What are your professional assets?
Your professional assets are a combination of professional skills and network of relationships.
Simply put, these are what you know & who you know.
Both play a vital role in the success and longevity of your career and worth investing conscious effort to build and nurture.
What you know
What you know, or task proficiency, allows you to perform a set of activities well.
Know what tasks you are proficient at and look for roles where these will be valued most.
Reciprocally, understand what tasks your desired role(s) require you to be proficient in and work towards building those skills.
1. Company unique process or task knowledge – In tasks which are unique to a company.
Maintenance of legacy code is an example. How to guide tourists around the Taj Mahal is another. These skills can only be learnt by working in that setting and someone who has not will have difficulty performing these tasks.
If this is your proficiency or professional asset, you are valuable as long as the task needs to be performed and there is no viable insider to replace you. You are the brick in the wall. As long as the wall is standing, so are you.
On the flip side, with proficiencies unique to only a company’s systems or processes, you may have a challenge finding work outside. Nourish the proficiency in the current tasks but also actively invest in learning industry standard systems/processes which will allow job portability to other companies within or outside the current employer.
2. Industry specific skills – In tasks performed by all companies in an industry, and almost in a similar manner.
Apparel merchandizing, computer troubleshooting, ASIC design, and bond trading are examples of work which while unique to an industry are done by all companies within that industry
If your proficiency is in a skill which is portable across an industry, so is your employability.
Aim to work for the companies which are growth and profit leaders within the industry. They are more likely to invest in their employees, new technologies, systems, and processes; all of which will be beneficial to your skill and career advancement.
3. Pan industry skills / proficiencies – Skills which are portable across industries
IT technology, accounting, finance, HR, and legal are skills which are employable across companies & industries. For example, someone proficient in IT technology can find a home with a software products company, retailer, or a manufacturer of medical devices.
Your first goal should be to work in an industry where your skills are core to the business. Work in the front office. That is where companies tend to invest most in better practices, systems, & personnel to stay competitive.
As an example, with a proficiency in computer science/IT, aim for employment with companies which build/sell software platforms or are in media / online retail where the use of IT technologies is central to the growth of their business. Similarly, as an auditor, the opportunities for skill enhancement & career growth are likely to be better working for the audit division of a professional audit firm like PWC, E&Y or Deloitte as compared with in an in-house audit team.
Work in an industry where your work/proficiency has a direct impact on the growth or profitability of the business. That is here we are most likely to be invested in and challenged to grow professionally.
Who you know
Who you know is your professional network – those who you can reach out to and solicit career guidance, support and sponsorship. These relationships are a significant facilitator to the success and growth of your career, as well as the opportunities which get presented to you during its course.
1. Network of colleagues – internal network – Relationships with colleagues in your current employer.
When engaging in any complex task, you will need to collaborate with and solicit help and expertise from your colleagues. Good working relationships with them can be pivotal to the outcome of such tasks and to your success.
Your colleagues are also a valuable source of insight and sponsorship for new job opportunities and enhancements within the organization. Over time, these colleagues will move and join other companies, expanding your professional network to organizations outside the current one.
The network of colleagues is a very powerful one and one to nourish. They work closely with you and in time build close relationships. Not only are they pivotal to your success in the current job but also a great source of guidance, insight, sponsorship, and references for roles & opportunities both within & outside your current employer.
If your strength is in building internal networks, aim for tasks which require significant collaboration with colleagues. These may be activities which best utilize your network building capability.
2. Network of industry peers – Relationships in the industry outside your existing employer.
These could be past colleagues who moved to other organizations or relationships built when participating in industry events, forums & bodies.
The network of external peers can help you enhance your knowledge of trends/advancements in your function or industry and expand your professional acumen & knowledge.
They are also a valuable source of insight into job opportunities within their own or in peer organizations.
Those who are adept at building peer networks well are an asset to any organization in roles representing it in external bodies & forums.
3. Market network – Customers, suppliers, bankers, regulators and other external entities who you work or worked with as part of your job.
Just as good working relationships with colleagues is essential for success of tasks requiring internal collaboration, the success of any job requiring engagement with the external network of customers, suppliers and bankers is dependent on your ability to build productive working relationships with them.
If you are in sales, productive relationships with clients are a significant asset. So is the case for the procurement leader with the supplier network, the CFO with bankers, and in marketing with the media.
The network which you build with these external entities like customers, suppliers, and bankers is an asset which transcends your current job. As long as you continue with your job type or function you can engage with these customers, suppliers, and bankers to help you succeed.
This network can contribute to your success not only in your current job but also in future ones.
In the course of your career you make two critical investments which become your professional assets. The first is in your job skills. These can be functional skills deployable across industries, skills specific to your industry, or those which are unique to the organization which you work for. The second is in building relationships. With your colleagues, peers within our industry or function, or with external entities like customers and suppliers
Done well, both of these are facilitators of career success and longevity. Knowledge and skills allow you to perform your job well, get recognized as a performer, and positioned for career advancement. The relationships which you build, within and outside your company, enable you to take on larger and more complex roles which involve collaboration. They are also your key resource for ongoing insight, advice, and sponsorship for skill enhancement, career growth and mobility.