How To Design Your Career For Success ✓ (And How To Ruin It)


In this week’s episode, I’ll share with you how you can design a career for nothing but success, a career that appreciates in value as years progress…






Nowadays, It’s a cool thing to say follow your passion, follow your interests, make a career out of it, find that niche where your passion meets the needs of the community.

I keep seeing this everywhere in all the TED Talks. It’s crazy.

If you get a job that you love – your dream job – then you will never have to work a day in your life.

I think it makes no sense. You don’t design a career around a single input. Your career is a 4-decade long investment. You want that career to appreciate as years go by.

And just like how you wouldn’t go invest all your savings into a particular stock or a commodity just because you love that asset, you can’t design your career based on only what you are interested in.

If you do this mistake, you’ll hate your 30s, 40s, and 50s when you get replaced by a 22-year-old fresh graduate right out of college and you’ll find yourself unemployed for a very long time.

In this video, I want to share with you how you can logically design a career that will only appreciate in value as years progress.

Deloitte regularly runs studies analyzing the workforce dynamics, and one of their recent studies indicated that 80% of today’s corporate professionals do not like their jobs. And that amongst the millennials, 66% are expected to leave their jobs within 2 years.

And that study led people most people to think that there is only one type of a job that you can be happy about. And that if you don’t get that dream job, you’ll be unhappy, you’ll feel unfulfilled.

Then as a result of studies like this, so many career strategists and career consultants popped up left and right, helping people find their passion and helping them design their careers around those passions and interests.

So, I read the report a few times. And I found it very misleading. The study is extremely high level.

If you read the report, you’d definitely think that the reason most employees are unhappy at work is that they work at jobs not properly aligned to their talents, strengths, and interests. This is a wrong way to look at job dynamics.

Creating a happiness index for jobs makes you ignore the building blocks of jobs,

building blocks?

Yes, building blocks of jobs are tasks.

A combination of tasks makes up a job. So, it’s almost like a job is the end product. But tasks are what makes up that end product.

and that tasks are almost like living organisms, they change, they evolve.  From a project to a project, with promotion, with your employer implementing restructuring, becoming more lean, with the advancement of automation, with changing market dynamics, tasks change all the time.

It’s just matter of finding a constant balance as these tasks evolve.

For example, If you are a junior consultant at PwC, you will be doing a lot of research, preparing a lot of powerpoint presentation, a lot of internal processes related tasks, fill up this sheet, fill up that form, research this for this client, and so on. But as you progress in your career, you assume more responsibilities, you start getting engaged with clients, prepare proposals, work with subject matter experts, deliver client presentations, run workshops, prepare reports for partners, and when you become a partner, then again you have completely different tasks, and these tasks again completely change based on the nature of projects we handle.

In simple terms, there is no dream job waiting for you out there.

There may be dream tasks, fine, but no dream jobs. And those dream tasks will not stay for long.

Why is this important?

It’s very important because you cannot achieve success in your career if you keep on changing your industry just because you are thinking this is not your ideal job, or your ideal industry based on the tasks you are required to do at that particular time.

That’s insane.

So, how do you design a career then.

Let me walk you through the 3 criteria most people apply when deciding on a career. And let me share my views on each one of them.

Once I am done with those criteria, then I am going to share with you a very very critical element that will either make you a superstar performer or if ignored, will make you fail in achieving success.

Good. So, let’s start with first criterion;

First one is; The Appeal of the profession. The “cool factor”

Most kids who were born in 1960s, wanted to be astronauts, right? Started with Yuri Gagarin, first man in space in 61 then the Apollo missions of U.S. Then, Apollo 11 successfully landing on Moon. It was an era when most kids wanted to be astronauts. It was the coolest profession to have. For some, it still is.

But now we have a better visibility into what a typical astronaut does. We now know that an astronaut spends less than 1% of his career in space. The remaining 99% is spent on training, engineering, physics, simulations, and then training again and again. Becoming an astronaut is so dreadful that most aerospace engineers or scientists who are training to become astronauts never make it to space. What does this mean?

It means if you want to become an astronaut, you don’t say it’s cool to be one instead you look at certain tasks that you will be required to do for the lifetime of the profession. And then evaluate your capabilities and willingness to carry them out versus your satisfaction towards those tasks. You have more chances of getting hit by a car than an astronaut in training to make it to space and do a space walk.

Another cool profession is especially for MBAs is my profession management consulting. Majority of today’s MBA graduates, want to be either management consultants, or they want to be investment bankers.

Somehow MBAs created this perception that management consulting is really cool. We help solve the biggest problems of the corporate world. We create strategies that are out of this world…

The reality is very different, in my almost a decade long consulting career, 4 years with PricewaterhouseCoopers, in strategy consulting my typical day would be far from being cool;

Answer 100 emails everyday, attend at least 10 meetings or phone calls, 10 presentations a week, manage multiple teams from all around the world, all at the same time, fly all around the world all the time, this sounds nice, and it is, when you are in your 20s, but it kind of sucks once you have a family and you are in your mid 30s, create hypothesis and test them, carry out advanced statistics and run models, where is the cool in it?

and maybe only maybe and if I am lucky spend 1 hour every week, truly creating strategies, and thinking out of the box.  So, 1 hour of tasks that I love doing, 40 hours of tasks that don’t kill me that I am fine with, and about 10 hours of tasks that I hate.

