I remember being in High School and somehow ending up at the VFW where my dad liked to knock back a Seagram's VO or two.
On the night in question, my dad was at the bar with a guy who he introduced me to and said the guy had some great advice for me, as I was interested in communications at the time. The advice went like this:
His point was simple. People who were subject matter experts in a specific field had a much better chance of great careers in writing than those who were generalists - because they had depth and knowledge that gave them authority others didn't have.
The year was 1986. That dude looks like Nostradamus these days.
Like most HR leaders, I didn't come out of college looking for a job in HR. I kind of slopped into it and then found out it was a good match for me.
I'm asked for career advice a lot by friends, family and people I don't know as part of this blog and my career in HR. I've never forgotten that Seagrams-influenced advice given by a journalist passing through a town of 2,000 in the middle of Northeast Missouri.
These days, my version of that advice is the following:
Find a niche you're interested in that has enough action to pay well, then fully invest yourself in becoming that absolute ####ing expert of that niche. Then make sure people can find you, which means you're going to have to self promote a bit.
The world has enough generalists. There's nothing to say you can't do both. You can be a generalist by being a financial analyst early in your career, but at some point you need to find a niche that's going to be in demand by someone who wants to pay you more in the future.
So you're a Financial Analyst. Why not dig deep and make yourself the expert in metrics that help evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of a sales function? I guarantee you there's a CFO who will double your salary for that focus.
Generalists are the ones that get laid off in the next economic downturn. Specialists who have a unique skill who can also do the generalist work? Protected.
Find a niche and grind at it for best career results. I leave you with the case study of Adrian Wjonarowski, pictured in a snapshot below from my smartphone this summer.
He goes by the handle of "WOJ". Woj is the guy that breaks 80% of the news in the NBA, and the NBA hates him, as evidenced by the picture below that shows him interviewing people outside a ladies bathroom in Las Vegas. That's where the NBA put him, because he's got more power than they'd like and they're trying to knock him down.
Too late. Woj didn't even blink an eye on this day, he just powered through the insult and solidified his power base for future rumors/news by interviewing 20 people he didn't have to. If you're into Game of Thornes, he's Varys.
Woj found a niche and grinded his way to domination. Whatever your field, you can do the same.
But only if you... 1) find a niche, and...2) grind like hell. #noshortcuts
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More from the Summer League. This is Adrian Wojnarowski, known to the basketball community as "WOJ". When you're following all your free agent news in the NBA, WOJ is the guy who breaks 80% of that news. He works for Yahoo, and as evidence for how the NBA feels about both Yahoo and WOJ having the power he does, consider the scene. He's taping video segments with guests, and the NBA put him OUTSIDE THE LADIES BATHROOM on the concourse with all the fans. To his credit, WOJ doesn't care. He just powered through it and solidified his power base for further rumors/news by interviewing 200 people. If you're into Game of Thrones, he's Varys.