A career moat is an individual’s ability to maintain competitive advantages over your competition (say, in the job market) in order to protect your long term prospects, your employability, and your ability to generate sufficient financial returns to support the life you want to live. Just like a medieval castle, the moat serves to protect those inside the fortress and their riches from outsiders.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time talking about career moats on this blog. I’ve written about my experiences building an early career moat, and explained what motivated me to start thinking about my career in terms of moats. This guide will represent the best thinking that I have on the topic.
What We’ll Cover
In the past, the posts that I’ve written on Commonplace have been focused on what a career moat is, and why you might want to pursue one.
But I’ve never actually described how to build a career moat. This was due to my own limitations: I didn’t know how to articulate a generalised process for building one. (A reader joked that my ability to build my moat was tacit, and it likely was!)
Over the past two years, however, I’ve been testing out some of my ‘how-to’ ideas on readers, acquaintances and friends. I think I’ve finally got a sufficiently generalised model that should work, at least for most people. As a result, this guide will distil the stuff that I’ve already written about career moats, but will mostly focus on how you might build one for yourself.
What’s in a Guide?
A quick reminder: a Commonplace guide is a continually updated resource that contains the most timely, useful information about a chosen topic. Because the format is meant to be periodically updated, I expect the guide to always present the best thinking that Commonplace can produce on a topic.
In the next chapter, we’ll do a quick recap of my prior writing on career moats. Then, we’ll go deep into the details of how you might build one.
With that out of the way, let’s get started.
- What is a Career Moat? — What a career moat looks like, and why you might want one.
- Start from Demand — Don’t work forwards from interests and skills. Work backwards from market demand.
- What is Valuable? — Find a perch, understand your market, look for less legible skillsets.
- Is It Rare? — Is it rare now? Would it be rare tomorrow? Rareness is a spectrum.
- Can I Acquire It? — Construct initial tests. Action generates (personal) information.
- Search for Fit, Not Passion — Why fit is a better word than passion; why passion is surprisingly malleable, arguments against pure utility.
- The Fundamental Challenge for All Careers — A career moat is a tactical advantage, not a strategy, it doesn’t solve the fundamental challenge that all careers face.
- Wrapping Up — A summary of everything that we’ve covered.