth pursuing opportunities that engage us, force us out of our comfort zone, and give us stories to tell and moments to remember.
But experience is about more than just adventure. It’s also about valuing the accumulation of experience in our chosen field or interest.
For example, being a concert roadie may not pay well, but the experience of going on tour with a band could be incredibly valuable if your dream is to become a music manager or promoter.
Experience is valuable when relevant — don’t overlook it.
So, the next time you’ve got a career decision to make…
Here’s the simplest way I can wrap this up.
If you focus on developing your assets (your skills, knowledge, effort, and time) and exchanging them for things of value (money, learning, opportunities, and experiences) you’ll wind up with the career you want.
It’s not easy, but it’s possible. Good luck!