A column from the genuine, emotional, and often humorous exploits of coaching executives in Silicon Valley.

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Spoiler: Content Is Not King

job search strategy leadership networking strategy opportunity personal branding self understanding Oct 13, 2022
Consuming content is not the key to executive career success

As a recovering content marketer and Silicon Valley executive, I've concluded that content is not that important once you've reached the advanced levels of your career. 

Time and time again, who you know (and what you learn from them) proves more meaningful to success than what you know in a vacuum. Particularly when advancing past career stagnation.

Indeed content has considerable value—especially for those self-interested in self-promotion and creating an icky brand for themselves. Or achieving some influencer-esque status.

*Checks mirror* - Yup, still me, Jacob. 

Considering that you're actively reading my 'content,' I ask you to bear with me for a moment while I indulge in my latest exploitation of hypocrisy.

That's right. I dare say it; content is not king.  

 

Arguing A Contrarian Approach To Content

Next time I visit San Francisco, I'll need to duck for cover in a Boudin's. Aggravated marketers will shout! Sacrilege! Blasphemy! 

And proceed to stone me for coming out against their content marketing dogma. But let's be honest; marketers will actually hurl feces because poop is more readily available than stones in the "Golden City."

Before I take what will undoubtedly be my final endeavor to techland, I will argue that digesting educational content, a thirst for more knowledge, and an ongoing investment in one's self is a meaningful path to career success. (I warned you about the hypocrisy, aight?!)

However, we shouldn't fool ourselves. Reading a book a week does not make you successful, even if your buzzy jargon is on fleek.  

Content consumption will never be a substitute for community. 

 

Education Gut-Check

This week is a call to action—a reminder to act vs. a profound reflection on career strategy. 

There will never be a time when you have enough information to turn the table on breaking your plateaus. You will never read enough books to avoid failure. Your financial war chest will never be great enough to erase your fear of entrepreneurial exploration. 

The continuous repetition of the same habits and actions will not break you into a new tier of personal growth. 

Perhaps most importantly, studying career strategy will never outperform lived experience. But please don't unsubscribe.

All of these efforts have diminishing returns. 

You must approach yourself and the world differently to grow continuously. 

Shameless plug, coaching, networking, masterminds, and mentors may help you break these patterns. Still, you can also grind success for free by building habits that produce increasingly more brilliant relationships over time. 

 

Relationships Are More Meaningful Than Content

I'll posit this action item for you before I sneak outside to enjoy the fleeting yellow and orange hues of the breezy fall aspens. 

Network your butt off. 

Aim to connect with two new executives a week—and don't simply connect with those that are one ladder rung above you in your direct industry. 

Pro Tip: Ask your closest relationships to introduce you to 3 more executives and waterfall that process to never run out of warm introductions.

The most successful c-suite executives work to broaden their knowledge across functions, industries, and competencies. To thrive in the highest positions of corporate power, functional expertise is critical; however, you must also know how to impact every business function.  

For example, Chief Product Officers must understand how to influence and drive Engineering, Information, Operations, Revenue, Finance, etc. In addition, they must prove they are a force multiplier across the business to retain their status for any meaningful tenure. 

As you go out to network, that means you'll have to make that value exchange clear. For example, a Chief Revenue Officer may not immediately know why a Chief Technology Officer is trying to chat them up. 

How exactly does a CTO impact a CRO's challenges? How can you carry their burdens? Do you know? 

If not, it's time to connect with others to fill that gap. Notably, you'll need to learn from diverse leaders you do not actively work beside. (You're too close to them and the nuanced challenges they face).  

As a result, you'll have a stronger pulse on the market, be smarter when navigating cross-functional challenges at work, build relationships with executives that aren't competing with you, protect your career during a transition, and kiss that frustrating plateau goodbye. 

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