So, my ratios would be 2% I love, 80% I am fine with, and 18% I hate.

So, that “cool factor” is highly misleading.

Let’s move on to the 2nd consideration when choosing a career.

And this one is Your Passion and Interests.

Follow your passion.

If you find a job that you are passionate about then you will never have to work a day in your life!


Your passion and your interests change. You are not passionate about the same things you were last year, or 5 years ago, or 10 years ago. Your career, on the other hand, is a 4-decade progress. You can’t afford to become vulnerable to the change in your career as your passion and interests change. You cannot be successful if you change your career every 2 to 5 years and start over from the beginning.

It’s like similar to joining a 100 meter sprint race, but then every 10 metres, you go back to the start line and start over. Forget about winning, how are you even going to finish that race?

That’s the exact formula to fail. when you are building a career, you are building an infrastructure for a massive success in your 30s, 40s, and 50s.

A side note here; I am not talking about becoming an entrepreneur. That’s completely out of my scope. And out of the scope of my channel. So, I am referring to building a successful corporate career.

I want to give you an example.

But before I do it, I want to give you a disclaimer.

My views, my opinions, aren’t derived from a bunch of personal experiences that I have seen. That’s not the right way to base an opinion. My views are based on what I have seen in my 15-year career, being a consultant, having over 200 clients, and having worked with more than 2000 professionals, observing their progress, all around the world, and clearly seeing causations.

So the first example is a friend of mine. I don’t wanna say his name here. But he had a brilliant career with an investment bank in London. His last bonus was I think around 200,000 pounds. Just a bonus, not a salary. He was relatively happy at work. He was fine. I mean we would meet after work and get a few drinks. It’s like a normal distribution, 10% of his tasks he loved, 80% he was fine with, and 10% he hated.

So his passion is healthy living and body building. He is a buff guy. So, he left his career and invested his bonus in becoming a partner in a local gym. And the other investors assigned him as the CEO.

He hated it. Because he was passionate about healthy living and working out, not the accounting of a gym, supply chain, marketing, sales, dealing with body builders throwing steroid tantrums in the gym. That wasn’t his passion.

So the happiness ratio of his tasks completely changed. Now it was more like 1% of the tasks he loved, 9% he was fine with, and 90% he hated.

So, he quit the job. But he couldn’t get back to his former career.

Or another one, like another friend of mine, he was passionate about a certain mission, then his passion just changed, it disappeared, and he was stuck in a career he hated, and eventually became jobless.

Makes sense?

I can give you 100s of examples like this.

The punchline is this; just because you are passionate or interested in a certain mission, it doesn’t mean you will have to build a career out of it.

See them as 2 separate aspects of life.

If your passion is mathematics, solve Millenium Prize Problems at home. Get in touch with Clay Mathematics Institute. You don’t need to work as a math teacher.

Let’s move on to the final one. The 3rd factor in deciding a career. And this one is an opportunistic view.

This is the viewpoint that is closest to my own beliefs. As long as it doesn’t violate my own ethics codes, that what I do doesn’t harm other people, I always shoot for careers that have the maximum potential for financial benefits. Because those financial benefits will allow you to follow your passion and interests after working hours or in the weekends.

Trust me, a 6 figure salary will let you follow all your passions. You are passionate about butterflies, no problem, go set up a butterfly charity organization with that bonus. You are passionate about cupcakes, no problem, go make them all day long in the weekends or after working hours. You are passionate about sailing, cool, go buy a boat, because you can afford it.

So, that was always my first priority. Maximum income potential without violating my own code of ethics. For example, I can never work for a Tobacco company regardless of how much they pay me. That would be my redline.

And remember this, your career is an investment. You will not see the benefits immediately. If you want a career in investment banking, Goldman Sachs is not going to hire you just because you want it immediately. But if you take the necessary steps you will eventually get there. You want to be a management consultant, PwC is not going to hire you immediately. But again if you take the necessary steps, you’ll eventually get there. Maybe in a few years, maybe in 5, maybe in 10. But you’ll get there.

Again, it’s like an investment. You put your money into your savings account, it won’t double your money over night. It takes time for the compounding effect to work for you. But you’ll only get there if you stick to it. If you stay in the course.


Now let’s get to the final part of this video; the most important part.

All of what I covered so far, the appeal, the passion, and opportunistic view, they are all fine and you can consider them all as inputs.

They should not be necessarily the routes you take, but rather inputs. Inputs to help you make your decision.

But there is one more input that rules over any of those I covered. This one is the most critical one. You don’t get this right, you are guaranteed to fail.

