Career Management: Bet on yourself or your resume?

poker chipsWhat a great way to think about certain career and life choices.

The comment was made by Carlson School alum Sam Rosen while talking about entrepreneurship and risk at our “offroaders’ symposium” a few weeks ago. The event was a pilot attempt at better supporting more diverse set of students’ interests and needs in pursuing “non-traditional” career opportunities. The building was filled with students seeking “something different” and alums and area executives who had companies or roles that are off the typical b-school radar (think NGOs, smaller companies etc).

Sam’s point, which I love, is that if you want to do something different you have to have the personal confidence to bet on yourself. That might be taking an unconventional role in a large organization, diverging into something radically different than what is expected of you or venturing out on your own. To do this you have to have enough faith in your abilities to march to your own drummer.

Betting on yourself in this construct is looking in the mirror and feeling that you’re willing to roll the dice on the capability and drive of the person staring back, whatever the challenge at hand. This doesn’t mean just go take crazy risks. Rather, when your passion for something meets an exciting opportunity do you have the comfort level to actually “bet on yourself” that you’ll be able to figure things out?

Betting on your resume is more about playing the odds, building your experience, moving from station to station in a predictable way. Here I think about high achieving, but “establishment” personalities. “I’ll be at that large place and follow the rules while out-competing others.” This path is more risk averse and even when taking risks, they tend to be in the context of an organizational safety net. The question here often comes back to “how will this look on my resume?”

Neither path is more admirable than the other. The distinction relates to your motivation and passion for a given opportunity at a given point in time.

So the question for you is really, are you satisfied with where you are and the journey that seems likely on the current path you’re on? If “yes” then you’re good. If “no”, you may need to spend a little time thinking about what you really want (some prior thoughts on “figuring out what you want“).

If you decide that you need a change, Sam’s question is a great one…Do you want to bet on your resume or you?

3 thoughts on “Career Management: Bet on yourself or your resume?

  1. I really agree with betting on your capability and drive, but I think one of the most important things to do is to define one or two things which are very special about you – your special capabilities. These are likely to be related to your passions as well. Then you can then bet on these and target them to markets where you believe they will be most valuable. This will give you the greatest chance of career success.

  2. Hi Phil,

    I was going to mention you should write a book “Betting on Yourself” but alas, someone else already wrote one. 🙂

    Good article, you made great points. Many people absolutely hate where they work. If someone works a typical 40 hour plus work week, that is a large amount of time to spend unhappy. At the end of the day, I’d hate to look back and say “I wish I would have…..”

    Sarah Powers

    • I agree. The mantra these days seems to be “YOLO” (you only live once). There aren’t “do-overs” in life.

      Having said that, but it’s important to draw a distinction at work between “I’m miserable and it won’t change” and “this job isn’t great right now, but the company/organization (etc.) is worth sticking it out for”. I see many millennials misled into believing they should be happy at work and that “happiness” is a reasonable pursuit. I’m of the “it’s a byproduct of meaningful work and actual accomplishment” school.

      I like what i do, but don’t expect every day to be fulfilling. I’m looking for the long term balance. I think about whether my emotional taxes and returns are in appropriate balance.

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