- BUILDING YOUR NETWORK
- MOVING UP THE CAREER LADDER
- UPSKILLING AND STAYING EMPLOYABLE
- BLOGGING AND SIDE PROJECTS
- SOCIAL MEDIA, FORUMS AND COMMUNITIES
- PERSONAL FINANCES
- CHAPTER 3 RECAP
Your career is a business, and you’re the CEO. That means when it comes to building a successful career, the buck stops with you.
Yes, you’ll get some help along the way.
- You’ll find friends and mentors who give you great advice.
- You’ll find employers who are willing to invest in your growth.
- And you’ll be the recipient of the occasional dose of luck and good fortune.
But ultimately it’s up to you.
- You need to cultivate those friendships and relationships with mentors.
- You need to sell employers on why they should invest in you.
- And when luck comes your way, you need to make the choice to grab the opportunity and make the most of it.
Take charge of your career. If you don’t, you’ll be stuck fulfilling other people’s needs, and never your own.
BUILDING YOUR NETWORK
With the exception of my very first job in the IT industry and then one contract role later on, every other job I received involved a recommendation, referral, or even a direct hire by someone who knew me. In other words, my personal network is what opened the doors that kept me employed for more than 18 years.
I’m not ashamed or embarrassed by that. In fact, I’ll openly admit that applying for publicly advertised jobs and competing purely on the strengths of your resume and interviewing skills is a tough process I would happily avoid. My success rate was fairly typical of the people I know as well.
- Only the most exceptional candidates have a near 100% success rate for interviews leading to offers.
- Very good candidates are successful around half the time.
- It’s most common to have a success rate under 20%, sitting five to ten interviews to get an offer. (People just don’t talk about it that much because they see it as a failure.)
Aside from the two jobs I landed without a personal recommendation, there were only two occasions where I went through the entire selection process for a publicly advertised role and got all the way to an offer. In both cases I declined as I had another offer with a company where a friend or former colleague was recommending me.
In all other cases I was eliminated from consideration for publicly advertised roles before getting to the offer stage. The reasons were varied.
Sometimes no reason was given.
Other times I was told that the organization was too small and I would be bored in the role. (Having previously worked for a large multinational organization was more harmful than helpful in finding other jobs later, as it turned out.)
In several cases I later found out (through informal channels) that the person selected over me had an insider who was able to recommend them. This doesn’t upset me since I have also won roles on the basis of an insider recommendation in many cases. It’s a competitive advantage that can’t be understated. And it can mean getting access to job opportunities that are never publicly advertised, which makes the entire process a lot easier.
This is why your personal network is one of the best assets you can build throughout your career. Don’t underestimate its value. And don’t underestimate who can be a good contact for you in the future. Even those people who you aren’t directly working with every day will form opinions about your expertise and professionalism. Just because Sue the DBA never has to interact with you about the servers you manage, that doesn’t mean Sue won’t form an opinion based on what John (the other DBA) says about you from his own interactions. If John complains about your attitude, or about everything taking forever to get finished, Sue will form that impression herself as well.
One of the simplest ways to build your professional network is to talk to people. For some of you who are natural introverts that sounds like a nightmare scenario. I’m somewhat introverted myself. Going to a meetup or conference with strangers is an uncomfortable situation for me, but I’m okay once I get to know people a little. So over the years I’ve focussed on getting over that initial hurdle of being among strangers and developed some techniques for establishing that initial connection with people.
In a room of strangers I make it a point to introduce myself to two people. That’s all it takes. Two is important, because if you only introduce yourself to one person and they leave early or just turn out to be a dead end at least you’ve got someone else to keep chatting to. Two is also not too many people for an introvert like me (who is also bad at remembering names). Pick someone who is standing alone and say hello.
Hi there, I’m Paul. I don’t know anyone here so I figured I’d just introduce myself.
Try not to make it super awkward for them. If they’ve just taken a bite of food and have a drink in their other hand it’s going to be pretty hard for them to shake your hand and speak to you. If you feel like you’ve created the world’s most awkward meeting between strangers, hit the eject button with a quick excuse.
