The Career Flywheel: 4 Steps to Runaway Career Growth

Don’t build a career ladder. Create a flywheel that builds momentum to dramatically propel you forward. Here’s how.

Sean Johnson
Oct 4, 2018 · 10 min read

The Typical Career Progression

Payscale did a study looking at worker’s average lifetime earnings. They segmented their data out by gender, so I’m extrapolating a bit, but in general, the typical career progression looks like this:

The Career Flywheel

I would submit you have two objectives in manipulating this curve.

  • Network
  • Brand
  • Wealth

Pursuing Mastery

Mastery is the foundational lever. It’s the one that’s available to anyone who decides to pursue it. It’s the process of becoming really good at something.

Building a Network

The second critical step is to build a network. A strong network is the primary mechanism people use to surface new opportunities. The best people don’t have to submit resumes to job sites. Because people come to them.

Create a brand

One of the unfortunate misunderstandings of the Instagram generation is the belief that you build a brand first. While there are certainly examples of people who’ve done this, I would argue it’s the exception to the rule.

Avoid the Plateau: Reinvest wealth

Build the first three levers and you will dramatically alter the slope of the Growth Phase of your career. You will start having more lucrative, interesting opportunities more often.

  • Hire a part time assistant to learn management skills and to free up your time to focus on learning.
  • Make capital investments to accelerate your skills — better gear, etc.
  • Acquire new skills you didn’t previously have.
  • Create a travel budget specifically for visiting cities where these folks live to get coffee or lunch.
  • Use the resources to help your network in ways that might have been prohibitive before.
  • Submit speaker proposals to conferences, even if you have to pay to go to them.
  • Level up your website.
  • Get nicer cards or better clothes.
  • Be like Garyvee and get a videographer to follow you around all day :)

Building your Career flywheel

Start building mastery. At the same time begin to cultivate a better network. Once you actually have something interesting to say, begin to create a brand. And use the income generated from the increases in those areas to reinvest back into your career.


The Mission

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple. Mission.org

Sean Johnson

Written by

Partner at @digintent and @founderequity. Professor of marketing at Northwestern. Very pale. http://www.sean-johnson.com

The Mission

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple. Mission.org