Marti Konstant is a workplace futurist and the best-selling author of Activate Your Agile Career. As a Top Career Influencer, she has been featured in media outlets such as NBC Chicago, Forbes, and The Muse, and has worked in companies like Samsung, Dow Jones and Apple.
Several years ago, she made a courageous shift in her career, leaving a successful consulting business to focus full-time on building a platform to spread the message of career agility.
In this conversation she shares:
- How she built her platform book-first
- The stages of platform building
- The two social media platforms she focuses on (and why)
- The role of her book in the larger platform
Read her book Activate Your Agile Career
Listen to our conversation
Read the transcript
Anne: Marti, thanks for taking the time to talk to me. Explain to me the practice you have right now around career agility, and the audience that serve or hope to serve.
Marti: My practice around career agility is a result of a lot of research, personal experience being a technology marketing executive, and taking the aspects of agile software development concepts and applying them to the management of one’s one career, creating an entire seven-step career agility model. The steps really aren’t steps—they’re really principles that could be followed in any different variety of actions and sequences.
A: I love that you took this cross-domain—something from one domain and applied it to career development, which is kind of brilliant. Right now, you have a book, which I have here on my desktop, and you do speaking, and you have a platform on LinkedIn. How did you build into this space? Obviously, this isn’t what you’ve done from the beginning. How did you create your expertise here and build this platform?
Building a new platform from the ground up
M: Having run marketing for many years, I knew that I needed a platform. What I learned is you can’t do all of the elements of the platform at once: you have to choose one. Interestingly enough, I chose my book as #1. I spent five years writing, researching, and creating that body of work while I was working full-time as a chief marketer. This is what I put all of my effort into writing and researching the book. I hired out professional research as well; I did survey research, so that I could build a really great model. Once I had the content, then I knew it was time to do a couple things: switch into being a workplace futurist, leave my role as a marketer, because I had all the content done. Then it was time to revamp my website. I’m on website version #4 right now.
A: It’s never done.
M: I was very lean, very agile. My first website was really inadequate, but it was good enough. The second one was better. The fourth one is much better. I’ve got videos on there and a lot of good content that will help people understand how they can work with me and what the offerings are. That’s a platform.
So, we talk about the book platform (item #1), website (platform item #2.) Then I took what I had been doing on LinkedIn–which was not a lot, in the marketing realm—I analyzed how I could create LinkedIn as a platform for me. I also, then, added Instagram. I worked with only those two [social media channels]. As a marketer, I knew that I could not pick everything. I couldn’t do Twitter, I couldn’t do everything and do it justice.
So I had a blog that I built off the website—more content—then took that content and repurposed it on LinkedIn. I’m very active on LinkedIn, 3-5 days a week. I put out a lot of content about the future, about careers, creativity—things that are tangential to what’s important. Design thinking. Topics that are tangential to learning and to growing in a career. That’s how I built to LinkedIn. The interesting thing about LinkedIn was, I didn’t realize that Google was indexing the articles there. I had spent so much time on SEO—optimization for my website—and I wasn’t ranking. It’s kind of hard to rank for career when there’s thousands of others. I didn’t have backlinks from famous platforms that got lots of traffic. Until you have backlinks, your personal website is not going to rank. Does that make sense for the build of the platform from book to website to blog, and then to social platforms?
Taking the plunge
A: It’s a fascinating order, especially since you started with a book. That’s something I did myself as well. I totally get that. There’s a writer-thing: Let’s start with a book! There are a couple things I want to drill down on that you talked about. One is, you wrote the book then decided it was time to leave your job and go into this full time. That had to be a moment of faith, of courage, to make that change. How did that feel?
M: There was a huge jumping-off point. At that point, I had been consulting in the area of mobile security and marketing. There weren’t many people that did what I did. I had lots of work, and I basically had to shut it off and turn down assignments.
A: That’s so hard, though, right? ‘
M: It was hard. The whole time I’m converting, I was working on Toastmasters, I was working with the National Speakers Association, I was amping up my craft in developing good content verbally and physically, with good posture, in person, doing all of that at the same time as I jumped off into claiming the workplace futurist space. It’s taken me a while. I’m not wearing the marketing hat anymore. I’m not using that as a part of my story as much any more. I used it here because I needed my marketing hat to launch my brand.
A: Sure. I’ve read your books, so I know that you had this extra tool that not everyone has at this moment, which is you had just written a book about this very thing and had your own framework and practices to live on. You were demonstrating agility in your own career by doing this thing. But it is hard to turn down this thing that’s working to take this new path, to go toward this vision of a different future. That does take some courage, and preparation, and a little bit of a buffer, all of those things.
The other thing you said, which I think is so important for people to do, is that you said you focused on two social platforms: LinkedIn, because it speaks so much to your audience, and Instagram. This is because I know that you have some artistic, sketching talent. Is that what you do on Instagram? I have to follow you now, I just joined Instagram myself.