Oh I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be rude but I just realized I forgot to let my partner know that I’ll be home late. Excuse me, I’ll just go make a quick call.
If there’s nobody standing alone then you’re going to need to interrupt a conversation. Otherwise you risk standing alone until someone else takes the initiative to talk to you. For me that’s an even more uncomfortable situation than talking to strangers, so I do my best to avoid it. Interrupting people in a deep conversation can come across quite rude, so pick a group of two or three people who look like they’re just making idle chit chat.
Hi there. Sorry to interrupt, but I don’t know anyone here so I figured I’d just introduce myself. I’m Paul.
It’s hard to be spontaneous when you’re nervous. So don’t go into social situations completely unprepared. Have some small talk and conversation starters ready to use. Everyone can introduce themselves and say where they work. Beyond that it takes some grease to get the conversation moving.
Remember that above all else, people love talking about themselves. Give people an opportunity to share their opinions, brag about something they’re proud of, or gripe about something they’re unhappy about, and the conversation starts to flow very easily. Personally, I don’t like to be the one listening to gripes and complaints, so I prefer to ask for people’s opinions or recent victories.
So what are you working on at the moment? Oh that sounds interesting. Is that going to fix the problems with …
Giving people the chance to share their knowledge with you is also a good way to get them talking. Ask them to help you understand a piece of technology you’re struggling with. Or, if the conversation is more social and less work-related, ask them something else.
I finished the last episode of Westworld last night. Did you see it? I’m still not sure I fully understand why …
If television isn’t your thing, ask for a recommendation about something else.
I’m planning a night out for my partner and I. Does anyone know a great Thai restaurant we could go to?
Not only do people love sharing their knowledge, but they love to hear that their knowledge was useful.
Hey thanks for that restaurant recommendation. The food was amazing. I owe you one.
They’ll appreciate knowing that their recommendation was a good one. And they will also appreciate knowing you are someone they can come to when they next need help with something. Having others come to you for help gives you more opportunities to build strong connections with them. This isn’t manipulative, it’s just building connections through reciprocity.
It’s important in any social situation to know why you’re there. The examples above are small talk I would make with colleagues. But if I’m at a professional meetup, people usually don’t want to talk about television shows and restaurants. They want to talk about the topic of the meetup. But you can still use the same techniques.
So how are you using Product X at the moment? Oh that sounds interesting. Are you using the new Feature Y yet?
Again, give people the chance to share their knowledge with you.
I’ve been looking at new Feature Y today actually. I’m not sure I fully understand why it would be better than using …
And, just like the restaurant question, you can ask for recommendations.
We’ve been looking for something to help us monitor our system. Does anyone know a good product we can try out?
Above all, be yourself. If you’re not a natural joker, don’t let nerves fool you into thinking you need to throw witty remarks into the conversation. If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t stress out thinking you need to impress people with your knowledge. Admitting you don’t know something and asking others for their thoughts is yet another way to keep the conversation flowing.
If you simply feel you can’t go into a meetup or other social situation without some backup, take a friend or colleague with you. Having someone there who can take up some of the conversation load can help you to preserve some energy and not look frantically for an exit when things get overwhelming. Invite someone who is a little less introverted than you are. You could even invite someone who is a total extrovert. But if you’re an introvert like me it can feel even more intimidating tagging along with a super extroverted person.
Ever felt trapped in a conversation you just want to get out of? I find it best to hit the eject button as hard as possible to avoid any awkwardness. A simple “Well it was nice to meet you, I’m going to go grab another drink/find a restroom/introduce myself to the meetup organizers” should do the trick. If it looks like they’re going to tag along with you, pull out a secondary excuse. “Actually I need to make a quick phone call first. See you next time!”
To grow your network, start with the people around you. The best people to get to know are those you work with every day. That includes your immediate teammates, the other teams you interact with, and any key individuals in your customer base that you deal with regularly. Go for a walk to get coffee together. Sit in the break room at lunch instead of eating alone at your desk. Accept the invitation (if you can) for a drink after work on a Friday. In each situation, use your small talk starters to get the conversation flowing if you need to.
