I talked to a client recently who was mere moments away from letting her boss know she was leaving to go and pursue her passion, whatever that may be. She was nervous. She didn’t have a crystal clear plan about what the next step was, she just knew staying put wasn’t a long-term solution. She was afraid he would question her and want to know more about her plan and she wouldn’t have much to say.
I can totally relate.
When I left public relations to find my passion and do it, I didn’t have a clue about the next step. I knew another day where I was wouldn’t get me any closer. More importantly, I knew that staying another day would continue to drain me of the energy I needed after work to search for my best-fit career. So I did something that I wouldn’t necessarily recommend: I made up a story.
When I told people I was leaving and they reacted with a “what?!?!” and “why?!?!?” I told them I was going to pursue my passion for the Spanish language and get a Master’s in Spanish. This wasn’t totally wrong. I did speak Spanish fluently and it was a consideration at the time, but deep in my core I knew that wasn’t it either. The Spanish plan was more for them than it was for me. People need to hear that you have a plan to calm their own insecurities.
What would have been even more bold would be to say, “I don’t know what I’m doing next, but I know I’m going to figure it out.” I met a Rice University student who did just that. During the onslaught of senior-year job offers from prestigious consulting firms, she stood resolute and told friends, family, and any one who asked, “I’m not sure what I’ll do next, but I’m continuing to search for the right fit.” She graduated without a job (oh, the horror!) and continued to search — using her talents and values as a guide — and landed an amazing job doing something she’s passionate about and getting paid to do it...at 20-something years old. So inspiring.
The truth is, it doesn’t really matter if you have a plan. If your finances are in order and you’ve got the drive to figure it out, you can work almost anywhere making next-to-nothing while you figure out your next step.
What’s most important is that you listen to your Inner Voice.
When it’s time to go, it’s time to go, and that’s enough of a reason.
Expertise is an interesting thing.
I recently encouraged a coaching client to start a business to which he replied, “Who am I to do that?!” I responded, “Yeah, but who am I?” He said, “You’re an expert! No one would listen to me.”
Whoa...wait. What?! I’m an expert?
This got me thinking, if he perceives me as an expert, how did I get there? How did I get to the point where an individual believes I’m expert enough in something to pass along advice and coaching and merit pay in return??
For me, it’s a five step process.
Here’s how to become an expert in almost anything:
Step One: Real experience.
In both of the worlds I live in — leadership and career — I don’t just make stuff up. I speak from experience. I don’t tell other peoples’ stories. I tell my own. Expertise has come from the school of life -- from hating my job then trying something new before eventually finding a career I love. From ineffectively leading people and working for equally ineffective leaders before studying how to lead, learning more about my own leadership, and striving to improve.
The implication here is that if you don’t have experience in the area you want to be an expert in, go get some experience! Better yet, try something and fail at it. Then get better. Voila! Expertise.
Step Two: Harness talent.
Once I identified my areas of interest — leadership and career — I had to choose my piece of the pie. Would I plan events in those fields? Write books? Speak? Teach? Coach? Start a company? To answer the question of “where do I fit” within the expertise I looked to my talents. I’m good at synthesizing information for people (coaching and teaching), delivering content in a meaningful way (teaching and training), and researching information relevant to the topic (writing, teaching, coaching, and training). I’m weak with logistics and details (event planning) and operations (running a business).
Stick to the part of the field you do best. People will honor your expertise in that specific area.
Step Three: Know the content.
This is key. The biggest gap between experts and non-experts is in content knowledge. If you don’t understand the underlying content that drives the industry, you can’t effectively speak the language. I’ve immersed myself in a deep study of leadership and career articles, books, curricula, journal articles, and other research to learn the fundamentals of the fields. What I’ve found is that really smart people have taken the time to conduct meaningful studies that give credibility to the experiences I’ve had in Step One. Make the connections and articulate them clearly and those you’re trying to lead as an expert will grant you credibility in return.
Step Four: Define and deliver your key message.
What do you have to say? It’s one thing to believe "all people can love their career” or “the best leaders are authentic,” but you can’t build a business on that. Get specific about what you believe, why it’s true, and how others can go and do it. Define the key message and the steps they may take. Develop the system -- the "how." This is why I wrote RESET — I believe anyone can love what they do and here are the steps to do it.
Getting clear about your key message does two things: it builds your confidence and it also attracts those individuals who believe (or want to believe) the same things.
Step Five: Interact.
Expertise is never built in a silo. I can do steps One through Four but nobody becomes an expert in isolation. Connect with other experts and thought-leaders, but more importantly connect with the people a little further back on the trail who need a few tips and points to advance to the next stage. This is your audience. The more you connect and add value, the more your expertise grows. People share with other people the value you have to add and nothing builds expertise quite like a third-party testimonial.
Do these five steps consistently over a period of time and you’ll become an expert. Skip a step at your own risk.
There is no shortcut to expertise, but there is value in becoming an expert.
I don’t know why it is, but you’re more likely to thrive in your business/passion when you’re all in.
When you do it part-time, it feels part-time, both to you and the people you serve. But when you do it full-time, people think “Man, this dude must be an expert, because no one but an expert would be crazy enough to go all in as an entrepreneur.”
Before you can hit that tipping point to take what you do to the people, show you're crazy enough to believe in what you do.
The best way to do that? Go all in.
Hi! I'm Dustin.
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