Careers

Google billionaire Eric Schmidt reveals how short-term thinking can stall your career

Eric Schmidt, chairman of Alphabet Inc.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Eric Schmidt, chairman of Alphabet Inc.

If you're only thinking about your career in terms of what you have to get done this week, you're not planning your future — you're just working a job.

With the daily demands workers have to manage, it's easy to become exclusively focused on the short-term. But according to Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google's parent company Alphabet and former CEO, that's an error that could be preventing you from getting the most out of your professional life.

"I find almost everybody, including myself, makes the mistake of making a short-term decision without thinking of a strategy for five years," Schmidt tells CNBC.

Decisions as simple as who you decide to connect with at work can have a long-term impact. Doing a favor for a colleague now can help you secure a new job or business deal down the line, according to leadership expert Suzy Welch, an idea was explored in-depth in Wharton professor Adam Grant's bestseller, "Give and Take."

Deciding whether or not to pitch a new idea to your boss, another seemingly short-term decision, can actually move your career in a new direction, former Google career coach Jenny Blake says.

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So how do you start thinking along a broader horizon?

In a recently updated version of "How Google Works," Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg, adviser to CEO Larry Page, lay out how to plan your career.

Here's how to apply their strategy:

  1. Think about your ideal job, and write a description for it. What does the job entail? What kind of organization is it for? How much do you want to make?
  2. Write down the personal strengths and weakness that could help or hurt your chances of getting that ideal job. Get external input from friends, family or people in your network.
  3. Invest in developing those skills or gaining the experience you need to get that job.

Focusing on the long-term isn't just a good way to get ahead in your career, it's a great way to build wealth.

"For anything important, put it in a five-year context." -Eric Schmidt, executive chairman, Alphabet

When billionaire and legendary investor Warren Buffett decides to invest in a company, he doesn't act on impulse or even the daily movements of the stock. Instead, he thinks long-term, a strategy for which he's become famous.

Though people who invest long-term may miss out on the excitement of day trading, they are better protected from the psychological biases that can lead to poor decisions.

Research shows that recency bias (scoring twice in a basketball game and being confident that the next shot will be another score) can lead to overconfident decisions where people ignore probability and other factors impacting the result.

In addition, investors often fall prey to availability bias, where they overreact to bad news about a company, producing reactive decisions. To avoid these missteps in your finances and in your career, think more broadly.

"Especially under fear or anger," Schmidt says, "you'll make a decision you will regret." (Life coach and bestselling author Tony Robbins agrees.)

"For anything important," Schmidt says, "put it in a five year context."

Check out the skill Schmidt says more employers will be looking for in the future.