As your network starts to grow it’s important to remember that making connections is just the first part of the process. The second part is keeping up with your existing connections. It’s easy to stay in touch with the people you work with. After all, you see them almost every day. But the people who no longer work with you, or that you meet at outside events, takes a little more effort. If you see them regularly at the same meetups and events, you can make a point of having a quick chat. If you’re not running into each other at events, take the time to invite them to lunch, coffee, or a drink after work.
And remember, networking is a two way street. If you’re invited to catch up, try and say yes enough times to maintain those strong connections with people. You don’t have to go drinking every Friday with people, but every now and then you can accept that lunch invitation, meet for a coffee, or stay back for one beer. You can say yes to joining their sports team, or meeting up online for some gaming. People will come and go from your professional network over time, so it’s not like you need to maintain connections forever. But that one year you had fun playing basketball with someone could mean the difference five years from now when you’re a candidate for the job you want.
Getting Started With Professional Networking
Your network will open doors to the best jobs available, and keep you employed when the job market is at its worst. The more you network, the easier it becomes. Here are some tips to grow and maintain your professional network:
- Get away from your desk for an in-person meetup (coffee, lunch, a drink) with at least one person you work with every week.
- Catch up in-person with at least one person you don’t work with each month. If you can handle more, make it one per week.
- Choose a regular meetup or user group that you can regularly attend and stay connected to via mutually interesting topics.
- Get involved in hobbies and activities (e.g. sports, gaming, photography, charity work) with people in the industry.
MOVING UP THE CAREER LADDER
For most people, a successful career includes some form of ascension from a lower level job to a higher level job. Help desk people want to become systems administrators. Admins want to become architects. Juniors want to become seniors.
While I think there is nothing wrong with sustaining a long career at whatever level makes you happy, I respect that most people want to move up the ladder at some stage. Thinking back to my own career progression and the other people I’ve worked with over the years, there are some common elements that appear in all our stories.
Moving up in your career tends to happen in one of two ways:
- You’re offered a promotion or higher level job by your current employer based on how well you’re performing.
- You apply for a higher level job, either internally or at another company, and are the successful candidate who receives an offer.
If you expect your current employer to offer you a higher level role, the first point I want to make here is that you must be doing your current job well. Yes, everyone knows someone who got promoted despite their mediocrity. But, that’s not the path you’re looking to take.
My first job was working in a help desk team. In the first year I was offered an opportunity to take on a role with more responsibilities in a new project team. That opportunity, and every other internal promotion opportunity after it, came about because of a few things I did consistently well:
- Being reliable and showing attention to detail. If you have five things you’re responsible for, do those five things exceptionally well before you ask to be trusted with more.
- Being a good communicator with other colleagues and customers. If you can demonstrate you can get along with a diverse range of people in different circumstances, then people will see you as an asset.
- Showing an interest in learning more about the technologies I was supporting. Don’t settle for remembering answers to questions, and solutions to problems. Work on a deeper understanding of the products you’re working with, and learn how to analyze and troubleshoot unfamiliar problems.
- Asking to be involved in projects that need someone to do low-level tasks. Yes, this means doing ‘grunt work.’ But it exposes you to more learning opportunities, and grows your reputation as someone who gets the job done.
As you move higher up the ladder into more senior roles, some additional characteristics become important:
- The ability to zero in on the correct solution quickly. Whether it’s troubleshooting a problem, designing a system, or writing code, senior professionals are expected to quickly analyze and eliminate incorrect solutions and find the right one fast.
- The ability to anticipate and address unknown problems. Senior IT professionals are expected to do less reactive work and be more proactive in seeking out problems to solve and improvements to make. They are also expected to be pragmatic and avoid change for the sake of change.
