Skill, Audience, Network: 3 Currencies That Define Your Career
Here's a useful framework: thinking about your career as one that collects different types of currencies.
Think of it like foreign exchange. You can convert these currencies back and forth, but more importantly, you can convert them into actual currency – ie. money.
The most important currency is Skill: getting better at your job and knowing how to increase your impact. Refining your understanding of how marketing works and how business growth works, and being able to apply that knowledge across a variety of domains.
Hopefully, this is obvious. The only problem is that most marketers stop here, not realizing there are other currencies to collect. If you come across a marketer who feels stuck in their career, or has a mindset where they feel like the world doesn't "recognize their genius" then it's because they presumably have lots of the Skill currency but haven't had accumulated any of the other currencies.
Getting more Audience currency doesn’t mean you become a self promoting guru or chase follower growth on social media.
But not knowing how to build an audience that recognizes your Skill is sometimes just as bad as your Skill not existing in the first place! When it comes to career skills, we have a solution to the old riddle: if a tree falls down in the forest, and no one is around to hear it ... no, it doesn't make a sound.
So how do you rack up Audience currency? Sometimes, you get it just because you work for a high-profile company that people are interested in. Or you worked for a hot company at the right time.
In other cases, you have to build an audience yourself.
Again, audience doesn't necessarily mean you have to be world-famous. Perhaps you have some level of fame within your industry, or even within your company. Having a good "reputation that precedes you" is very valuable: you have people that you don't know cheering for your success, who view you as an authority, who would buy things from you, and expose you to opportunities that people without audiences would not get.
This is traditionally the toughest one: You either have overwhelming amounts of the first 2 that people seek you out, or you worked for a large company, or you live in a tech hub and you can't help but meeting new people.
My own version of collecting Network currency is by starting a community for marketers in APAC. But there are many paths. This could also just be someone who does a lot of coffee chats, attends a lot of events, or is generally visible and known within their industry. Network is valuable for the same reason Audience is: a wider surface area of opportunities.
It increases your career resilience factor and gives you unfair advantages. A mediocre marketer who worked at Facebook for 10 years is going to have a larger network, and therefore have a larger TAM of opportunities compared to a super-smart marketer who worked at a small business.
One final thought: all of these currencies decay over time. Each has a half-life. They need constant renewal. It's one of the reasons people feel stuck in the middle of their careers.
To avoid a mid-career crisis, make sure you're aware of these 3 currencies and create a conscious strategy for ensuring you're at the appropriate balance to help you reach your goals.