Career as Portfolio

Weekly I/O#73

Treat your career as a portfolio of jobs, roles, and opportunities. Assess new opportunities in the context of your lifetime career portfolio, not just on individual risk or reward.

Article: Pmarca Guide to Career Planning: Opportunity

Professional money managers don't think about individual investments in isolation. Instead, they see investments as part of the portfolio. Each investment has its own risks and potential returns. Some investments may be riskier, but what matters is how they all balance out in the portfolio.

Marc Andreessen believes we should look at our career as a portfolio of various jobs, roles, and opportunities, each with individual risk and potential return. Risk can be job instability, geographic constraints, or the opportunity cost of not pursuing other options. Potential returns can be skill development, valuable experiences, networking opportunities, or income.

Treating your career as a portfolio enables long-term, strategic planning over its likely 50+ year span. In an early career, fresh out of school, you may lean towards riskier roles with higher returns in skill development, experience, and connection. This might change when you have a family, shifting towards more stable and secure roles. As your life circumstances change again, your portfolio can adapt to include roles that offer a different balance of risk and reward.

Therefore, when an opportunity pops up, we should not evaluate it as a standalone prospect, pondering whether this opportunity is too risky or too secure. Instead, we should assess how each opportunity fits strategically within the broader context of a lifetime career portfolio.

While Marc’s idea of viewing your career as a portfolio is useful, it is crucial to note a key difference between the two. Careers are sequential, where one role can directly affect future opportunities, meaning they are often interconnected. On the other hand, investments in a portfolio are usually aimed to have a low or even negative correlation to reduce risk. In other words, they operate in parallel and are generally not related.

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