- The ability to teach, mentor, and bring out the best in others. Senior IT professionals don’t operate in an isolated bubble away from everyone else. They’re expected to guide others to outcomes and support them when needed. They’re expected to lead teams and apply the right people to problems, not just the right technology.
Those characteristics are what will open doors for you to higher level opportunities in your company. But not all companies have room for you to move up. It may be that they have exactly the right number of senior staff that they need, and you face a long wait for someone to be promoted or resign before you get the opportunity for advancement.
Fortunately those same characteristics are what will open doors for you to move on to new roles at other companies. In fact, it’s more likely that you will need to look outside your current employer to find the promotion you desire. It can be hard to leave a company you like working for, and people you like working with. But if you’ve outgrown your role and you have your sights set on bigger things, then that is just what you will need to do.
One of the advantages of moving to a new company is that it puts you in a better position to negotiate your compensation. A promotion within the same company will rarely come with a 30-50% salary increase. There’s no good reason for that. If you’re worth more money in the market, then you should get what you deserve. But a lot of employers are reluctant to give such a big pay increase to an existing employee. When you apply for roles with other companies, however, you get the opportunity to negotiate without the prospective new employer knowing your current salary.
Whether you’re looking for an internal promotion or you’re looking elsewhere for higher level roles, remember it is extremely rare for opportunities to just be handed to you out of nowhere. If you’re toiling away hoping that one day someone will notice and promote you, you could be waiting for a very long time. Make your intentions known. Ask your boss what it will take to be considered for a promotion. Formulate a plan to meet those requirements. If they don’t come to the party with the promotion you want, take your skills to the market instead.
Don’t be shy about job hopping. It can be a fast road to success. There are no bonus points for taking longer to get where you want to be. If you’re ready for that higher level role today, go out there and get it.
UPSKILLING AND STAYING EMPLOYABLE
Every job offers training and professional development. Almost none of them actually provide it. The lure of training has been dangled in front of me more times than I can remember. In nearly 20 years of working for other companies I attended a grand total of four technical training courses paid for by my employer. There would be a few seminars and free workshops as well. But any way you slice it, I was sent on paid training about once every four years.
When I eventually worked out my employers weren’t going to invest heavily in my professional development I started doing it myself. On a recent decluttering of our house I found dozens of old technical books and video training courses on DVD that I’d purchased. I’d spent thousands of dollars on them. Some of them were good, some of them not as useful.
Today an IT professional can get by with ebooks and online training courses. We can carry our entire training library everywhere we go on a laptop or mobile device. I still spend anywhere from $500-$2000 a year on professional development today. I’m fully aware that’s a lot of money and out of reach for many people in the industry. And that’s fine. I’m not going to tell you that a $2000 annual investment is necessary. In fact, you can get away with spending almost nothing on training, even if your employer is not contributing anything, and still pick up new skills all year round.
First, let’s break down how an IT professional can look at skills development. There are two types of skills IT pros should work on:
- Technical skills such as networking, databases, security, and specific vendor products.
- Soft skills such as business writing, time management, leadership, teamwork, and so on.
Technical skill development
Your technical skills fall into two categories: knowledge, and experience. In total there are four types of technical skills you possess:
- Conceptual awareness is your knowledge of how things work. This includes your understanding of things such as application models, architecture and design patterns, security concepts, and best practices. You can develop and maintain your conceptual awareness through reading books and white papers, watching videos and presentations, and participating in communities of your peers such as forums, Facebook groups and Reddit. These communities often discuss concepts in a product-agnostic manner, such as discussing security concepts and best practices like least-privilege access.
- Capability awareness is your knowledge of what a product or service can do. This extends your conceptual awareness by providing you with an understanding of how a specific product achieves an outcome. Keeping with the previous example of least- privilege access, your capability awareness would include an understanding that Microsoft Windows and Active Directory are capable of supporting a least-privilege access model, whereas your legacy phone system that can only be logged into with full admin rights is not capable. You can develop and maintain your capability awareness by following news, blogs, and RSS feeds. For example, software vendors often release blog posts and PR statements to journalists that their product is capable of something, but don’t go into technical detail on exactly how they do it. It doesn’t consume a lot of time or mental storage to stay up to date on what products are capable of. Maintaining your awareness of capabilities means you can confidently select products for evaluation when you need to solve a problem.
