Why you need to become an expert in your field.

“Be so good they can’t ignore you”

When asked in an interview to give advice to others about how to achieve success, this was the brilliant response from acclaimed comedian and actor Steve Martin. It resonated with me immediately. If you’ve followed my blog or work for a while you’ll know that I’m all about focusing on the things you can control in order to get the results you want. This is especially important in these challenging times when we have so little control over external events – we can at least take ownership of our own thoughts and actions and use them to help us get what we want out of life.  I subscribe to the philosophy that success comes not from lucky breaks, or from quick fixes, or from having some special gift – but from working really hard to be ‘good’ at things. (See my blog on why you need to ‘do the work’). And that such achievement requires determination and singular focus. Although it is tempting for high achievers to want to be good at everything – I realised that what I needed to do to succeed in my life goals was to knuckle down, avoid distractions, and to work to become the best in my field. In other words I needed to become ‘an expert’ in what I do. Several years down the line, I firmly believe that deciding to adopt this focused, specialist approach was the best choice I ever made – and that it could help you too.

Don’t be a jack of all trades…

Perhaps you feel that just doing your job should be enough; that keeping up with all the things you have to do, and doing them to a good standard is all that should be required. Sure, you may well be getting paid every month, but ask yourself, is this generalist approach denying you the rewards of leadership, influence, and the holy grail of having control over your own agenda? Is stretching your talents thinly across different spheres not only consuming all your time and energy, but denying you the opportunity to gain real experience and confidence across the board? And are your current opportunities for progression being harmed by a lack of specialist knowledge or skill? If you have answered yes to any of these questions, then finding an expert focus might just be the thing for you. In this blog I want to convince you that investing the time and effort necessary to become a valued expert in what you do will help you refine and boost your personal brand – and ultimately increase your confidence, prospects and career fulfilment.

Here are my top reasons to become an expert:

1. To raise your profile. You’ll stand out from the crowd. Most people are performing their jobs just well enough to get paid – they do what is expected of them, but no more. If you put in more effort, specialise, and establish yourself as a true expert in your field, you will be clearly visible above the rest. This is great news for attracting career enhancing opportunities.

2. To boost your confidence. (Working parent pitfall #4 is the loss of confidence – see my blog on the subject here). When you have worked hard to become an expert, you know you’re good – and because you know much more than most about a subject, everyone else knows you’re good too. Being considered an expert is validation of your value.

3. To improve your leverage. An expert is valued because they have a knowledge and experience that others don’t. What this means for the working parent is leverage – the greater your value, the more you can request in return. Want to work 3 days a week at home? Be so valuable that your employer would rather be flexible than not have you at all. Becoming an expert could make you indispensable.

4. To enhance your personal brand. Your expertise combined with your other traits and attributes is part of what makes you unique. (See my blog on the importance of finding your unique value here). Being unique means that you are authentic, memorable and highly valuable to any employer.

5. To avoid career sabotage. Working parent pitfall #3 is sabotage. When you are a knowledgable expert you’re much less likely to be mistreated, sidelined or overlooked at work and so can avoid career stagnation. As a specialist, you can leverage your expertise to bypass potential sabotage and climb the career ladder unimpeded.

6. To find your passion. The quote at the start of this blog is the title of a book “So good they can’t ignore you” by Cal Newport. He challenges the myth that you should first find your passion, and then decide what to do with your life. Instead, he argues that you should pick something and work hard at it until you become an expert – and that the effort you put in combined with the expertise you acquire will actually create the passion and purpose you desire. That way, you, and only you, are in control of the direction of your life. You can’t claim that you have never ‘found’ your passion if you can create it yourself through hard graft and dedication.

7. To find fulfilment in your work. To become an expert you will need to work harder and more thoroughly than ever before. You will pay closer attention, think more creatively, research more broadly and be more pro active in acquiring experience and learning from other experts. In other words, you will need to be fully engaged. And when you are fully engaged with the challenge of being (and remaining) an expert, it’s hard to be bored. Your mind will be open to new ideas, interesting people and the joys of learning every day. What’s not to love about that?!


If this blog has whetted your appetite for progressing and specialising, tune into my latest podcast on the subject, episode #56.  If you would like help in finding and honing your expertise, you might be interested in my Having it all coaching programme. Email me at Caroline@babyproofyourlife.com