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5 Career Lessons From San Francisco’s Leaning Millennium Tower

Millennium Tower
Wikimedia Commons

What is a substantial career worth today? It depends on your foundation.

If you offer marketable skills, evergreen value and a great personality, you will be in demand.

Although it takes time to build a solid foundation and earn respect, people will know that they can depend on you to deliver a great product. But, what would you do if you find out that your career doesn’t have such a solid foundation after some years in the industry? What if your training doesn’t transfer to other sectors?

One analogy we can use is the Millennium Tower in San Francisco. The tower has sunk 17 inches and tilted 14 inches since its construction.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

The building next to it is solidly in place. The difference is the depth of each building’s foundation. The building next to Millennium Tower is embedded into the bedrock below. The Millennium Tower is not.


The soil under the Millennium Tower consists of layers of sand, mud, clay and landfill from the time of the gold rush, and you need to go 200 feet (61 meters) below the surface in order to reach solid rock.

Similarly, some people chose a soft foundation for their career. They don’t anticipate the potential for problems. Heed these lessons from the Millennium Tower:

1. Don’t Build Your Career on Sand

No matter your industry, learning is the bedrock of any career. Many industries require continuing education courses for accreditation to renew licenses. But, even if your industry doesn’t mandate it, you should earnestly seek out additional training. You’ll further cement the foundation of your career.

2. Watch for Depreciation of Your Long-Term Value

CBS News chronicles the tale of owners who sold their Millennium Towers condo at a multi-million-dollar loss to escape the sinking property. In the same way, if you’re not investing in your career, your prospective employers may choose to move on.

3. Avoid the Sinking Feeling That You Didn’t Dig Deep Enough

Millennium Towers is built on shifting sand. Similarly, your career can fail to connect to bedrock if you don’t invest in stronger training and development over time.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that every investment must be time- and labor-intensive. But you should show employers that you’re applying what you’ve learned, in order to demonstrate enthusiasm as well as knowledge.

4. Know That Foundation Tops Infrastructure

When it comes to your job search, people will judge you solely by your foundation (i.e. skill set) not how you look. A structure with a solid foundation will withstand earthquakes and other natural catastrophes. If hiring managers don’t sense a candidate has a strong skill set, an even temperament and soft skills, then they will consider it shaky.

5. Give Employers Reason to Invest

Millennium Tower has to secure its foundation, and ensure its repairs will bring stability before they can expect others to buy in. In the same way, employers must see reasons to invest in you now and in the future.

As technology evolves and the company experiences growth, you must show your potential to grow. Even when you’re experiencing a career gap, employers will expect you to expand your knowledge, skills and abilities.

It’s essential to have agility in your job and know how your transferable skills will bring value to an employer. What will challenge you the most is learning that the attributes and skills that once offered value now do not. Assess these weaknesses and fix your foundation before your career starts to sink and tilt.

Tell Us What You Think

How do you build strong foundations for your career? We want to hear from you. Share your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

Mark Anthony Dyson
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