Thanks to Faith Emmanuel for contributing this article

Do you remember your first internship or the short contract job you did before college? Does the memory of your first presentation ring a bell? How was that experience?

Career capital is the experience you build over your ‘employable years’. According to Cal Newport’s book “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” the process of building career capital is collecting and strengthening rare and valuable skills to the point of mastery. These skills are crucial to developing a successful career marked by creativity, impact and control of your work. Here are some tips on how to harness career capital.


1) Develop Craft, not just Passion


In a world where the most popular advice is to “follow your passion”, honing your craft is a strong way of distinguishing yourself from the crowd. By becoming uniquely good at what you do, you are easily set apart through the quality of your work. 


2) Know Your Industry


Your career takes place in the context of your field. Knowing the nuances of your industry can place you in a position of expertise. For example, as a lawyer, knowing the intersection between AI and Law, the impact of technological evolution on legal processes, Uniqueness of Intellectual Property law and other fields would make you a unicorn in the legal space. Take a moment and ask yourself: what are the deep niches in my industry waiting to be explored and how can I position myself to explore them?


3) Utilise every experience


An internship with a logistics company and a relief position at a consulting company are both valuable experiences.  Each moment of experience you garner in the line of your area of interest is an additional advantage. It is however important that you ensure these experiences align with your short term and long-term goals. Don’t intern in a finance role when you’re interested in HR. While transferable skills are good, transferable experiences are excellent.


4) Connect with Career Leaders


We stand taller when we stand on the shoulders of giants. Connecting with those who have already done what you would like to do and having deliberate discussions with them opens your mind to the array of opportunities in your field and the myriad of challenges you can solve. You can attend their events, read their books, volunteer with them, attend Meet and Greets and utilise other avenues that enable you to have direct connections with them.

At the end of the day, career capital is like financial capital. It’s a continuous process of making deposits in your knowledge bank, acquiring transactional skills and building abilities that are rare and available. Remember, your career is a marathon, not a sprint, and your experiences now can be drawn upon in the distant future. When your mind’s library holds many relevant bits of wisdom others can see that your bookshelves are full and understand what you’re capable of as you become more confident and wise about your career as well. Knowledge can be found anywhere and consumed everywhere. 

There are websites that help you understand how to develop your skills and ideas through online courses and tutorials. LinkedIn is an amazing media platform to connect to your industry’s leaders and show them what you’re working on. Behance is an even better platform for that if your work involves imagery that can be shared in a picture or video. There are even ways to build little nuggets of experience online through sites where you can get hired for simple tasks as a freelancer in your field.