- Product training experience is your hands- on experience with a product or service under training conditions. Most technical training is constrained to a limited scenario that aligns with how the vendor thinks their product should be used. Real world deployments often stray from that ideal usage due to a wide range of factors that influence how we deploy technology in our unique organizations. There is still value in product training experience even if you haven’t used a product in the real world yet. You can develop and maintain your training experience by reading tutorials and training guides, watching or attending training courses, and sitting certification exams.
- Product usage experience is your hands-on experience with a product or service in real world conditions. This is your ‘on-the-job’ experience and can be highly valuable as you learn how a product behaves outside of the vendor’s ideal usage scenarios.
The best outcome is to put some time into all four areas of your skills. There will be ebbs and flows as you focus more on training one month, then implementation another month. But over the course of the year you should be satisfied that you’re growing in all areas.
Soft skill development
Keeping your skills sharp doesn’t just involve technical training, but also business and personal development. Soft skills such as business writing, leadership, and time management are important, no matter what role you’re in. You develop soft skills in two ways:
- Learning from books, training courses, or observing others
- Regularly practicing and using the skills
This is an area of constant learning. You should be working on growing your soft skills each year just as you work on growing your technical skills. Fortunately there is a wealth of information out there to help you grow in these areas.
You can find a list of my recommended books and other resources at survivingitbook.com/resources. I will also cover the soft skills of people management and time management in more detail in Chapters 4 and 5.
Developing and Maintaining Skills
To stay employable in the ever-changing technology world you need to:
- Build a solid foundation of conceptual awareness. This must not be overlooked because it is the basis upon which all your more specific capability, product training, and product usage knowledge is built.
- Stay up to date with the capabilities of the leading and emerging products in your areas of interest.
- Undergo regular product training in some form, whether it be classroom training, online courses, books, free videos on YouTube, or reading vendor documentation.
- Use the products that are available to you to the maximum extent possible. Simplicity is good, but a lot of us barely scratch the surface of what’s possible with the products we’re using day to day.
BLOGGING AND SIDE PROJECTS
Your resume makes claims about what you know. You get a chance to back up those claims in job interviews. Other people in your personal network can also vouch for what you claim to know. But one of the best ways to demonstrate your skills is to have a public portfolio of work.
Think about it, if you were to hire a landscaper to help you with your garden, would you hire the one that has a bullet list of services and a phone number on their website? Or would you hire the one that has photos of other garden projects they’ve completed, and a YouTube channel sharing gardening tips?
Technology workers have it easy in many respects, because our skills can be easily demonstrated.
- Blogging and article writing shows that you can explain a concept or problem clearly and concisely.
- Book writing demonstrates that you have a depth of understanding on a topic, and have the persistence to complete the long and fairly tedious publishing process.
- Publishing videos on YouTube shows that you can present material in a confident manner and with high production quality.
- Podcasting demonstrates that you can hold conversations with other experts, draw out information in a useful way, and speak confidently on topics in your field.
- Sharing code demonstrates that you can write clean, useful scripts and tools that work when used by people of varying skill levels.
- Any form of public content sharing demonstrates your attention to detail, how you interact with other people, and respond to feedback.
I attribute much of my career success to my willingness to share content and knowledge publicly. I’ve blogged for over 12 years, participated daily in forums and online communities, ran a podcast for a few years, and have made most of my scripts and tools available to the public on GitHub.
That said, it can be a lot of work. In one year I published as many as 130 new blog articles, on top of my podcasting, book writing, and working on training videos. This volume of production worked for me because blogging, book writing, and training courses were becoming my primary source of income. Consulting and other client work had become a secondary activity for me.
