Toward the end of last year, a client and I were wrestling with writing her LinkedIn profile's executive summary.
Sitting across my desk, she grabbed a sheet of paper and a pen.
With seventeen years of really interesting operational leadership in startup and Fortune 10 companies, she was trying to quickly illustrate what she considers to be her sweet spot.
Turns out, she loves startup life.
To clarify, she loves startup life when the startup has received its second round of funding. When she has the traction to innovate and really drill some smart roots from which the company can grow and thrive, but while team are still nimble enough to be led.
It took her leadership in a Fortune 10 company and a lot of self-reflection to reach this conclusion, by the way, which is always an authentic part of the career development journey as an engaged leader.
Ten seconds into her drawing, I could hardly keep my mouth shut, because she'd just sparked a major career development strategy.
You see, we were in the process of building her boat—as I've called the work since another client coined that term several years ago—so she was ready to sail when the right opportunity came along. (Incidentally, it did.)
She was just starting to understand the importance of tending to her career brand ... cultivating her reputation in the long term so she would be clearly known for what she loves and what she does well.
I tried not to interrupt, but finally did: "So let's tie your drawing back to something we talked about 30 minutes ago. Cultivating your reputation. Why not purposefully write articles and open yourself to speaking engagements that focus on what you love? That sweet spot. You're at point X right now—a large company, steering a massive ship—so it's not obvious that you prefer being in a startup. Why not use that big company authority to become a resource for startups with Series B funding who really need the intellectual firepower and experience you offer today."
I continued: "Tailor your articles and presentations strategically, so you not only speak to the audience at hand, but so the article titles have a life beyond the moment. Then when you list them on your LinkedIn profile, in your executive bio, in your executive resume, etc., you have this clear specialization. In time, you'll open the door wider to being found as a passive candidate. And odds are higher that you'll be sought for just the right fit."
So you as the reader of this article might already be one of the folks we all admire who uses this forward-thinking strategy. Forbes contributors do. HBR contributors do. They write to their brands, which ultimately brings them even more enjoyable opportunities. Keep it up.
If not, however, it's one of those little tips that can flip the switch and fuel your career. Because when you reach senior levels in your career, it takes a long time to shape the right career shift.
When I originally posted this article to my own blog, I said, "I have a feeling good things are on the horizon for this client's career. A career that's already pretty stellar."
Well, it came true. She architected a long-term career shift, and last I heard, was happily in a leadership role of her choosing.
Do you have a sweet spot that's not being fully realized?
It can feel like a Titanic effort to reshape or redirect a career fifteen or twenty years in the making. But the tiniest rudder—the smallest strategic adjustment—will change your direction over time. And sooner than you know it, you'll be in your ideal role looking in the rear-view mirror, smiling back at what was once today.
But you have to act. Make this week your inflection point. Take tangible steps forward, because if you're like so many of our species, you'll be the first to under-prioritize yourself and you'll still be in the same spot a year from now.
San Francisco-based executive resume writer and career transition coach, Jared Redick, works with senior leaders at Fortune 50 companies and beyond. He draws on early experience in retained executive search and nearly two decades of resume writing to help stealth job seekers re-imagine the marketable intersection between their background, interests, audience expectations, and career goals.
Jared's strategic “purpose, content, design” approach to résumé writing helps executives and professionals understand their value, develop their unique professional brand, and position themselves safely online and on paper.
Reach him at email@example.com or 415-397-6640. Follow @TheResumeStudio.