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BLOGThe Long Game

by Randall CraigFiled in: Career Planning, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Professional Development, StrategyTagged as:

I recently spoke at an event filled with undergraduate business school students. Before heading to the podium, I talked to a student who was to address the group after me; his topic was how to be hired as an Investment Banker.

I wished him luck, and asked how he learned about his topic. (“Summer job.”) I then asked if he had started the field’s key professional certification. (“No since it was valueless.”) Despite whatever he said at the podium, to me this person demonstrated both arrogance and ignorance. How did he come to see the certification as valueless? And how can a summer job make one an expert?

While it may have been quite some time since your student days, there is a concept — the Long Game — that is more relevant as your career progresses. While instant gratification is satisfying, longer-term fundamental advancement often takes much longer. Said another way, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will be your success.

Long Game activities meet three criteria:

  1. an investment in time (and sometimes money),
  2. the return will not be instant,
  3. the results are sometimes uncertain.

Here are a few examples:

Volunteer at a not-for-profit. Initially you might work at an event, and eventually manage part of it. After several years, you might work yourself up through the committee structure, and eventually become a member of the Board. While there are short-term benefits to your participation, the Long Game benefits might include a broader skill base, a great network, and solid non-work references. Where will this lead you in the future? Unknown – but nowhere but up.

Attain a professional certification: The vast majority of certifications take (at least) several years to earn, and often require academic coursework, self-study, examinations, association membership, and work experience. While your short-term learning might help you today, going through the process will deepen your subject matter expertise, build a network of others with that certification, and result in greater professional opportunities down the road.

Stretch yourself within your role: Why not volunteer to be on work-related committees or special projects? At the beginning, this will help you broaden your skills, but doing so on an ongoing basis develops your reputation for going the extra mile, always contributing to the team, and generally moving the business forward. And once again, it develops your network.

Other Long Game ideas:

  • Learning a new language
  • Building skills through a hobby
  • Starting a small business on the side
  • Seeking a transfer to a different country


Choose two Long Game activities and schedule them into your calendar. Don’t expect any recognition from others for these activities, but check back in 18 months – you’ll be surprised at how far you’ve gone.

Want more?  Here is the concept, but the Long Game as it applies to eBay and Google.

Does this topic resonate? Reach out to Randall: he can present it to your group.  (More presentation topics)
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