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THE BEST WAY to Grow Your Career | Investing in Yourself

Picture of Angela Guido

Angela Guido

Career growth and your growth as a capable human being is THE MOST IMPORTANT PART of becoming happy at work (read: happy). Invest in yourself, build your career, focus on your career potential, and suddenly you’ll find yourself reaching for jobs and impact that you never thought possible, but how do you get there?

For our final installation in the happy at work series, Angela Guido lays out three main areas for personal growth, how to think about developing the right skills with the concept of the Knowledge Paycheck and what you can do RIGHT NOW to grow in your career.

Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:

The impact you achieve over time and the ways in which you grow as a person through your job and over the course of your career are what make your career about you. Welcome back to the final installation in our Happy At Work series on the Career Protocol YouTube channel. I am Angela Guido, a Career Coach, an MBA Coach, a former Management Consultant, Recruiter at the Boston Consulting Group, and HR Manager at KPMG. I am here to help you be happier at work one Monday at a time. This is Make Mondays better.


Learning To Grow In Every Way Possible

In the last three videos, I’ve been sharing our proprietary Happy At Work equation that we use with all of our clients to help them target jobs and roles that are interesting to them and to help them expand their happiness at work while fulfilling their potential, lining with their career goals and purpose, and having more impact at work. Not everybody derives one of their primary senses of satisfaction as a human being from their work, but if you’re one of the people who does, then this last component of the Happy At Work equation could be the most important one to you and your professional development

The bottom line is we all have our own sense of purpose in this life, but a big part of why we’re here is to grow and evolve. It’s to become the best version of ourselves, the most complete, the most expressed. It’s like you want to go out with no gas left in the tank. The saddest thing in life, I think, to me is untapped potential. You want to leave it all on the mat while you’re here, and if you’re someone who has a career, a big part of how you’re doing that is in your work life. To be able to do that over time more and more and in ways that bring you more joy and allow you to have a greater impact, you’re going to have to grow

I mean, just think about it. 

Try to remember back to your very first job, how little you knew about how the world worked, about the company you were working in, and even about what you were supposed to do day to day to earn your bread. We start by knowing so little about the world and even about ourselves. And over the course of a career, your goal is to learn and grow in every way possible.


1. Who You Are & What Matters To You

Grow in your understanding, first and foremost, of who you are and what matters to you. Have you ever noticed that it’s kind of hard to know what you like until you try it? You don’t know if you like broccoli until you taste it. It’s the same way at work. You don’t know if you enjoy certain tasks or if you like doing things until you try them and potentially try them many times, fail, and then finally succeed. 

That’s one of the most important ways you can grow along your career path, is getting to know yourself better, who you are and what matters to you. Another big way in which we grow is our understanding of the world and other people.


2. The World & Other People

It’s similarly true that when we’re born, we don’t know jack about being human and about this mortal plane we’re living in. As you go through your career, you learn so much, especially early on, about how the world works, about what works and what doesn’t work about how to get things done, about how to achieve an impact, about how to communicate better and build relationships. We’re growing and learning in our ability to be human in our day-to-day work lives.


3. Your Ability

A final way in which you’re opening your opportunities for advancement and growth in your job is by increasing your capacities. You’re gaining the soft skills, technical skills, and abilities to do more, to achieve more, and to help others do the same. 

One of the things I like to tell my clients that they need to think very carefully about especially early in their career is what I call your knowledge paycheck. Every job is paying you a little bit in cash. That’s the amount of money that goes into your bank account at the end of each week or month or pay period, whatever that looks like for you. That’s your cash paycheck. But, if you have a career, you also have to be thinking about your knowledge paycheck. What are the skills and experiences and information that this job is giving you that you’re going to carry with you into the rest of your professional journey

This is where we get into this distinction. This is an advanced economics concept between specific human capital and general human capital. Human capital you can just think of as your ability to add value. It’s the collection of your knowledge, information, skills, and abilities. That’s your human capital. In any job, you are required to develop and gain specific human capital and general human capital. The distinction is really simple. General human capital is applicable anywhere you go. Things like how to send an email that gets a response, how to talk to your manager, how to get good feedback, how to build a PowerPoint presentation. These are general human capital skills that if you leave your company and potentially even leave your industry, they go with you. You will take them with you into your next job and therefore be able to contribute and earn more in whatever job you take next because you’ve increased your transferable general human capital. 

