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Rich Career, Poor Career

What makes for a rich career? It is more than just the salary and benefits. A rich career is one that suits your talents and provides an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution, as well as one that provides the right compensation.

A rich career is one that has a rich return on investment. What is career ROI? It is more than a paycheck and healthcare benefits. Your career ROI is the entire package of what you receive in return for the investment of your energy, time, and talent in a career and an organization.

Career ROI can include monetary compensation and the typical benefits package. It can also include less tangible, indirect benefits, such as the opportunity to be involved in a professional association, credibility, status, and the reputation of the organization you work for - just to name a few. Career ROI is also unique to you: what you consider a return on your investment may not be important to the person who works across the hall or across the country.

To determine your own unique career ROI, identify what you receive from your current career, in addition to your salary and other standard benefits. Once you have determined your current career ROI, think about the elements that would make up the ideal career ROI for you. Think outside the standard HR benefits package.

Now that you know both your current ROI and your desired ROI, compare the two. How large is the gap?

If your current ROI does not add up, does it mean that you need to look for a new job or career? Not necessarily. Once you identify the elements of your ideal ROI, one option is to approach your current organization about making some changes.

Not all ROI changes require your employer to invest money to implement. For example, perhaps your ideal return on investment includes the opportunity to volunteer a few days a month for a nonprofit organization in the community that you are passionate about. Unless you are in a position where your employer would need to pay someone else to do your job during those days, this benefit would not result in a significant cost. In fact, it could bring value back to your employer, by enhancing its image in the community. If your employer is not willing or able to make changes to meet your desired ROI, you may decide it is time to start looking for a new opportunity.

Before you go searching for a bigger paycheck, take time to identify your career ROI. Then, if you decide it is time to look for a new job, you will know when you find the right opportunity for you.

Shannon Bradford is a writer and coach, teaching people how to master their brains to succeed in their careers and businesses. She is the author of Brain Power (John Wiley & Sons, 2002). Sign up for Shannon's free Career Minicourse at

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