I’m not recommending you follow my lead in terms of quantity if all you want is a good public portfolio to help with your career. If I were looking at blogging as a complement to my day job in IT I would only aim to publish one or two good articles per month. Combined with one or two scripts or tools that I maintained on GitHub, that would be enough to showcase my skills. A lot of the people you see today who are well known for their content started out that way, just running a simple blog or YouTube channel and letting it grow slowly to a level that felt comfortable for them.
For some recommendations on how to start your own side project go to survivingitbook.com/resources.
SOCIAL MEDIA, FORUMS AND COMMUNITIES
As you meet and get to know people in person, make a digital connection as well. For all its faults, LinkedIn is the de facto contact list for professionals these days. The day after you’ve met someone, go look them up on LinkedIn and send them a connection request. Personalize it with a simple note such as “Nice to meet you at the Product X meetup. Hope your upgrade goes well, maybe we can compare notes next time.”
Facebook groups are also good places to maintain connections with people who you have things in common with, but don’t want to invite into your personal life by adding them as a Facebook friend. Twitter has been popular over the years, and still is for some topics. Other communities have a stronger presence on sites like Reddit or on Slack channels. Find the ones that allow you to make meaningful connections with people, share your knowledge, and reach out to when you need help yourself.
Many years ago I spent a lot of time on one of Australia’s more well known online forums, chatting about technical topics and other areas of interest. In those days the concept of a ‘personal brand’ wasn’t widely discussed. It was normal for people to use nicknames and pseudonyms online instead of their real names. I was no different, operating under a nickname I’d acquired some years earlier.
What I found was people who were interacting behind a fake name tended to behave in ways they probably wouldn’t if they were using their real name or speaking in person. I even fell into the trap myself, getting into arguments that were out of character for how I acted in real life. There’s something about anonymity that brings out the worst in people. Or perhaps it brings out their real personality. That’s a debate that could go on forever, and not one I want to get into (at least not without a nickname to hide behind … get it?).
Despite my bad behavior in some discussions, I had generally built up a positive reputation. I enjoyed the conversations, sharing my knowledge and helping people with problems. I recognized other users on the forum, and they recognized me. The trouble was, I couldn’t leverage that positive reputation to benefit my professional life. There was no connection between that forum persona and my real name. And if I established that connection, it would also connect my bad behavior on the forum to my real name.
The experience taught me two valuable lessons:
- Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face.
- While anonymity is important, building a good reputation online that you can’t leverage in real life is not a good investment of time.
I eventually abandoned that forum identity and started to establish myself online using my real name. Twitter, Reddit, other forums, Slack channels; all of them use my real name and photo. I take steps to protect my privacy and personal life, but I otherwise put myself out there in public and let people see the real me.
It hasn’t always been perfect. I get frustrated at times and have let myself get drawn into arguments now and then. But for the most part I behave the same way online that I would in person. I write carefully, because I’ve seen how a hastily written post can come across as rude or abrasive.
In doing so, I’ve learned some important life skills.
One is to be more empathetic when writing comments. It’s easy to criticize software bugs and use dismissive words like ‘crap’ and ‘garbage’ as descriptors. But that software I’m criticizing is someone’s professional work, something they have poured time and effort into before sharing with the world. They know it’s not perfect, but they’re doing their best.
The other life skill is to preserve my energy. You don’t need to look far to find something online to get angry about. There are conversations going on every day where you can barge in and add your opinion to the mix. And there are mistakes everywhere that you can point out to people. All of that takes energy. If you’re wondering why you feel tired and unmotivated at the end of the day, it could be because you’ve spent all your mental energy arguing online.
If your career is a business that means you need to be financially stable to survive. Personal finance is a huge topic that is covered in a wide range of books, online courses, and other material. I’m not a personal finance expert, so I’m not going to give you specific advice. What I will say is that there are two things you should have if you want to avoid financial troubles.
The first is basic financial literacy. Understand how banking works, and how inflation impacts the value of your cash. Understand how credit cards and loans work, and the difference between good debt and bad debt. Understand how taxes work – especially how they impact your take home pay. And understand basic budgeting so that you can live within your means and not slide deeper and deeper into financial strife.
