Increasing your human capital is an excellent way to put yourself in a position where you’re better prepared for life’s surprises, particularly when it comes to money. I’ve written about human capital in the past, but I’m taking a deeper look into ten ways you can boost this important aspect of self-worth — beyond the concrete net worth that garners much more attention.
Although I’ve been in a wide variety of leadership roles since I was a teenager, I’m not always at ease in those roles. I prefer not to step on other people’s toes and to let those assigned leadership roles to enjoy those positions without my interference. This isn’t an approach that I recommend. Organizations don’t pick leaders, the best leaders make themselves known outside of any selection process.
More experience in the workplace
In the workplace, I understand the position that one might only want to do what is in their official job description; after all, if more responsibilities are requested, those responsibilities should demand compensation. Going above and beyond the call of duty is an important piece of getting more experience — the right kind of experience that will increase your human capital. In my last organization, many of the rank-and-file workers were interested in nothing other than putting in their time at their desk, and clocking in and out at the expected time every day. Whenever an initiative arose that required work beyond their typical scope, whether in the nature of tasks or requiring a different schedule, there was friction between management and employees.
Those least willing to put in extra effort are the first to encounter difficulty justifying their job or their salary when the company decides to cut back on salary-related expenses. Those who have shown initiative though involvement with the industry outside the company, the company at large, and the business unit, beyond the scope of their job description, are the employees who are given the first opportunities to share in the company’s successes.
You job should not be the only thing that defines you. It bothers me that in social settings, one of the first questions a stranger might ask when meeting is, “What do you do?” When a stranger asks this question, the assumption is that they want to understand what your job is, as if this were the most important thing about you after your name.
While you’re learning
In college, my classmates who took the extra initiative outside of class to gain experience in their fields had a much easier time finding jobs after graduation. They made connections in the industry, and in some communities, already had those making hiring decisions familiar with their names. As a hobbyist photographer considering the possibility of creating an alternative stream of income for myself and my future, I’ve been spending some time doing some pro-bono work for friends as I learn the ropes of the business.
There’s no need to wait until the learning process is over to start gaining experience in a field, even if this is a second or third activity outside of your primary job, and even if this is a field for which you don’t plan to end your learning process with a degree. I subscribe to the belief that a degree does not signal the end of education. Learning is a life-long process, and more education increases your human capital, as well. You can boost your human capital further by allowing yourself to gain experience at the same time you’re learning about the activity or skill.
Looking beyond your job, searching for ways to gain more experience can help increase your value from an employer’s perspective or a client’s perspective. The people I’ve known whom I’ve found the most interesting have found a way to bridge two different areas. For example, those in my college’s Department of Music who found a way to combine their study of music with something else, such as technology, business, or culture, seemed better prepared to stand out in the community. Standing out among a crowd is a big indication of a higher level of human capital.
The ability to be known within the community from bridging doesn’t come from just being interested in intersecting fields of study, it comes from bringing two communities together through action and direct involvement.
Getting more experience often requires stepping outside of your comfort zone. This is not easy for a lot of people, particularly those who draw strength from internal thoughts and feelings rather than external stimuli. (Jungian psychologists often call these people Introverts.) Some who are pressured to seek experience before they believe are ready are often concerned with the world discovering they are “frauds.”
There is little risk, though, so given the potential benefit of increasing your human capital, it makes sense to gain as much experience as possible.
- Go the extra mile at your job or for your client, not only to gain more experience but to show that you are committed to being the best you can be.
- Be a leader in your field by taking leadership roles before they are assigned to you.
- Acquire experience in your field before you’d consider yourself “ready” by professional standards.
- Find connections between your interests and build experience bridging the two.
- Make your name known in your field by getting involved in public.
How do you suggest gaining more experience in your field?
Published or updated October 11, 2011.