Three excellent career moves for a new year

Here are three career moves that I strongly recommend you initiate this year, and maintain for the rest of your working (and non-working) life.

None of these suggestions are specific to aerospace, or any other profession, for that matter.

They are hard to start.

They are hard to maintain.

And they WORK.

(1) Save

A lot.

I mean, at least 6 months’ worth of living expenses, and preferably more.

Put it aside somewhere where you won’t be tempted to dip into it frivolously.

Most aerospace types I know save very little. They live from hand to mouth. Were trouble to strike, they just figure a government social safety net will be there for them, or they’ll be able to sponge off family or neighbours.

(And to be fair, that usually is possible. But they fail to consider the impact on their dignity and self-esteem when they do it.)

By saving up several months’ worth of living expenses, you are creating your own social safety net.

And you will be able to take advantage of it, not just when you fall ill or lose your job, but when an incredible opportunity suddenly comes along, or you get bored and just want a long break.

Without your own social safety net, you are beholden to your employer, or other erstwhile master. When opportunity comes to create freedom for yourself, your master holds the cards, and can (and usually does) make it nigh impossible for you to escape.

I’ve been there.

The fact that you are reading these words is testament to the power of saving. When I went freelance in 2008, I was careful to control my spending, and I put a lot away. Four years later, I had enough cash put away to take several months off. I had time to write feverishly for this blog. Which I did.

Saving up this much money can take time. It’s especially hard to do if you’re early in your career, salaries are low in your area, you have small mouths to feed, or your spendthrift life partner sees money saved as a missed opportunity.

You may have to discipline yourself rigorously and/or do some educating of your partner.

I’ve been there, too.

Fortunately, once you’ve established the habit of saving heavily, it stops seeming like hardship. And eventually, you will get there.

Start small if you have to.

But start.

(2) Invest

One way of putting your own social safety net beyond temptation is to invest it wisely.

I’m currently reading Benjamin Graham’s classic, The Intelligent Investor. If you don’t recognise it, it’s been the bible for Warren Buffett, who, last time I checked, still regularly duels with Bill Gates for the title of Richest Person in the World.

King Solomon, the Warren Buffett of his time, wrote “He who gathers money little by little makes it grow”, and “Invest in seven ventures, yes even in eight, for you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.”

Become interested in money, finance, investment strategy, etc.

But don’t fear it, or respect it too much.

I once overheard a chief engineer say, “Engineers aren’t interested in money. They just want to create cool stuff.”

I bumped into him after he retired, and discovered he lived not far from me.

I checked out the neighbourhood he lived in.

He was interested in money, all right. He just didn’t want the people working for him to be.

By getting moneh-savvy, and (smartly) investing your savings, you get a double return. Your money makes more money, and you earn the rare skill of knowing how to do so.

(3) Invest in yourself

Invest heavily not just in your skill set, but also in your mind set.

Who are the people you admire? Who does what you want to do? Who do you want to emulate?

Find out how they do (or did) it. Learn from them. Read their books. Seek to befriend them. Get access to their time and wisdom.

Most importantly, find out how they think about themselves.

Time is the only real non-renewable resource.

Spend it (or should I say invest it?) wisely.

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