The second important thing is understanding your financial position. Things that affect this are your cash reserves, assets and investments, and retirement savings. Having lots of assets such as property might seem like a strong position. But if you have debts that exceed those assets, or you can’t liquidate them quickly when you need emergency cash, then you might find yourself in trouble.
Your cash reserves are of particular importance when it comes to your career. Many of you are already familiar with the concept of a ‘f*** you’ fund. This is an amount of money you have in reserve in case of the need to quit your job on the spot. I would like to think you can avoid such a situation with some careful maneuvring around whatever problems you’re facing at work. But I realize some people unavoidably find themselves in a situation where if they don’t quit their job immediately it is going to cause them serious health problems, or even kill them.
I’m not a frugal person by any means. There is ‘fat’ in my budget that could be cut if needed. I have a gym membership, cable and Netflix subscriptions, a big download allowance on my internet connection, and many more small luxuries that all add up. In some ways this is a good thing. If we fall on hard times, there are obvious areas to make some quick cuts if we need to spend less money. In the meantime, life is for living.
Having disposable income now is no excuse for not learning useful life skills. We eat out sometimes, but we also know how to cook. If money was tight we wouldn’t eat out. But some people would find themselves at a loss for how to feed themselves if they couldn’t afford takeaways anymore.
Living a bare-bones lifestyle with no margin for error can be a stressful situation in itself. Being frugal and cost conscious is not the same as preventing yourself from enjoying life. If a Netflix subscription and a daily coffee brings you happiness, by all means keep them up. But not at the expense of your financial stability.
Quitting a job isn’t the only situation where you might need some emergency cash to survive. Studies have found that the leading cause of bankruptcy in the USA is medical bills. Even in countries where the public health system protects people from facing such expenses, not being able to work due to illness can still break you financially.
Fortunately there are insurances available to cover those situations. And although I’m not qualified to give you specific advice, it is certainly worth investigating your options to get insurance cover for illness, loss of income, death, or permanent disability. There is some comfort to be had from knowing that if you become seriously ill, your family will not find themselves homeless when you can’t make your mortgage payments.
In modern times we also have a lot of our most important information secured in online accounts. Ask yourself whether your family or friends would know what to do if you were incapacitated.
- Can they get to your passwords to deal with your accounts?
- Could they access your savings to ensure that your bills are paid?
- Could they sign contracts on your behalf to sell assets?
- Do they know where your will is stored?
Sort Out Your Personal Finance and Life Decisions
The hardest part of getting your life squared away is having to think about the worst possible scenario. It’s hard. I know because I’ve been through it myself.
- Do a budget for yourself or your household. Work out how much is coming in, how much you’re spending, and how much you need to be saving or investing. Be honest with yourself and include everything. Small expenses add up fast.
- If you have unmanageable debt, e.g. you’re paying interest only, deal with that immediately. Speak to an adviser if you need help creating a plan to get it paid off.
- Look at your worst case scenarios. Think of it as disaster planning. What would you or your family do in each situation? Do you have savings or insurances to cover those scenarios?
- Write up an emergency plan and store it in a fire safe or safe deposit box where the right people can get to it when they need to.
CHAPTER 3 RECAP
It’s worth investing time and energy in building your network within the industry as many of the best roles are never advertised. Those that are advertised often go to the person with the personal connection at the company.
- Moving up the career ladder will almost always require you to leave the company you’re currently with. The ability to do your current core duties at a consistently high level is key to being given opportunities to ascend that ladder.
- It is rare for an employer to invest in keeping your technical skills current. You will almost certainly have to do this for yourself and it need not cost a great deal of money.
- Soft skill development is as important as developing your technical skills – especially if you hope to take on a managerial position some time in the future.
- Blogging and other side projects are an excellent way to build a public portfolio and a personal brand that can be leveraged to progress in the industry.
- Personal finances are a crucial part of managing the Business of You. Poor financial management can force you into decisions that solve short-term financial problems at the expense of long-term career progression.
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