Most of us don’t know what we want to do in our twenties. 🤷♀️
And that’s absolutely normal. Our twenties are for figuring out what we want to do, what skills we want to build and which path to take. But, in the meantime, we also want to be building career capital. Career capital is a term coined by the 80,000 hours organisation, and it basically means combining building your career and figuring it out at the same time. By building flexible career capital, you can allow yourself to test and try out many different sectors and career paths, all the while building important skills and connections that will help you in the future.
Before searching for your dream job, you need to invest in yourself, and that’s exactly what career capital is. You’ll have more of an impact and you’ll make much more money in the future if you first invest in yourself.
But let’s go into a bit more detail about career capital…
What is career capital?
Put simply, career capital is a job or activity (a degree, volunteering, internship) that allows you to build four things:
- What will you learn in this job, and how fast will you learn?
- What transferable skills, knowledge and personality traits will you acquire?
- Will you also be able to work on your personal productivity, analysis and problem-solving, the ability to learn quickly, decision-making, social skills, and management?
When applying for a job or certain position, take note of the skills that you will acquire or that you want to acquire. By being conscious of those skills not only will you make more of an effort to exercise them but you’ll be more conscious of the direction you’re heading in. You want these skills to be flexible, meaning they can useful in different jobs too.
- Who will you work with and meet in this job?
Connections are what will help you find the best jobs, will help you learn more about yourself and give you the opportunities you need. We’re not talking about how-many-business-cards-can-i-get networking, we’re talking about making genuine friends in the right places. It’s more about ‘what kind of people will I be working with?’ rather than the names. Will you be surrounding yourself with interesting, hard working co workers?
3. Portfolio (they call it ‘Credentials’)
- Will this job act as a good signal to future collaborators or employers?
Your portfolio is full of your achievements and reputation as you keep building career capital. Will this job help build your portfolio? Will your CV be more complete? If you’re a writer, this is the quality of your blog. As a coder, it’s your GitHub. As a designer, it’s the projects you’ve been working on.
4. Cash cushion (they call it ‘Runway’)
- How much money will you save in this job?
Which really breaks down to:
- Can you build your cash cushion (6 months of expenses)?
- Can you set aside 15% of your income for the future without too much hassle?
We do mention a lot on Financially Mint that when you’re young, the amount you’ll be making isn’t the most important. You want to be exploring and looking for the activity that invests most in yourself and that you can learn the most from. But you still want to be saving and investing for your future and taking advantage of the magic of compound interest. For this reason, ideally you want to be making enough so that putting away 15% of your income isn’t too painful, and you can still be building your cash cushion at the same time.
How do I build Career Capital?
So now you know what are the 4 things you want to be on the look out when getting your first job or just an activity in general. These 4 factors are extremely helpful, because they are a framework for searching for a job. You don’t need to know what you want to do, you don’t need to be doing something you love immediately. At first, it’s all about building career capital as well as exploring your options.
The other thing to keep into account is that you want to be building flexible career capital because the world is changing all the time. A skill that’s considered important now might not be so important in the future, so you need to be able to adapt. But that’s not all. You’re also going to change. 🌞
That’s the whole point of testing career paths; not only will you forming an idea of what you enjoy doing and what you might want to do in the future, but these preferences and aspirations may change as you move on! And that’s absolutely fine.
At Financially Mint we have a sweet 4 step process to help you figure out what fits you best (an idea also taken from the amazing 80,000 hours organisation):
- Write down all (about 10-15) career paths that you might be interested in. Allow your mind to go wild – what did you want to be when you were a child? An astronaut? An actress? Add them all to the list.
- Figure out which of these career paths will allow you to build flexible career capital as well as keep your options open and allow you to explore further. Narrow down the list to those that do.
- Contact and interview people who are already in those careers. See how you can test the career itself (internship, more interviews, etc).
- Keep investigating and testing career paths. Build on what you know you enjoy and what build you career capital.
By following this process of investigating and testing career paths as well as building career capital, you literally couldn’t be doing better. That’s a good plan for your twenties:
The 80,000 hours website gives several examples of jobs/activities that allow you to build flexible career capital:
1. Working for a growing organisation with a growing performance
This could be, for example, consulting. Consulting companies make you work hard, they train you and they put you around other productive people, as well as build your skills and connections. These positions are also pretty competitive, which adds to your portfolio. Anywhere with a good mentor and team that allows you to learn is a great place. This could also be a startup, working in the technology sector and others.
2. Graduate studies
For those who want to work in research, work for a think tank or in law, you’ll probably need an extra degree. This depends on whether you can afford it and whether this will be going in the career direction that you want it to go. Personally, I’m not even completing a Bachelors, so a Masters is not even an option for me.
3. Building a valuable and transferable skill
This basically means meta skills that are always useful. I made a list of 6 skills that will always make you money in the future and are easily transferable. Examples are programming, data science, marketing, writing and designing. Working to build those skills can be very valuable in the future to build your portfolio.
4. Creating content
Many times we think a credential such as a degree or diploma is what will help us get where we want to be. But many times it’s the skills, connections, achievements and reputation that really is the most important. Creating content is a great way to show drive and the ability to create. A great example is this blog; I have a blog and a podcast, and although I won’t be receiving a medal or a shiny piece of paper for doing so, it’s hugely helped to build my own career capital.
If you succeed in creating something great, it’s impressive. And if you don’t, you’ve still learnt a lot. So why not? 💁♀️
An example: me 👧
This advice from the 80,000 hours organisation did change my life, and I’ve now implemented these strategies in my own career. I am now 20, and have decided that the next couple of years I will dedicate them to exploration. After making my list of career paths I wanted to test, I narrowed down to four:
- Working for a startup
- Working for an NGO
- Freelance Journalism
I also very much enjoy working abroad, so I’ve decided to combine the tests with exactly that. I recently finished 6 months working for a startup in Barcelona, Spain. For the year 2019 my plan is to test NGO work in Malaysia and after that, consulting in Australia. In the meantime, I’m building more transferable skills: writing and programming. I currently earn my money freelance writing for clients, which allows me to sustain my lifestyle and save 15% of my income. I learn some basic coding a couple of hours a week. I also interview a couple of people a week who work in 1 of those 4 career paths, which helps understand even better what the job would entail.
I may hate working for an NGO, I may hate consulting. But at least I’ll be able to say I tried, and that will keep me searching for a career that truly interests me. I’ll let you know if it works 😉
And there you go. We’ve talked about what career capital is, how to build it and what are some examples of activities that will help you build career capital. I love this term because it explains the importance of investing in yourself instead of making money. You’ll reach your peak money making time in your 40s to 50s – now is the time to be building those four factors we talk above. And you also want to be focusing on exploring – investigating and testing career paths. Using these strategies and methods, you are setting yourself to adapt, to learn and to work on your ideal job. You can’t really go wrong 😛