Broaden your scope

Canyon 3One of the “most successful people” I interviewed for my next ebook, on how people spend their workdays, was former race car driver Sarah Fisher. After becoming one of very few women ever to compete in the Indianapolis 500, she’s now the owner of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. SFHR is moving into a new facility in Speedway, Indiana (the little ‘burg that’s home to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway) in part for the foot traffic. Fisher wants potential fans to come in and (metaphorically) kick the tires. Building a community around her company “increases our exposure and broadens our scope,” she told me for my CBS MoneyWatch blog.

I quite like that phrase. In fact, I think it’s broadly a good way to think about building career capital in general, or to use the language I use in my forthcoming book, “paying in.” Ideally, you do something every day to pay in to your career capital account. People with a lot of career capital can have a generous and expansive view of the world. They know that they can cash in their chits at any point for a new situation, to take a career to a new level, or even to take a break without destroying their ability to earn a living. Looking at the day, you ask, what have I done to increase my exposure and broaden my scope?

This broadening can consist of many things. It can mean researching an unfamiliar concept you come across, so you increase your expertise. It can mean reaching out to an old acquaintance. It could be something like updating your LinkedIn profile (though be careful — a lot of people do this when they’re job hunting, and hence LinkedIn requests or updates sent to colleagues are a pretty good tip off to savvy ones that you’re looking). It could be matching two people together for a project or providing a reference. It could be attending a conference. You could read an industry-related book or journal article. You could publish a book or article. You could participate in a podcast on a topic you’re an expert in. You can build a visible portfolio of your work: anything of great quality you can pin on a bulletin board (or Pinterest) and say “I did that” can be a big deposit in your account.

Developing the discipline to pay into this account every day isn’t easy. While my career choice gives me a visible portfolio — books are out there in the market, speaking for you and your ideas even when you’re not around — I’m pretty sure I’ve been shirking on other dimensions of this broadening. I’d like to be doing more. Part of me is tempted to make excuses (I have three small kids! Three small kids who get sick and get me sick in the winter. Can’t you see I’m tired?) but the reality is that paying in need not be incredibly time consuming. Going to a conference could be a deposit, but so could a simple email. It’s a truism of personal finance that over time small deposits add up. I think that’s even more true of deposits in the career capital account.

One way to keep oneself accountable for making daily deposits is to do the same thing you could do with running: log it. I log how many miles I’ve run, and likewise, paying in can be logged too. What have you done today to increase your exposure and broaden your scope? Write it down, and watch the account grow.

How do you pay in?

Photo courtesy flickr user ejharaldseid

3 thoughts on “Broaden your scope

  1. I love this idea. I’m doing the same thing now with my hobbies and personal goals, which are my “work” when I’m on leave. I try to make a little progress each day on one of the many things I have going on, esp on more long-term things like teaching myself a new skill (currently learning Adobe Lightroom).

    I suppose I could be doing something actually work-related while I’m off, but I’m just not ready to think about it yet.

    One of the big things I focus on re: career is maintaining my professional certifications. One of them requires a certain number of hours of continuing education, and I’m determined NOT to let it lapse. A lot of it can be self study instead of formal classes, which is nice.

    1. @ARC – sure, one could pay into any account. Career capital or life capital. We certainly need to pay into the “health” account daily, the sleep account, etc.

  2. I like the idea of broadening my horizons, too. I think I’ll include that in the things I think about careerwise. In that light, the productivity eBook I’ve got coming out soon could be seen as supporting my career, instead of just being an interesting side project I tried out!

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