David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, hosts a weekly podcast titled Rule Breaker Investing. In a recent episode, he discussed one of his long-term goals being to get rid of the term “long-term investor.” He argues the term is redundant. If one is investing, it is always for the long-term. People who buy and sell securities on a short-term basis are not investors, they are traders.
Regarding investing, I completely agree with him. Investing and trading both including buying assets in the hopes of value appreciation or making a return. However, only investing has a long-term focus.
Likewise, you can take a long-term or a short-term focus on your career.
When you’re a teen, or even in college, it might be okay to have a short-term focus on your career. Actually, it’s more likely a short-term focus on a job. You didn’t have a career back then, you had a job. It served one purpose – to make money.
After college, however, you started your career. That first place of employment, hopefully, was to serve as the springboard for the remainder of your career.
The Differences between Investing in Your Career for the Long-term and Short-term
What is the real difference between investing in your career for the long-term and investing in it for the short-term? Obviously the difference is a matter of focus on time.
Employees who focus on the short-term in their careers typically focus only on the amount of money they can make. If they can jump to a different employer and make just a couple of thousand dollars more, they’ll do it.
I’m not saying that is necessarily the wrong thing to do. Each person needs to make a decision for him or herself.
If you’re focused on investing in your career for the long-term though, you’d make a decision based on how staying with the same company or moving to a different company will impact your career for the next five plus years. You make the choice based on the long-term, not the short-term.
Sometimes, those decisions are based on lifestyle as much as, if not more than, the increase in pay. You should be able to have a life and work. If you work all the time, what good is that really? I learned that lesson in my career…
5 Tips for Investing in Your Career for the Long-term
Now that we agree investing in your career must contain a long-term focus, what actions can you take to help you achieve long-term success in your career? Let’s look at five tips that will help you have that long-term focus.
Focus on Personal Development
No matter what you do in your life, personal development is important. Developing yourself is the greatest long-term investment you can make for your career and your personal life.
Most people want to get better. Too many people though don’t create a personal development plan. Instead, they leave it all up to chance.
“I’ll read that book when I have time.”
That time never comes if you take that approach.
Make a plan to improve in all areas of your life. You won’t regret it.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
You can get really comfortable doing the same tasks every day at work. As long as it’s still enjoyable, you can do the same thing day after day. That’s good but to really succeed in your career you’ll need to expand beyond your current responsibilities.
You’ll need to take a few chances and not be afraid to change. You’ll want to ask for different and more challenging responsibilities.
I’ll give you an example from my career.
Within the first two years of my career, I in-charged several engagement’s called “directors’ exams.” I got really efficient with these types of engagements. Regardless of the staff I worked with, we would finish up a directors’ exam in about two-and-a-half days. Before this, it would take some people a full week to complete these jobs.
The more efficient and effective I became, the more money the firm would make. That was great for the firm. It was also great for my confidence.
There was one problem though.
I got bored!
At the point I determined I couldn’t do those engagements anymore, I chose to talk with my boss. I told him I was bored and wanted something more difficult to work on.
Naturally, I couldn’t just be taken off those jobs entirely but my schedule did change. I was scheduled on more difficult and more rewarding jobs.
That decision to speak up greatly helped my career.
Be a Generalist
Studies have shown that generalist CEOs make more money than specialist CEOs. Read this article from Cláudia Custódio with the W.P. Carey School of Business of Arizona State University and discover what she says about the topic.
Think about it. CEOs who are good communicators, are visionaries and lead by example have the ability to achieve excellence. They rely on the ability of people with different strengths than their own.
This is the same reason employees really good at performing a certain task do not make good managers of people with those same tasks. Just because you’re a good sale person does not mean you’ll be a good leader of salespeople.
Early in your career you’ll need to become an expert at something. Do that but also seek out ways to do other things. Take on other projects and learn new skills. Most importantly though, learn to be a better communicator.
Build Your Personal Brand
What you do right now in your career can have a lasting impact on your career. If you want to invest in your career for the long-term, you need to build your personal brand.
Whatever you put on social media today will be online forever. Make sure what you post agrees with the brand you’re trying to build. Regardless of how old a social media post is, it could come back to haunt you.
Your brand is more than your online presence, although very important, it is everything you do. Build your brand now to what you want it to be and it will open doors for you in the future.
“It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.”
We’ve all heard this saying before. It may not seem fair but it is true. The relationships you build can provide you with opportunities down the road.
Don’t confuse relationships with acquaintances though.
Acquaintances can be helpful but they won’t put themselves on the line for you. People with whom you have build a close relationship will. You’ll do the same.
Remember though that when you align yourself with someone, make sure that person will represent your brand well.
Start Investing in Your Career Now
It’s never too late to start investing in your career for the long-term.
Looking to the future is always a good practice. However, you can’t forget about the here and now. If you don’t perform at a high level now, you can kiss the future goodbye.
Start investing in your career now by working hard, excelling at everything you do and thinking about the future.
Question for you: What have you done to invest in your career for the long-term?