“Finding a Job” vs. “Managing Your Career”

January 14 2012

I was struck by David Hahn’s quote in this article that LinkedIn “welcomes anyone who thinks in terms of a career instead of a job.” There is quite a difference between the two, isn’t there?

Finding a job is a one-time thing. You do it, then you’re done. When people look for a job, they tend to reach out to their network, research new opportunities, update their professional profile, and bone up on skill development.

Managing your career involves doing a similar set of activities: Strengthening your network. Studying industry changes. Sizing up the competitive landscape. Looking for big new opportunities.

One key difference? Managing your career is an all-the-time thing. You do it to be better at the job you already have, and to be in a better competitive position when it comes time to change jobs in the future.

Because you do it all the time, when you think about your career, you can take a long-term view: you’re prepared to invest heavily in your soft assets, for example, instead of investing in your hard assets. When you think about a job, by comparison, it’s easy to get stuck in local maxima–that is, to over-optimize for what’s best right now without thinking about the long-term.

The quickest way to get practical about investing in your career is to play through this scenario: pretend you just got laid off. What are the next five things you do? Start doing those things now. As you get in the habit of investing yourself, you’ll begin to contextualize these immediate to-dos into a larger strategy.