Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Invest in your talent or in others' talent

Every day, whether we know it or not, we invest in our talent or we invest in other people's talent. Since talent determines one's career, investing in a talent basically means investing in a career.

If I buy a music CD costing me $30, then I invested exactly $30 in the talent and career of the singer or the band (not to mention the marketing company or recording label, the retail store selling the CD, etc.).

If I watch CSI for an hour, then I invested an hour of my life in the talent and career of the actors, director, screenplay writers of CSI.

If I buy a movie ticket at $8.00, then I invested $8.00 in the talent and career of the director, actors, production designers, etc. involved in the production of the movie.

On the other hand, if I repress my consumerist urges and invest the above dollars on a notepad, a nice fountain pen, a book on copywriting, etc. then I've invested that much money into my own talent and career as a writer.

Or if, instead of watching TV for two hours, I spend it talking to a person in my network who is highly knowledgeable about my field, then I've gained valuable knowledge that will help me in my career.

The question is, Why aren't people thinking about it that way? If our time and our money are limited, why don't we invest it in our own talent or career?

Why? Why? Why?

I think it's because we have been conditioned to think in terms of "jobs." The news media always talks about job creation, the unemployment rate, etc. They never talk about investing in your talent. Heck, the news anchor doesn't even know you exist.

Thinking about jobs is so ingrained in our culture. For example, what is the first thing that a university graduate thinks about, upon graduating? Finding a job.

(If he doesn't, his parents will remind him soon enough).

He/she is not really thinking about finding his/her talent and developing it to commercial adequacy (that is, to a point where he can make money by using his talent).

(I began working full-time for a consulting firm one day after I graduated. I never had any time to think about my talent -- to be honest, I never even thought I had any talent!).

Yet thinking about jobs without thinking seriously about one's talent, may be very dangerous and risky in today's talent economy.

Indeed, companies exist to capture talented people and make them work for the capitalists who own the company.

Companies do not exist to give people jobs. Getting a job is only a natural consequence of having the talent that companies are looking for.

In other words, the strategic mindset should be to "look for one's talent" and not "look for a job out there."

Talent = cause. Job = effect.

Fortunately, with tools like LinkedIn, people can subtly display their talent and make themselves available to decision-makers and companies that are looking for talent. (Of course, this assumes that you have written your profile after much strategic premeditation).

This being said, it is obvious that some people use LinkedIn to find a job, while others use it more strategically to connect with people who will help them develop their talent.

We'll explore this further in an upcoming posting.