Storytelling is a powerful tool in your career. While you can deliver your story in a myriad channels, writing is and continues to be the most effective and powerful way to reach and build your audience. There’s no shortage of online courses and instructors who can help you become a great writer — even one who eventually monetizes their writing. But, as I wrote in Forever Employable, “Your thinking at this point shouldn’t be, “I’m going to quit my job today, start writing a blog, and then I’ll become famous.” Your thinking should instead be to ask the question, “How do I start to test which portions of my expertise will resonate with a target audience, and how can I learn that with as little risk and investment as possible?”
That’s where building a consistent routine of writing and publishing comes in. Many people immediately get stuck staring down two big questions:
- What should I write about?
- How will I know it’s good enough to publish?
My friend David Bland, speaking about the concept of Minimum Viable Product, said, “You decide what’s minimal. Your customers decide what’s viable.” The same can be applied to your writing. You’ll beat yourself up wondering if this is a good topic or if that should be your focus this time around. You’ll edit and tweak and wonder when, if ever, you should hit that “publish” button. A consistent practice exercises your writing muscles. They get stronger. Your writing gets better. Your topics will shift as you learn which ideas resonate with your audience and which they ignore (you’ll be surprised!). They will decide which of your ideas are “viable.” But if you can maintain a steady cadence of publishing minimal content online you start to build the path to becoming forever employable. Here are 3 ways that writing online can help get you there:
You’re building the most powerful online resume (CV)
Each time you publish online you build your body of work. You add to the narrative of your career. When employers, conference organizers, publishers and podcast hosts want to know something about you they go to the greatest resume (CV) database in the world: Google. A quick search on your name starts to reveal what you’ve been thinking about, how your thinking has evolved and where your focus is today. Alternatively, a quick search on your chosen topic of expertise (in the language of Forever Employable, where you planted your flag) reveals that you are, in fact, one of the experts on this topic. As new job, writing or speaking opportunities come up for these folks, your name rises to the top quickly.
You position yourself as an authority on a subject
I got my first book deal to write Lean UX because an acquisitions editor saw me give a talk at a conference. I got that speaking gig because of the blog posts I was writing on the subject. There is a direct, linear path from writing to speaking to book authoring. Why? Because books written by subject matter experts tend to carry more credibility. As you build your body of online content your name becomes synonymous with the flag you’ve planted. Just as Eric Ries is the Lean Startup Person and Jake Knapp is the Design Sprint Person and Amy Edmondson is the Psychological Safety Person you become known for your chosen topic. Your writing doesn’t have to be stellar. That will improve over time. It just has to be consistent and on topic. Each time you publish you are creating an opportunity for someone to engage with you, ask you questions or offer you a new opportunity — because you’re the expert.
You become a better storyteller
In 2013 Josh Seiden and I wrote the first edition of Lean UX. In 2016 we had the opportunity to write the second edition. I went back and re-read the first edition. It had been a while since I sat down and read the whole thing. I was mortified! How could they have published this? The writing was horrendous. I was truly embarrassed. And yet the book sold 50k copies in its first year. This year, Josh and I have written the 3rd edition of Lean UX due out in a few months. Once again, I went back to read the 2nd edition this time. I was terrified to even look. I was doing that thing where I started to read it by half-blocking my eyes with my fingers like I was watching a gross scene in a movie. To my surprise, it wasn’t awful. In fact, it was good! 5 solid years of writing practice made me a better writer and storyteller.
The internet democratized publishing. You can write and publish as much as you want. And you should. The more you write the better you get at telling your story. You understand where your expertise resonates, where it fails to connect with your audience and where there are gaps in your knowledge. Each publication, be it a tweet, a 150 word LinkedIn post or 500 words on your blog or Medium makes you better at the craft. The more successful you are at connecting with your audience the more opportunities that audience will send your way.
Every industry needs leaders. Every industry has experts. If you combine your industry expertise with a steady regimen of writing online you begin to shift the dynamic of your career. You begin “pulling” on the system — attracting opportunities towards you — building an inbound flow of other writing, speaking, recording and working options. And that is the essence of becoming forever employable.