You are your most important financial asset

I’ll admit one of the most naive ideas I ever had was that once I got a real, grown-up job I would be done. Like, done panicking and worrying about where my future would go, because I could just hang out in my office and do my work and keep getting promoted or something. In reality, I feel more overwhelmed by my career than ever before. Once you’re in the workforce, there seems to be even more options — but there’s also more to lose. I have a nice, stable job that I could stay in for decades if I choose to, BUT I’m also only in my mid-twenties with no long-term obligations and a seemingly endless array of opportunity.

I hold the sincere belief that, regardless of what investments you might have, you are always your most important financial asset.

Why? Because you and how you spend your time and efforts is what will determine how much money you receive to invest in tangible financial assets. If you work hard to develop your skills and experience, you will be eligible for higher-earning positions. On the other hand, if you don’t aggressively pursue more challenging roles, you will earn the minimum return on your investment in yourself.

You should protect your earning potential by:

Work hard on professional development. Take advantage of opportunities to learn new skills. Take classes, earn certifications, and volunteer for projects that are outside your realm of responsibility. You’ll reap the benefits in abilities and connections.

Keep your resume updated regularly. I have no intention of changing jobs any time soon, but I still update my resume every 6-8 months. This means should I ever be laid off or choose to make a career change, my resume is ready to go.

Collect mentors. I collect both professional and personal mentors. These are people who emulate characteristics or have achieved successes that I admire. I keep in touch with them regularly (coffee every few months) and learn about how they got to where they are and what they do to manage their success now. I strongly encourage everyone to do this. I credit so much of my own achievements to having the right mentors. The professional world is infinitely easier to navigate if you know someone with a map.

Network constantly. I probably don’t put as much energy into this as I should because I essentially coast on having a position that forces me to interact with a number of people in all different industries, but I  believe career success can hinge on knowing the right people so those relationships have to be created and nurtured. After I finally learned how to use LinkedIn with some semblance of competence, it became a useful way to keep my professional network in one place.

Work hard on the present but always look to the future. You can’t neglect your current position by constantly thinking about where you should go next, but you also can’t just expect to get to the next step if you’re not keeping your eyes open for the opportunity. If you’re interested in a certain business or industry, run a company check to learn more about it. Knowing where you want to get to next gives meaning and purpose to what you’re currently doing.

What do you think is essential to taking care of yourself & your earning potential in your twenties? What life/career advice would you give to your 20-something self (or someone else) about determining their professional future?

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Comments

  1. Don’t forget physically protecting yourself as well!
    When I was 22 and in grad school, I felt like I was too broke (and maybe too vain!) to buy a bike helmet. Well, you guessed it – I crashed, and luckily my head was fine, though I did have other injuries. Stupidly, it took that for me to realize that since my brain was my biggest asset, I should probably prioritize protecting it… I bit the bullet and bought a helmet the following weekend.

    • This is a really good point… I’m actually tempted to go back and edit the post and add it in.

      I think so many people take their health for granted (myself included, apparently, since I forgot about it entirely!) until they lose it, and then you realize how precious it is. You can’t work at all if you’re not physically or mentally able to.

  2. Keeping your resume up to date is great advice. If someone internal or a recruiter asks for it you fan provide it right away!

    • Agreed! I even keep a PDF copy on my iPhone so I can attach to emails or print it off somewhere when I’m on the go. It’s actually come in handy once or twice. I love how LinkedIn essentially makes a quick PDF resume for you. It’s not quite the format I use for my own but it’s an excellent quick fix for sure.

  3. John S @ Frugal Rules says:

    Great points. I agree especially with Developing yourself and networking. By stepping out of your comfort zone to do something that’s new to you, you show others that are looking that you’re willing to be challenged which can pay off in the long run. Networking is also key because you never know who that person you meet knows and how it can benefit you or them for that matter in the future.

    • Exactly! You make the connections in the strangest, most far-fetched ways sometimes and it will be years before you see the result. It’s so important.

  4. Great points! I’m trying not to overlook my health. For a couple of months, I was skipping work outs to go earn money at my side hustle. I noticed I started gaining weight. What good is money, if your health deteriorates? Now, I’m blocking off my work out time. If the babysitting conflicts with my work out time and I cannot miss it, then I can’t babysit.
    Life is all about choices and opportunities.

  5. This is definitely advice I could use right now. The tricky part for me is implementing it.

    • It is hard to implement it because it’s basically something you have to do all the time =\ Sometimes I’m not in the mood to do any kind of career development even when there’s great opportunity (ie. a professional event) but it’s just too risky to miss.

  6. Great points. This is something I’m trying to work on myself as well, especially the part about finding mentors.

  7. ”If you work hard to develop your skills and experience, you will be eligible for higher-earning positions. On the other hand, if you don’t aggressively pursue more challenging roles, you will earn the minimum return on your investment in yourself.” I think this applies to most but not all jobs…I’m thinking unionized workers etc…although I’m not unionized it doesn’t really apply to my job either…there is no ”higher earning position” but I agree, regardless of your job you should always put 110% into it!! Good tip on keeping resume up to date as well, add skills/training/continuing education courses as they’re learned.

  8. Hi Bridget,

    Great post. You mentioned mentors as people you should keep in touch with regularly to better your career. I completely agree with you. It’s so important; especially when you’re starting off in your career, to establish people within and outside of your workplace who you can look up to, not only for their talent/intellect, but also for their character as people. I remember when I was stuck at a crossroad in my career. I was unsure of the direction I should choose for my next role at TD. A mentor of mine walked me through it and helped me make my decision as she had been in the same position at one point in her career. She made me feel significantly more comfortable with my choice and looking back, she helped me make the right one! We both have been lucky to have these types of people surround us. Thanks for sharing and keep up the great posts.

    Andrew from TD

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