Maybe you want to advance in your career – you want more autonomy or more responsibility in your job. Maybe you want to change companies. Or maybe you like your current company but just not your current role in that company. Instead of lamenting and slowly disengaging, I have a suggestion for a straightforward strategy you can deploy over the next few weeks to help you leap-frog forward in that pursuit. What is this strategy? Become a local expert.
How to become a local expert
In this series on becoming a local expert, I will discuss the benefits of being an expert, how to choose your expertise and how to make yourself known as the go-to person in your area. I will discuss a three-step process for achieving this goal thais simple and easy to follow. Simple, but not necessarily easy. Being an expert means, putting in the work, being worth your salt and then reaping the rewards. H-A-C-K does not spell expert, it spells doom.
H-A-C-K does not spell expert, it spells D-O-O-M
This first post is about why become a local expert. We will talk about who an expert is and the benefits to you and your organization. Let us begin.
What is an expert? Really
An expert is simply someone who has specialized knowledge or skill in a particular area. In other words, an expert is someone who either knows a lot about a particular thing, can do a particular thing very well, or both. Therefore, we have experts in turbine engine technology and experts in parasitic anthropology (yes that is a thing). We have experts in small business accounting and experts in car detailing.
If the word expert scares you, be comforted by the word local. I am not asking you to go get a PhD (though it doesn’t hurt if you have the inclination). I am not asking you to become the most knowledgeable person on the continent (given the right field this is a winner – unlikely, though). No, I am simply asking you to become known as knowledgeable and/or skillful at something within the locality of your office or company.
The key to understanding what it means to be an expert is to shift focus from the word “expert” and place our focus on the concept of “specialized knowledge or skill”. Actually, you can be an expert in pretty much anything you choose from skin care for domesticated felines to wild mushroom pruning. Whether or not these are worth your time or will add anything valuable to your personal or professional life is a matter of preference and power of imagination.
For now, I will assume you want expertise in a field with some commercial value within your organization or industry so let us look at my three steps to establishing yourself as an expert in your locality. But first, meet Mike.
Mike the secret expert
I once heard a story about a man who works in an engineering consulting firm as a group manager. We’ll call him Mike. He had an interest in change management and had taken courses and read many books on the subject, most of which were paid for with his own funds. By many standards, Mike had amassed enough knowledge to launch a personal consulting business in change management had he been inclined to do so. But what happened when the company needed change management services? Of course, they hired an outside consultant and paid the consultant nearly twice as much as this in-house talent was earning.
The HR specialist would tell me later that Mike’s greatest challenge was one of perception. He was not perceived as an expert on the subject by the decision makers and so the company outsourced the position.
Now since he had so much interest, passion and ability in the field, Mike could have taken steps to create the perception of expertise in the office. That is, brand himself as a local expert. Then when the need arose in the company for a change manager, guess who the decision makers would have thought of first?
Sadly, he did not. So, they did not.
Perception affects promotion
To advance or change your career, especially within the same company, you need to change how you are perceived. One of the reasons you have not already achieved what you are after is because you are not seen as the kind of person to do that job. Whether we like it or not, it is not enough to be capable, you must be perceived as capable for you to get a chance to show what you can do.
…it is not enough to be capable, you must be perceived as capable for you to get a chance to show what you can do.
Maybe you are making an excuse that the reason you do not have the position you want, doing the kind of work you love is that there is no “vacancy” or that the kind of role you want does not exist in that company. Well, I know of people who have succeeded in having offices and even departments created for them based on the value they provided working in certain fields. It may not happen immediately but when the time is right, when the need arises, things will align and guess who they will think of? You. That is if you have put in the work of establishing yourself as a local expert.
Everybody wins when you are a local expert
Taking the time and doing the work of becoming and, more importantly, establishing yourself as a local expert is a win-win – for you and your company.
It is a win for you because the process of learning that is involved enhances you immensely making you more intrinsically valuable. Choosing an area or niche in your field to focus on (more on choosing the right field later) will enlarge your value proposition and help you command more influence, negotiate more autonomy and earn more money. And influence, autonomy and remuneration can make all the difference between a ho-hum job you endure and a fabulous job you absolutely love!
Your company wins
It is a win for the company because it is beneficial to have an insider with specialized expertise in some operation the company is (or would like to become) engaged in. As an insider, you know the company better than anyone.
Also, the increase in pay or privileges for you is often much smaller than it would cost to hire an outside consultant or a brand-new employee (with a whole separate pay package). Win-win.
Ready to become one?
Having read this, I hope you are starting to consider becoming a local expert – at least as a start. Who knows where it will go from there? In the meantime, stay tuned for the next article where we discuss choosing your expertise.
Till then, be your best and do you best.