Have you forgotten about career capital?
“Sorry but there were other applicants with more experience… “
There are people in this world who wander and explore — drawn to jobs and roles that interest them, and learning rapidly from the experiences. Others step systematically from role to role and build layers that replicate and strengthen their experiences. The job market favours the latter — and can negatively impact the wanderer, the generalist, the multipotentialite, the job-hopper.
Career capital — what is it and why does it matter?
Career capital requires you to lay out the skills that have been developed during your career. All those value-adding skills that have been matured during your years of working, and crafted through hours of effort, mistakes, feedback and learning. To understand your career capital, you assess and understand the sum of those skills, and if you have rare and valuable skills, then you have a differentiating factor that can be leveraged.
The power of considering your portfolio of skills this way is that you can understand where your strengths are, and identify where there are development opportunities aligned with your goals.
Career capital — who creates it and how?
What if you add up your years of career effort and find your career capital is scattered and the value is lower than expected? What can a leader do to challenge and support development of career capital?
The next consideration is to weigh up your current career capital. This can be an uncomfortable exercise if you realise there is a gap or misalignment between your career capital and career goals. Particularly if you or your leader are not aligned on the skills you wish to develop in your current career trajectory. This is an excellent opportunity to reflect on your own personal journey and the unique factors that have built your story until today.
If your current role is not building skills that line up with the expectations or requirements of your career goals, that gives a chance to explore development opportunities. If your role is helping to build skills, then there is a reflection opportunity to weigh up how to optimise the effort and hours you are pouring into your job and ensure that you are spending your time on the right things — developing those skills.
Remember there is a difference between skills and competencies — the key is to ensure a balance between the two.
If skills are the learned capabilities required for a job, competencies are the behaviours and knowledge that will help you to succeed. Take some time to reflect on your unique competencies — you may be an excellent problem solver, or a strategic thinker, or a person with analytic ability or negotiation skills. These competencies will be relevant when applying for a job, and can be lined up within your current role to help develop your specific skills. However, competencies are not enough in a skills-based job description, and this is where career capital comes into play.
How can you impact and build your career capital?
Take some time to look at your current role and the skills you are building. Reflect on your existing skills and competencies, and consider why you have chosen to spend time and hours on those activities, and the interest and curiosity that has been part of your career background and history. There is a reason you are where you are today.
Now look ahead. Where you will be tomorrow depends on how you leverage what you have in your skillset at the moment, and how you create a strong narrative and focus for the future. Craft those skills that offer future career capital and invest the time to build and focus on them. What you spend time on, what you do — that is what you will become.
Here are a few reflective questions for you to consider:
To understand this more completely, take a job advertisement that interests you. The description of the role will offer you tasks, skills and competencies that are expected of the applicant. Set aside the job description and title for a moment and study the list of your skills. Do you have the career capital that is valuable for this role? And critically, if you spend 20 hours a week on the skills described in this job, then within a year you will be closing in on a thousand hours of career capital in those areas. Will those hours of effort be towards a skill that aligns with your career goals, or develop a skill that is valuable?
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