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Optimizing Your Human Capital, Part 2: Assets That You Can Control

Dean A. Junkans, CFA
3 min read
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Editor’s note: This is the second article in a three-part series by SigFig Advisor Dean A. Junkans, CFA, discussing how investing in your human capital is just as important as your portfolio mix. With 30 years of investing experience, Dean served as Chief Investment Officer of Wells Fargo Private Bank and is a published author.

Assets that you can control

In the first installment of our “Optimizing your human capital” series, we defined human capital and discussed what it means to “optimize” it in the context of things that define you. While those assets can perhaps be improved upon, they are often intrinsic traits. We then gave a few examples of how to optimize your human capital around some critical defining characteristics that have incredible value in the workplace.

In this second article, we will discuss the things that you can control. A lot happens in life and at work that we cannot control, but there are many things you can control which can make a substantial difference in the value of your human capital.

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One of the most important things you can control in your job and in your career is your attitude. Your co-workers want to work with people who have a positive, can-do attitude because it is infectious and motivating! Bosses want can-do people on their teams because they are fun to work with and they know they can count on them to see the opportunities, not just the challenges. You will differentiate yourself from the masses of often really smart people who have glass half-empty attitudes that no one wants to work with, promote, or hire.

Another important thing you can control is your work ethic. I have seen a lot of people do the bare minimum and then wonder why they do not get promoted! So many workers today are fast, efficient, and focused to the point where they can get their “required” duties done in less time than is allocated. Rather than bolt for the door, ask around for other projects you can get involved with and help out. Most people will not do this, so be the one who does and differentiate yourself in the process!

Work ethics can be described generally as doing the right thing and it is arguably the most important thing that you can control. Your work ethics relate to your co-workers, clients, vendors, and any of the relationships you have at the job or at home as ethics transcends place. If you are challenged in controlling ethics at work, it will likely be a problem at home, as well.

Work ethics are often explained with words like trust and integrity. Are you someone who others trust? Are you seen as having integrity? You can control doing the right thing, being trustworthy and having unimpeachable integrity. And if you do, people will seek your counsel, trust you with important information, bring you in on sensitive matters, look to you as a leader, and likely look to give you even greater responsibility, thereby improving you human capital stock.

One last thing you can control is preparation. How many times have you heard someone say they are going to “wing it”? Probably too many. Sometimes you will have no choice but to wing it if something comes up that needs your attention and decision right away. However, in many cases we have at least some control over being prepared. Lack of preparation stands out, and consistent lack of preparation can be a career derailer, or a detractor to your human capital. If you do you whatever it takes to be well-prepared on a consistent basis, people in the workplace will know that they can count on you, and that will usually be recognized in the value of your human capital.

There are, fortunately, many things you can control that will enhance and optimize your human capital. As you go through your day and week, think about what you can do to control your attitude, your work ethic, your work ethic and your preparation, and see what this does for you human capital, as well as your enjoyment of work.

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