You get it right, you are guaranteed to win. It’s a surefire way to succeed.

Now, It’ll take me a few minutes to explain it, so please bear with me.

Your employer is like a currency exchange house. You go and you deposit 230 hours and they give you 5,000 dollars or whatever the salary you get in exchange.

230 hours – 5000 dollars.

So it’s Hourly Rate * Available Hours = Salary

This is fairly simple. Now, if you are an employee, the available hours in this equation is a constant, you can’t work 24/7. Meaning the only thing that can change is the hourly rate to get a higher salary.

And your hourly rate comes directly from the value you create for your employer.

Meaning to get a higher salary in future, your value to your employer must increase.

And your value to your employer doesn’t just automatically increase just because years pass and you accumulate more general experience.

Now, if you want your career to give you the future financial benefits you desire, you will have to get significantly better at what you do which should result in more value to your employer.

Career progression has nothing to do with progression in your job title.

Getting a manager title as opposed to a supervisor title means nothing. It only helps fooling bunch of HR.

It’s the new skills and experiences you develop that makes you more money. That’s what your current or future employer values.

So ask yourself the question,

Are you more valuable to your employer now compared to last year? If the answer is no, then it means you just wasted a whole year worth of investment return. As if it’s like you are carrying out discounted cash flow analysis to give a valuation for your own career. You know how DCF works right, you are discounting your future earnings to the present at a certain discount rate, now by wasting 1 whole year, you just excluded that 1 whole year from the equation. Instead of taking 20 years for your DCF, you now have to take 19 years.

And I am not talking about made up skills or soft skills, handling meetings, or handling more sales calls, or attending more presentations, I am talking about real tangible skills. Project management, risk management, IFRS, prince 2, lean or agile management, or like certain IT skills, become a subject matter expert in your industry, become a thought leader, become the go to person when it comes to certain skills, get your CFA level 3, get your CPA, CMA, enroll in executive education, attend seminars around the world, if you are in sales expand your client portfolio because your client portfolio is your biggest asset which will be with you whichever employer you go. Whatever your domain is, you want to become unsubstitutable, inimitable, irreplaceable, and you get there one step one training one skill at a time. Step by step.

Don’t deceive yourself. It’s one thing to find made-up skills or experiences for your yearly performance review, but it’s a completely another thing to deceive yourself.

Deniz, in all honesty, I don’t think I improved this year. I mean I come up with a few bullet points for my review, but in all honesty, I didn’t, the year flew by so fast. But that’s ok, my employer is happy with me. They love me. My managers love me.

You may say that now, but you know you are putting yourself under a huge risk. You know what the risk is?

Let me tell you what it is.

Tomorrow, your employer may all of a sudden, stop justifying your higher salary over someone with significantly less experience but who can do 95% of what you can do for half the salary.

If that happens,You will then find yourself out of a job and be unemployed for a very long time unless you reduce your salary demands.

Trust me, you wouldn’t be the first person to lose his or her job to someone with less experience

At the moment, the economy is all booming. But what happens tomorrow when the economy turns upside down. And there are mass layoffs. Who do you think will be laid off the first? Or who do you think will survive?

If you deceive yourself now, and that you don’t build the actual skills or experiences you need to improve your value, I guarantee you that you will hate your 30s, 40s, and 50s. You’ll be working for managers that will be at the age of your children.

The good thing is, it’s never too late. Even if you are in your 30s or 40s now, you still have another 20 to 30 years of human capital left in you. That’s 2 to 3 decades. But if you don’t take necessary steps now, your future will be exactly like how it is today.

Make an empathy, if you were an employer, would you be able to justify paying double the salary for an employee but only 10% more value?

You wouldn’t.

In simple terms, don’t expect to get paid higher just because you are older.

Let me share with you my personal story. But again a disclaimer, I don’t draw conclusions based on my own experiences alone.

So, after I lost my job in 2008 with Standard & Poor’s, I moved to Dubai started working for a local company. I was 26-27 years old. This was 10 years ago. And one of my subordinates in my team, person who reported to me was 36 years old.

Unfortunately for him, in the eyes of my employer and many employers, his 15 years of general work experience wasn’t as valuable as my only 3 years of experience with a big name employer Standard & Poor’s where I was exposed to pretty advanced technical skills.

At the time, I made twice as much as he made.

And worse, he had to put up with my bullshit. I mean at the time, I was an arrogant little prick. My professional character wasn’t yet built, it was a work in progress, I was arrogant, I was overly aggressive, I was sometimes rude, where as his character was pretty solid.  And I was the one learning a lot from him. Not technical skills maybe, but how to handle confrontations, how to handle heated client presentations, how to manage a team, I was learning a lot more than he was learning from me. We both didn’t last long in that job but do you see the lesson here?

You are as valuable as the value you create for your employers.

I didn’t make up the rules. I am merely sharing with you so you can design your own future for success, just like an investment that appreciates each year.

I know you will do it. Just don’t deceive yourself.

See you next week.