The three mistakes we have talked about so far are :-
– Not forming or joining a correct peer group and
Another mistake that I have made and beseech you not to make is “not managing our career”.
I got my first job,with one of the then big 5 accounting firms, almost immediately after graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Physics. It was as an articled clerk. Most of my fellow colleagues then were school leavers.
This was “my first formal job” and I had no thoughts about being paid well below what was a graduate’s starting pay. (Thank God for this.) The firm gave us study leave for the accounting exams, and I qualified as a CPA within the given 4 years. By then my salary had also risen to be slightly above the graduate entry levels.
At this point of time, I should have thought deeply about the choices available and how I should maximize the earnings from my career.
Instead I just joined the first company that made me an offer. (They called me.) It was a bank and I spent only 5 months there. The job which involved reporting to our Central Bank and filling up rows and columns of figures was about the most boring job I have ever done in my life. The only good thing was that I met my future wife here.
Based on a friend’s suggestion, I joined another company where I stayed for 6 years. Basically after that my career consisted of joining companies at the invitation of friends. Each move resulted in higher take home pays, greater responsibilities and opportunities to travel etc.
There was a brief period where I resigned hoping to do something on my own. This was done with no planning and was a disaster. Luckily another job came along.
I should have “managed my career better.”
The best blog resource I have seen on this is Free Money Finance’s series on careers. (He proclaims our career as our biggest asset and it is not surprising that he has a whopping 270 posts under the category of “careers”.)
Let me compare what I have done against FMF’s great post on managing our career.
Two aspects of a career should be evaluated.
o Quantitative measurement of salary and employee benefits.
I did not pay enough attention to employee benefits. Benefits like subsidized housing loans, training schemes, and share option schemes would have a mighty big difference financially, even if the take home pay had been lower.
o The second is a set of qualitative measurements which are even more important. These consist of new skills learnt, social connections we make and harmonization with the rest of our life and goals. I have only gone for those short 1-2 day courses as part of continuing education. Most of the new skills learnt were on the job and reading up on my own.
Whilst almost all my jobs allowed me great contacts, I have never learnt how to strengthen my network.
o A third issue that I would add is evaluating the employer as one who truly seeks to attract and retain talent.
We are a developing country. Many of the companies in the corporate sector paid only lip service to the fashionable tagline of “people are our biggest asset.”
I have had some “good”, “not so good” and some “not good at all” experiences in this area.
What I should have done
a) I should have learnt how to write a proper “winning” resume that would have highlighted what I had and could offer to a prospective employer.
b) I should have identified, screened and shortlisted my potential employers with my list of “must haves”, “good to haves” and “wants”. Then I should have designed my plan for getting my desired position, and worked on it.
c) I should have learnt about the usefulness of networks and put in a lot more time and effort on this aspect of my life.
d) I should have considered and evaluated employee benefits a lot more carefully.
e) With my career properly addressed, I should have crafted proper plans for moving on to the next stages of my life.
Don’t repeat my mistake, please
Our career is certainly one of our biggest assets.
We spend a lot of time on our careers, often sacrificing once in a lifetime family events like our kids graduating from preschool, their school concerts etc.
Proper planning and management should be accorded to maximize both financial and non-financial gains from this investment.
Properly managed, our career may well take care of all our financial requirements, including retirement.