M: I have two Instagram feeds. I’m a prolific photographer. I live in a mecca of architecture called Chicago. I am constantly taking pictures, and I have an artist’s eye in that. I started the AgilityThink handle two years ago. It became my canvas for idea generation and thinking. I could then take all of that content, and repurpose it and expand on it, for LinkedIn, for my blog posts, for my posts on bigger articles submitted for newspapers, guest post articles. I’m finding that I wasn’t using AgilityThink to attract people to my brand. I’m using it for exploration, and to expand my creative abilities.
Part of writing the book—I hadn’t sketched or done any design work in probably 20 years. Since I left the marketing realm, I do artistic work all of the time now. It’s a part of me that I left hidden and off to the side for quite some time, and I don’t anymore. I design a lot of work. I designed a lot of the framework of my website, I worked in tandem with the web developer, who also complimented my design abilities. My design, I’ve notice, in the past couple years has really grown. It was really rusty, and now it’s much more evolved. I’m able to use it to post and illustrate in social media. I did all of the illustrations and model developments in my book.
The role of the book in the platform
A: The book began all of this. It certainly helped to build your platform, but it also helped you put everything into place—start to pull all these skills together, start to pull all of your frameworks together, and probably supported your own launch. Tell me about how the book has helped your platform. What has been the impact of that in terms of reaching beyond your usual spheres?
M: I set out to use the book to secure credibility, speaking engagements and training opportunities. That’s exactly what it’s done. The caveat there is that, it’s not a matter of putting it out there and everything comes to you. It’s a matter of phone calls, emails, outreach, wearing every single hat of business development possible, being personable when you’re an introvert, going to events and doing all of this networking that’s necessary to become known. All of the things that I applied to tech brands that were launched globally, all of that I had to apply to me, and that was a lot harder because I didn’t have a staff. I didn’t have a dedicated PR team in Australia or China, even, helping me launch brands. I had to do all that on my own.
A: Right. You become a microcosm of the thing that you were on the industrial scale. Suddenly you’re doing it for yourself. Not only do you not have the staff, but it feels less comfortable, perhaps. You mentioned being an introvert.
M: As I said to you earlier, before we started recording, helping is the new selling. I am not the salesperson of the year. I don’t use scarcity tactics, which are very popular right now. They aren’t part of my value structure. No matter how much they work in closing a deal, it’s not a part of who I am.
A: Good for you. You’re holding your strengths. How far are you into this journey? When did you leave your job and go full-time into this?
M: Two years ago I left my consulting gigs off to the side. I had just finished an 18 month assignment in Silicon Valley. I was commuting to Mountain View every week from Chicago. I just had finished all that, and had built a bit of a nest egg for the investment in what I was doing. I just jumped off and did it. I’ve been working solid ever since—not so much in income-generating work. I’ll confess that I spent the better part of a year and a half after that working on my marketing engine. And doing very little business development and outreach.
Advice for others
A: That’s what it takes, right? It takes time, and it takes a significant commitment of effort and time to build it. What advice, other than of course your book, which is filled with advice—what advice would you give someone who is at a point where they do want to make a pivot to build a career doing something else, and something where they would like to find some thought leadership, or to build an audience in a specific field, as you have done?
M: There’s two steps. One step would be something I heard from Kathy Caprino. She’s a career enthusiast, a speaker, a researcher, founder of Finding Brave and has written a few books. One of the things she said in a webinar I listened to this week: when you decide what you want to do, make sure that’s what you really want to do and try it on for size. So, she gave the example of, if you wanted to start a bed and breakfast, interview three owners of B&Bs, spend some time with them. Generally, people who want to do that and go through that experience don’t start B&Bs. If you want to write a book, if you want to write a screenplay, understand what that’s about. Just because you’re a good reader doesn’t mean that you’re the best writer. I always loved to write and create, so writing for me was a no-brainer. But there are people that just want to write a book, and they don’t know that the book is actually about 10% of it. 90% of it is everything else. What Kathy said is, when you enter to become an executive coach, which she also is, some people say, “I want to do what you do.” She says, “Did you know that what I’m doing, which is talking to you right now, is probably less than 20% of my time?” I don’t know she gave the percentage, but it was not a big percentage. There are so many other things one must do to build a business. That’s step one.
Step two, is to build a platform. The caution is: pick one. Because if you try to pic two or three things to do to promote your platform or launch into what you’re doing, you’re going to fail because you can’t do it well on five fronts. When you get to the point of social media platforms, there’s lots of them. Pick the one that supports your values. And pick one that you’ll b able to get through to. It was a no-brainer, for someone like me or you, to be visible on LinkedIn, because the kinds of people we interact with are on that platform.
A: That’s such a good point. I think people have the sense they need to be everywhere. Sure, you can set up an outpost and put things out there. You can own your name on other things. But pick where you want to spend your time, because your time is ultimately your most scarce commodity. That’s great advice. Thank you.
You really get to the point of some of the ongoing work and process behind building the platform, which I think people will find very valuable. Thank you for sharing that advice.