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Your career is an open field

August 25, 2015
By Mike Baker

Too often people wait to talk about their careers until they are unhappy. Your career is something you should always be actively nurturing to grow. Here are my top ten “lessons learned” in cultivating my career.

1. We are all entrepreneurs

That is a bit of a provocative thought. You have to create a plan for yourself, nobody will build one for you. For me, I love entrepreneurship in general. So, to fulfill my intellectual curiosity I am an investor in 28 companies. DataXu is my day job.

2.“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards” (Steve Jobs)

You don’t always know where your career will take you and that’s OK. My first job was playing in a band, but we were wiped out by a dispute with our manager. I needed a lawyer, who ultimately became my mentor and inspired me to go to law school that led to my career as both entrepreneur and a VC.

3.Invest in yourself

In your eagerness to move ahead, don’t forget to reinvest and sow the seeds of your career. Keep learning and always be conscious about your decisions. For example, do you want to work for a big company or do you want to be a bigger player at a startup? This is a major decision that you should deliberately choose — not let happen to you.

4.You career is a web not a transaction

How often you change jobs — and why — is something to carefully consider before making a move. Have you played a key role in an important business outcome? Or did you leave a job without making a notworthy contribution? Are there more pages in your resume than decades in your career? Your peers’ opinion of you is at stake. And, in the end, your reputation is the most valuable professional asset you have. So don’t short it!

5.Attract mentors

Mentors are an amazing resource for career and personal growth. Some people are good at attracting mentors – they are good mentees: They listen and are open and vulnerable. The more you take interest and learn and grow from what you are hearing, the more your mentor will help you.

6.Take good risks

People often overestimate the downside of taking action in their careers, but risk isn’t bad. You should understand the upside vs. the downside of your decision. I left a cushy big company, took a pay cut and worked more but received options that ultimately were worth more than my total salary to that point…well worth the risk.

7.You are the company you keep

What is your number one reason for staying with a company? People stay because of people. Why do developers stay besides people? A new language to learn or a big data problem to solve. If you don’t respect the company you are with or aren’t challenged, you should leave.

8.Your compensation is a portfolio

You have to think both short and long term and then high and low risk. Find different ways you can make money – salary, bonus, equity as an employee is the obvious mix. But, wealth can also be built from equity as an investor, board member or advisor. But don’t forget, you also building your skills through all of the experiences surrounding these opportunities.

9.What goes around comes around

In a situation where the workplace is tense, it is important to continue to treat one another in a respectful way. Treat people the way you would want to be treated. By treating one another with respect, you will continue to be able to work together in partnerships in the future.

10.Reputation – you only have one

Your peers elect you to leadership roles; their opinion matters more than that of your boss. We work in the small world of high knowledge workers, even though we form a global community. Jealously protect your reputation with your peers. If you worked with me, people are going to call me to get a reference. Whenever you make a transition, leave on a good note.

You’re off to a great start with your education and internship program. Now, chart your course to success and have a phenomenal time along the journey!

Good Luck,


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