CSF Strategy 2: Target a Unique Opportunity
How to find your path and dream job
The critical question of the Target strategy will last a lifetime:
How do you create unique value and remain relevant throughout your career?
This will dictate where we spend our limited time, talent, and treasure.
This question must be probed throughout life to stay relevant in a rapidly changing environment.
Billions of people are competing in the talent market.
Your life will be dictated by how you play and the product you have to offer.
You are the essential product of your life.
By applying time-tested business and product strategies, you can actively manage career fit throughout your life.
This can increase the likelihood of your desired outcomes, such as autonomy, direction, purpose, achievement, financial rewards, unique experiences, and fulfillment.
The answer to where to spend your time and why will not come easy – you must do the work.
The “target” is the optimal place in the market where you have something unique that customers love. Your love for this place compels you to master and evolve your craft to remain relevant. One of the objectives of this strategy is to help you find that place.
The Target Concept
A “target” is a visual metaphor for finding your optimal career fit. It’s where you apply your time, talent, and energy to valuable customer problems with unique solutions emanating from your identity. Throughout your career, you will likely have many targets as your interests change and the dynamics of the world unfold through forces you do not control. Your relevancy over the long term is predicated on your ability to adapt and find new targets throughout your career.
You will unlikely start a career at the center of your ideal target. It’s generally a slow and steady journey experimenting with various jobs while you develop skills and hone in on where you provide the most value. You will feel the energy and positive emotions from work that resonate to your core. Through this exploration and iteration, you learn the dynamics of the market and the uniqueness that sets you apart from others. Reaching the center of the target is only possible when you have amassed the skills, experience, and credibility in your field. There are no career and life hacks to find the center instantly. Finding this magical place will require patience, focus, self-belief, and endurance. There are many ways to find your career target, such as creating a job that does not exist within an organization, job transitions, or starting a venture you control.
The three fundamental tenets of the Target strategy are:
Target a path of your individuality that is profitable and sustainable – Act as a strategist to evaluate trends and select profitable markets that offer outstanding financial rewards and are sustainable over time. Choosing to go into a market that does not provide monetary rewards or is short-lived is a non-starter.
Target problems with solutions where you create unique value – Differentiation drives above-normal returns and demand for your work. Target problems in your chosen field or job where you create exceptional value.
Target opportunities that align with our best self and love for the work – Perform work that exudes who you are and how you see yourself. Loving the work and bringing energy will fuel you to overcome challenges and master your craft.
By internalizing and practicing the ideas within this strategy, you will increase the ability to:
Free yourself from being everything to everybody or undifferentiated in a crowded field.
Experience the peace and tranquility of a unique career path within your control.
Work on problems and causes that have meaning.
Remain relevant in a highly competitive talent pool and dynamic external environment.
Increase your wealth by offering something unique and scarce.
Targets Are Dynamic
Change is one thing we can guarantee when managing our career target. Each of the four factors contributes to a dynamic market where you and the market evolve.
Identity – who we are, what we believe in, what we want, and our roles in life change over our careers.
Unique solutions – we develop new skills and experiences that shape our capacity to create and monetize unique value propositions. Competitors and technology aggressively enter markets with opportunity, and your uniqueness may fade.
Energy – we may experience changes in our love for the work or environments that create or destroy our energy.
Valuable customer needs – preferences, problems, and opportunities are constantly changing due to forces in the external environment. The dynamics of supply and demand price the value of solving the need or problem.
My mental model thinks about this as an optimization problem. In data science, supervised optimization algorithms aim to estimate a target function (f) that best maps input data (x) onto output variables (y). A gradient descent (or ascent) machine learning algorithm takes short, incremental random walks to find a global optimum. That optimum could be to minimize or maximize the output. The picture above has multiple starting points, but the algorithm will “hunt” and eventually find the global optima.
Think of your time, talent, identity, and energy as the input data. Your mind needs to function as the “optimizer” to find the work that delivers the maximum output value. View the “random walks” as your career journey to search and locate the work and conditions that enable you to reach your true potential. You may have become comfortable and think you are operating at your potential, but a new optimum may surface through this dynamic marketplace. Transitioning throughout your career will help you remain relevant to the market and stay true to your identity.
Thanks for reading Graymatter! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.