Intentional Career Building
February 11, 2019
I have a challenge and ideas for you to do something to build your career.
I've been thinking a lot about this newsletter and what I want to do with it. One thing I want to do is provide you with some specific ideas of things you can do to improve your skills and get what you want out of your career. So today I'm going to give you a few ideas of things you can do to be more intentional about building your career (or *gasp* "personal brand").
I didn't start out intentionally seeking/tracking followers, but over time I learned a few things that could gain me a wider reach. I realized that by intentionally building upon my career and my personal brand I felt like I had more job security. After building enough of a following, I'm much less worried about what would happen if I were to suddenly be let go from my job. I could just send you all and email and send out a tweet and because I've developed a following of you good people who seem to think I know what I'm doing 1) people would see it and 2) people would care. It also makes me feel more confident that I don't have to do a job that I would rather not do and I can have the flexibility to choose between multiple great options. This is a great position for a husband and father of four to be in.
So here are a few things that I've done that have worked out pretty well for me and I think could be reproducible for many of you.
Whether you're building your clout inside your company or outside, communicating your accomplishments is really important. You may have saved the company from financial ruin by fixing that critical bug last night, but if nobody knows the scope of what you did or even that you're the one who did it then you're not going to receive the credit. You don't have to be all cocky about it (that's pretty annoying), and if you weren't the only one who helped make something happen make sure you give credit where it's due. At the end of the day, make sure that people understand the value that you're creating.
I'm not talking about getting paid for the same work by two different companies (that is probably a really bad idea and illegal I'm guessing). What I am saying is that if someone at work asks you a question about testing a react component, then maybe you can share your answer in a public gist on GitHub and send it to your co-worker as well as twitter. Just an idea there. I do this ALL. THE. TIME.
Create value, not spam
I get questions about getting noticed and recognized a lot. This tweet thread in particular is very helpful in this regard. Remember that it takes a very long time to get noticed and when you only have a few dozen followers on twitter or other platforms your awesome content can never seem to get to the right places. But I can tell you that even when someone shares awesome content with me, I'm less likely to look at it if I can tell they've been spamming it out to everyone they can think of or they bug me about it a lot.
Respect people and their time. They may not always be able to help you or give your stuff the time of day. But be patient and keep creating things that are solving real problems YOU are experiencing, and eventually that will resonate with enough people that they don't want to miss your next big value add.
Own your content
If you're publishing to a domain you don't control, then you should consider making a change. I was luckily grandfathered into Medium's custom domain thing before they stopped doing that which is why my medium blog is at blog.kentcdodds.com rather than medium.com/@kentcdodds. I am planning on moving off of medium soon and when I do I'll easily be able to redirect all my blog posts to my new custom platform because I own the domain name that all the links on twitter and elsewhere are pointing to.
This is also why I care so much about having
a URL shortener.
When I switched from tinyletter.com to buttondown.email and then to
convertkit.com, I was able to simply update
kcd.im/news to point to the new
sign-up page and all existing links started taking people to the right place.
Owning the domain and sharing links to domains that you own can be very powerful.
This is very anecdotal, but I've found that the time of day/week that you share your content can have an impact on who sees it. Consider that nobody's looking at twitter on Friday evenings and people often don't look at articles over the weekends (there's a reason most newsletters are sent during the week days). I typically try to announce my stuff earlier in the week and often in the morning before many people in the US really get to working and before many people on the other side of the pacific go to sleep.
People often need to see your avatar associated with useful content multiple times before they realize that they like what you're producing. So pushing out consistent useful stuff on multiple platforms is really helpful. As a part of this, using a consistent name and avatar (that actually looks like you if possible... I realize this is a luxury that some people do not have due to terrible stalker situations 🙁) across platforms that you rarely change (mine has been the same for... a long time) can really help people recognize who you are and associate your content with you on each of those platforms. Also, having a consistent username across those platforms is also helpful.
Another note about consistency is to consider the message you're trying to communicate to your audience and stick to that message as much as you can. Maybe leave the cat and baby pictures for other platforms or accounts (I realize that nobody's a mono-dimensional person and we should embrace our multi-dimensional selves, but this is just something that I've noticed has an affect on my effectiveness at reaching people so I thought I'd mention it).
As an example, I've recently gotten into writing a novel. I've tweeted about it a lot. I decided that I'm going to get more serious about this novel writing stuff and will probably be tweeting about it more, so I created a new twitter account @kent_writes for the purpose.
Solve real problems you are having
This one carries with it the assumption that you actually have problems which don't already have solutions. The npm ecosystem is full of solutions and you can probably find solutions to many use cases already. Don't bother spending a lot of time building the next "redux simplifier" package because there are a million of those out there and frankly I don't personally find them interesting at all. And don't invent problems just so you can create solutions to them. Nobody will care. Contribute to existing solutions, and solve problems where there are no solutions or the existing solutions are lacking.
Building your career clout/personal brand is important and takes a lot of time. Be patient and humble. Lift others up and help people in your own way. Eventually you will get recognized for it. I'm not saying you wont fall prey to our societies natural and unfortunately biases. Many people have to deal with those on a regular basis and it's totally not fair. Keep working at it though and you will find success.
I hope that's helpful to you. Good luck.
Call to action:
Choose one of the following things to do this week to be intentional about building your career:
- Write the blog post you wish existed last week when you were learning something new
- Answer your co-worker's question in a public space (YouTube, gist, etc.) and share it
- Write an email to your higher-ups describing the role you and your team mates played in a recently completed project. Tell them you just want to share something you were proud of and that you love working at a place where you can tackle such challenges.
- Go for a walk (sometimes you just need to take care of yourself and think)
Things to not miss:
- 4 things that I always manually test and a11y and JS - A Seemingly Unconventional Romance both by Lindsey Kopacz are both terrific articles about accessibility I recommend you read.