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Is your career making a profit or a loss?

Updated: Oct 4, 2022

Is your career making a profit?

In this six-part series: Managing Your Career Like a Business, at some point, it makes sense that I have to ask the question: Is your career making a profit?


Regardless of whether a business is being run as a “side-hustle” or as an international corporation, companies at the end of the day want a profitable bottom line - it stands to reason that if you are managing your career like a business, you want to see some form of profit in your career too.

So what do I mean by profit? Essentially, profit is the bottom line. It reflects what is left after all costs have been accounted for. Effectively there are two parts to it - what are the costs of your specific career? and are these great or lesser than the value you extract from your career?

Depending on how you account for those costs and define value, you may see your career profit as purely financial - but I am hoping that after reading this blog you may see it from a broader perspective - one that is similar to the concept of the quadruple bottom line, ie people, planet, profit and spiritual/cultural.

If you manage your career like a business, are you measuring what's left after all costs have been accounted for? Are you measuring all the costs?

Analysts look at three types of profit: gross profit, operating profit and net profit. Each type provides more information about a company's performance and gives insights into where management attention needs to be focused.

  • Gross profit reflects sales minus the cost of goods sold.

  • Operating profit reflects what remains after deducting operating expenses from gross profit.

  • Net profit is what is left over after paying all expenses includes taxes and interest.

What are your career equivalents of gross profit, operating profit and net profit?

The gross profit of YOU Pty Ltd

Perhaps gross profit is the career equivalent of salary (including bonuses, perks etc) minus the cost of your time investment in work.

Each of us gets paid to do a job - in the form of a salary, bonuses, perks, as well as in a number of other indirect benefits. These could include work that stretches our boundaries and increases our learning edge, experiences that enrich the overall breadth and depth of our competency and agility in the workplace, the opportunity to travel to interesting projects of conferences, the opportunity to work with people that we enjoy spending time with.

Some of us invest a lot more time and mental energy into our work than we are paid for. This may be ok when the payoffs come in non-financial ways such as development opportunities that increase our future career value, relationships that expand our network and build our personal board of directors, and the chance to develop and refine our strengths.

But when the direct costs of your career (your time, your mental energy, your physical and emotional availability for other aspects of your life) outweigh your career's financial and growth potential, then perhaps your career's gross profit needs thorough attention.

The operating profit of YOU Pty Ltd

The operating expenses of a company are items like training costs, hardware and software, rent, and anything else that is not directly attributed to the cost of goods sold. Some operational costs are a wise investment while others can be frivolous and ill-thought-out.

What are your career operating expenses? How are they adding or stripping away value from your overall bottom line?

My view is that your operating expenses are choices that you make about where you invest your time and money in your career:

  • are you investing in building relationships, and your personal board of directors, or do you cost yourself the advantage of a diversity of perspectives and a network that you can leverage when you need to?

  • are you working with people that nourish you or deplete you?

  • are you investing in your ability to advocate for yourself and earning a voice at the table or do you cost yourself opportunities by remaining quiet?

  • are you investing time in understanding your personal value proposition, working with your strengths and building on your strengths, or are you costing yourself a strong personal brand and being influenced rather than being influential?

  • are you investing time to reflect on your personal career goals and ambitions and connect with what's important to you or do you cost yourself time and money pursuing what others, (perhaps with all the good intentions in the world) think you should be doing?

Net profit of YOU Pty Ltd

What is the equivalent of tax in the business of YOU Pty Ltd? What erodes your net profit? How high are the taxes in your career?

From my perspective career tax includes:

  • a destructive level of stress,

  • the real potential for burnout,

  • misalignment between personal and company values,

  • loss of meaning and purpose,

  • having a limited positive impact on your world,

  • low levels of control or influence over your future,

  • compromised relationships with family and friends.

For a long time, I think I looked at the gross profit of my career and convinced myself that a good salary and the opportunity to expand my portfolio of experiences was enough. And for a long time, it was enough! It was enough because my priorities were around working really hard, getting as many opportunities to apply myself as possible and consciously stretching myself to the limit to speed up my learning curve.

But at some point later in my career when my priorities changes, I started to examine my operating profit and eventually looked at my career net profit, and realised that even though I might have had a very comfortable gross profit, by the time I got to the net profit, I was making a loss.

Only you can decide if your career is making a profit or loss. If you are truly managing your career as a business, don't make the mistake of solely looking at profitability from a gross profit perspective though.


Want to learn more about managing your career as a business?

Sign up for my mini course Managing my career like a business. You'll get access to 10 videos that spell out what it means to manage your career like a business. You can watch these videos at your leisure.You'll also get downloadable worksheets to complete and a template to help create your own Career Story.

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