The stuff that builds great careers

by Anjali Gupta

The exploding job market over the last 4 years has made many believe that the “resume-view” of their careers is the view that matters.

The resume-view has clear breaks with one paragraph dedicated to each employer and a defined period attached to each. The more employers on the resume, the longer it will be. The more skills on the resume, the longer the skills section will be. And, the greater the brand value of the employer, the better the resume.

Frankly, I’m not surprised why the resume dominates career thinking.

The first thing they make you write before you can apply for your first job is the resume. So, most people assume the resume to be the single most important document that will build one’s career. The smart ones quickly figure out that this document was just supposed to get one started. The rest spend years adding more words to it. For them, the resume becomes the excuse to refuse or offer them an opportunity.

Another early mindset is the “ask mommy/daddy/friend” trap. It works for many things but not necessarily for career advice. Just because a person loves you more, doesn’t mean, he/she can advise you better. In fact, advice is very specific and must be taken from multiple sources, and taken only to develop a personal gut-feel and nothing else. For example, a person who runs a successful services company may not be the best adviser for a person starting a product company.

Once again, the smart ones figure out when they should not be asking their loved ones for advice. They go out and do what it takes to recognize real mentors and well-wishers for their career.

I am willing to bet that the best people out there – the best entrepreneurs, the best executives, the richest people on the planet, would have very short resumes (if they ever had to write one) and have rebelled against traditional career advice. If you look at their resume in their early years, they appear to be far behind their peers, and suddenly a decade later, they’re invincible! The classic story about the hare and tortoise race almost always applies if you analyze resumes of highly successful people.

The real question is not how soon you break away from these patterns but how frequently you change the questions you’re asking and the challenges you’re pursuing. For example, how quickly did you stop asking “should I get a new job or a new skill” and move on to asking – “who are the smart people around me”, “how do I define smart”, “what are the opportunities others are missing”, “how can I grow this business”, “what does it take to make money vs. save money”!

As first-time entrepreneurs we struggle every day to ask the right questions and find the right people to answer them. The first three years of any career move are all about breaking the mindsets that dominate our past. It’s no wonder that 1,000 days at anything is the mandatory time-line for survival.

In my experience, a great career has no breaks. You don’t move on! In essence, persistence is all about having the same goals over and over again, but using different tactics. You make your last impression at your current place of work count more than your first impression at the next place, and you make it count forever. You build a core set of well-wishers who will be in great positions to give you the take off you need when you’re ready. Companies don’t watch out for your career, it’s a small set of people who do. They don’t get mentioned on your resume. They just make your resume extinct!