The Best Advice I Ever Received
This Blog was first published on October 22, 2012 by the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation as part of their The Best Advice I Ever Received series
After thirty plus years in high tech, it is very difficult to narrow down all the advice to the "Best Advice I Ever Received" so I will default to the advice that I have repeated most to others: "You carry your unemployment insurance on your back". This advice was given by my boss at IBM in 1983 and what he meant was that only you are responsible for your future career. No one is going to hand it to you. The skills and experience you build and display on your resume are what will keep your career growing and keep you always employed. He also meant with this knowledge of always being in-demand and employed, comes the self-confidence to take risks in your career.
From that day forward, I have viewed my resume as the "productized" version of me. As a product, I have invested in building it by taking lateral moves instead of promotions to fill in a skill or experience gap; by taking on tasks that I really didn't want to touch; by doing jobs that weren't my first choice; and by not chasing some opportunities that would have taken me off-path. While this sounds planned, a great deal of it was serendipity and good luck that put me at the right place at the right time or kept me from making stupid career moves that would have de-valued or crushed my resume.
Employers don't want to hire "wanna-be's" to fill a job. They want to hire people who have already proven and demonstrated that they have the abilities to do their next job. The risks and costs of mis-hiring are too great to do otherwise. So the advice I pass along to employees early in their career is to take the time to build a foundation of broad skills and experience. Treat your resume like a product and invest in it. And remember, in a twenty-five to thirty-five year career, you are running a marathon, not a sprint.