Specific human capital, on the other hand, is the knowledge that expires when you leave the company. Things like where the copier is or who you need to talk to to fill out your human resources forms or really specific nuances about a given technology or a given client or the way this particular firm labels things and communicates. All of that is specific human capital that will disintegrate as soon as you leave this company or industry. 

So, if you want to experience substantial growth in your current job you want to ask yourself, what are the general human capital skills that I’m developing right now? What are the skills and abilities that I’m developing in my current job that are going to be useful to me even if I leave this current job and go into a new one? You might also want to think about what’s the specific human capital that you’ve developed? What is the time and effort that you’ve put in mastering this firm’s universe so that you can be more effective in this job? 

By the way, learning how to be more effective in this job generally is also general human capital. You’re learning how to learn. You’re learning how to get smart fast. You’re learning how to navigate a network and how to get things done within an existing system. These professional skills are also called politics, and also relationship management. Those are general human capital skills as well, even if while you’re building them, you’re developing the specific human capital that you need for career success in this specific company.


Invest In Yourself & Grow In Ways That Will Help You Progress, Wherever You Go!

So your goal to build your career is to grow in as many ways as possible that come with you when you go out the door, an investment in lifelong learning. You’re investing in yourself in your capacity to get things done, to help other people get things done, and to have a greater impact on the dimensions that are important to you. 

These two aspects of the Happy At Work equation interact substantially with each other because if you think about it, if you want to have greater impact over time in the ways that are important to you in the way I talked about in my last video, which you can watch right here, you’re going to need to cultivate greater skills. You’re going to need to learn how to influence, how to get support for your ideas, how to get people to trust you to do bigger and more important, more influential, more costly tasks, and then you’re potentially also going to need to develop some of the hard skills that will enable you to do it. 

Take for example, someone who works in technology. Let’s imagine you start your career as a coder. Coding is a kind of general human capital provided the language that you’re learning and the way that you’re coding will port with you to your next job. But as soon as you start to move even one or two steps up, you’re no longer just dealing with the code, now you’re dealing with how all the pieces of the technology fit together. How the different members of the team combine their efforts to create a product that’s bigger than just a line or a thousand lines of code. How to communicate with your customers and with business constituents to translate what needs to happen into the code that’s going to improve or develop the product that you need to develop. 

You see, as you move up in your career, you’re gaining skills that allow you to have greater and greater impact. At some point, you might become the owner of an entire technological product. Then the success and failure of that product hangs on your ability to get your job done and to facilitate sometimes thousands of other people in getting their job done. That’s what I mean when I say you need to experience substantial growth so that you can have a greater impact over the course of your career.

So, if you want to make this Monday better, I recommend that you set a growth goal for yourself for this week. It’s really simple.


To-Do 01: Find an ability and decide how you’re going to improve it

Choose one thing that you want to get better at this week. It can be a technical skill, it can be a soft skill, but it needs to be something that will still be valuable to you even if you leave the team, company, and industry that you’re in today. So an essential skill for your circumstances. Decide what it is and then decide how you’re going to grow in that ability this week. Are you going to take on a stretch project? Are you going to volunteer for some extra hours? Are you going to talk to your manager about putting you in charge of something new or giving you a task that you’ve never done before? How are you going to use your network to evolve? Are there people that you can talk to who are really good at that thing that can give you some advice? 

It could be as simple as sitting down for a 30 minute Zoom, chatting with an expert in that task or ability that you want to develop and getting their advice about how you can develop that skill this week on the court right now in your current job. One of the reasons why over the course of my entire career I have focused almost exclusively on employees, on working with people who are already working in companies and not people who are trying to leave the system and start their own company, I do this because I believe that companies are really the best place that you can be to grow, for career development

It’s totally selfish to be an employee if you’re focused on your knowledge paycheck, because there are things that you can learn inside an existing structure where impact is already happening and dollars are already flowing that you can’t possibly learn out there all by yourself, trying to get something off the ground alone. 

So, if you’re an employee and you’re in a career and you want to increase your happiness at work, take some time to figure out how you’re going to grow this week and then please leave me a comment. Let me know how you intend to grow this week. What skill are you developing? What ability are you cultivating? How are you investing in your own knowledge paycheck this week so that your company can help you grow into the person that you want to become over the course of your career? 

I cannot wait to hear from you. And if you’re not subscribed, like I always say, please subscribe. Hit that button so that you get notifications so that you don’t miss a single Make Monday Better. I can’t wait to hear what you achieve. And I will see you next week. Bye!bes

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