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How becoming an expert can boost your career

How becoming an expert can boost your career

How long do you plan to work? 30, 40, 50 years? It’s a long time to be doing the same thing, and boring too. Not to mention potentially career limiting… unless of course you become a recognised, sought-after expert in a specific area of your profession.

If you decide to choose this path, make sure it’s one that sets you apart from the competition and adds real value to what you do, who you are as a person, and what you stand for in business.

It’s time to reinvent yourself

Ever been in that situation when a colleague with whom you started out has become an expert at something and leapfrogged you in terms of job opportunities and salary? It happens all the time. What did they do differently?

They specialised, they became the recognised expert or thought leader in an area of the business. Before long people inside and outside the organisation were clamouring for their time and their expertise. Meanwhile you were, and probably still are, sitting around doing the same thing day after day.

I’ve learnt one very important lesson in my working life and no doubt there are more to come! I left the PR profession on two separate occasions to try different things. The first was as the principal of a tertiary education institution. It lasted six months before I went back into PR. The second happened years later, we had moved to Australia and I decided to set up an import and distribution business – it lasted slightly longer – one year to be precise.

I could look back and say these were two blemishes on my career but in fact they taught me an invaluable lesson – stick to what you know and do best and find something in that career in which you can specialise and become an expert.

My specialisation in thought leadership started seven years ago and I have been passionately and intently exploring, writing, speaking and consulting on the topic ever since. The result is two published books and one co-authored e-Book, a thought leadership blog and a twitter handle (@thoughtstrategy) devoted to thought leadership, as well as numerous guest posts, articles and talks. I will be the first to admit there is still a lot to learn, but boy, the journey has been fantastic and worthwhile across a number of fronts.

Becoming a thought leader is invigorating

Not only will your path to becoming an expert be exciting and rewarding but you will learn something new every day. On my thought leadership journey I’ve met or come into online contact with some wonderful, brilliant people.

In fact the co-author of my second book, Dr Liz Alexander and I have yet to meet, and the same goes to the co-authors of an e book to which I contributed, Mignon van Halderen and Kym Kettler-Paddock. (By the way this e-Book is available free on my blog.)

Specialising has also helped open doors that otherwise would never have opened.

You should be asking yourself: How will I keep myself refreshed, invigorated, challenged, stimulated and enthusiastic for the long haul? Am I on a steep learning curve and motivated by what I do, or am I coasting, stagnating?

It’s time to take control of your career

Maybe it’s time you took control of your career, time to reinvigorate your sagging self-esteem, declining work interest and as a result your ability to be a magnetic talent.

Your ticket may well be to become a thought leader in your chosen field. If your company is willing to help you develop this, even better. If not, make sure it can be done in a way that benefits the company and yourself so that you can run it parallel with your job.

Developing your personal thought leadership platform

Here are some practical steps you can take:

  1. Identify where you have special talents or knowledge that will add value to your role, your colleagues, clients or the business generally.
  2. Understand your market intimately. The thought leadership you develop needs to address their needs and issues, not yours.
  3. Have a plan – decide how are you going to build your knowledge, and importantly, why. Write down a few objectives so that you can measure, down the track, whether you have been successful or not.
  4. Build your knowledge in your chosen topic area by attending courses and talks, reading widely, writing – you could start a blog or tweet about it, identify bloggers or online magazines which focus on your topic and approach them about writing guest posts or articles, join like-minded LinkedIn Groups, set up a Google Alert for material that you can curate and use this material to help formulate your own views and insights, talk publicly about your topic, and finally, if you’re that way inclined, write a book or an e-Book.
  5. Share your views – cleverly package your knowledge for the best effect in your workplace or with clients and share as much as possible. Thought leaders have an abundance mentality.
  6. Get people on board. Share your expertise and involve people in it and over time you will build a team around you supportive of your views.

Good luck and let me know how you travel on your journey.

More reading: 

Six thought leadership tips for communicators
Put yourself in the driver’s seat of your career
Beware the dark side of business
Success at work: what are you chasing? 
The dawn of the ‘Contsumer’: Are you prepared?

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