What Does It Really Mean To Accelerate Your Career?

If one phrase captures what Kadima stands for, it’s “accelerate your career.”

Yet, recently, it struck me that nowhere have I spelled out what that even means.

I could truthfully write a book about career acceleration, but for today, I’ll just introduce the concept that changed my career and my life.

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This, but for your career.

When someone recently asked me what “career acceleration” meant, I had to sit back and think for a second.

The first thing I said was that (in my experience) people tend to just meander and wait for things to happen. In their entire lives, but specifically at work.

That’s not necessarily a problem, in and of itself. We all become ready in our own time to take the reins.

What I noticed, though, was that when people came to me asking “am I growing intellectually, financially, emotionally” or whatever area it may be…they usually compared themselves to people in their cohort.

Their college classmates, their MBA class, their age group, their family members, the friends they grew up with.

Meaning their entire benchmark for where they are or where they could be, comes from that tiny sample of their own life exposures.

The way I always looked at life and career was:

Year over year, quarter over quarter, month over month –– you can either be going forward, backward, or stagnating.

To me, career acceleration means that when you change jobs, there’s some type of step function change.

Whether it’s learning, whether it’s income, whether it’s opportunity –– career acceleration involves a big leap in one (or ideally more) of these areas. 

Not a lateral move. Not a little step. A LEAP!

That’s always what I have been interested in: the next big leap.

  • When I went into baseball I took a role as an unpaid intern for the Mets. That definitely wasn’t a step function change in my income, because I didn’t earn any. However, that internship gave me the exposure to be promoted to Director of Promotions for the New Haven Ravens. 
  • When I got accepted and went to Columbia Business School, that was a step function change in credibility. I instantly got taken seriously by companies who wouldn’t have paid me any attention before.
  • When I did an internship at Kraft, going to Terrytown for $16 / hour (during business school) that was another step function change in credibility. I got 10 interviews from companies like American Express, L’Oreal, Unilever, and Citibank that would not have considered me unless I was seen as “someone who came from Kraft.”

These are just a few examples from early in my career, before getting into Big Tech.

Later career accelerations (like getting into Google after five failed tries) were step function changes in multiple areas: credibility, income, growth, skill development, and my personal network.

When I got into Google the trajectory of my compensation growth just flat out accelerated. 

Before Google (or BG, as I’ve come to call it) my compensation was going up at a compound annual growth rate of 8%. After Google (AG) that number went up to 13% annualized over the next decade –– and that’s in spite of me fucking up in a lot of ways! 

Early in my tech career, I didn’t negotiate as much. I revealed my current compensation (huge mistake.) I didn’t have a Best Alternative To Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) to wield as leverage.

Still –– just simply by getting into the jetstream of a high-growth industry, my compensation and ceiling for growth went way up.

As I got more experience and seasoning in tech, I iterated my approach to career acceleration.

When I jumped to Salesforce, that was a step function change in skill development, as the company paid for me to see a personal coach. 

Google actually did something similar. They flew me and the other Level 7’s out for some fantastic public speaking training.

My network also accelerated geometrically by working in tech.

At Google, my role was cross-functional and global which meant I was in day in, day out contact with people all over the organization.

I started rubbing shoulders with all kinds of cool and smart people in different departments. 

Not everyone likes or is comfortable in these cross-functional roles, but I was, and I loved it.

I met people in recruiting because I had to hire. Finance because I had to get my budgets approved. Sales Operations because I had to manage my resources. Engineering because they worked on the products that my team supported. 

I also worked globally, which was intimidating at first since I had only run small co-located teams before Google. Once I got there, I traveled every 8 weeks or so. By the time I got to Tableau, I was traveling every 2 weeks right up until COVID.

At Facebook, I took my whole team of 15 to Austin TX for a 3-day offsite. Each day, after taking care of business at FB offices, we all broke away to Stubb’s (a cool bar there) on their dime. 

The conversations you have in that setting are completely different than standard banter around the office. We even got to see Maggie Rogers live one night while we were out there (also on the company’s dime.)

All of this natural networking increased my Surface Area of Luck to an insane degree, fostering a ton of career acceleration.

I can give countless examples of career acceleration in action, and I will in future posts or podcasts.

It’s also likely that career acceleration will mean something different to you than it does to me.

The overarching point is simply about broadening your perception of what’s possible, and how far you can accelerate your career if you choose to.