Morphing Into A Specialist

Consider your workplace and the people you work alongside. Thinking now of your co-workers, you likely view some of those people as having grown a reputation as being a specialist in some area of their work. Perhaps you count yourself among them. How does a person become a specialist, an expert or recognized authority?

For many, it’s a case of knowing exactly what they want and signing up for specialized training beyond what they and their co-workers normally receive. This training results in the person obtaining formal certification; recognition of their academic expertise.

However, there are a vast number of people who have developed experiential expertise; expertise accumulated from extensive exposure with a certain population, topic or interest. So these people find themselves being sought out for consultation by others, regarded as an authority on a subject, and become the go-to people. The interesting thing is that they themselves may not have planned to be regarded as an expert; they may be initially surprised that others keep coming to them, but then it dawns on them that they have in fact a knack for whatever it is, or whomever it is that they excel with.

Hence you could have a Financial Consultant working in a large organization; providing investment advice be regarded as the right person to refer certain clients to over others. You have speakers in an organization get the nod over their peers depending on a group or topic; pegged as the right person to connect with that population.

So are you a specialist in your organization in some regard? You may have the same title as your peers, the same salary; but are you regarded as having a particularly well-developed skill in some area over your peers?

The advantage (and there are advantages) in being regarded as an authority or having a particularly well-developed skill set in some area, is that you become more valuable to both your organization, your customers or clients, and to your fellow employees. So if your co-workers are challenged with a client and you have high success rates in dealing with clients like them, they may come to you and draw upon your experience. You may excel more often when it comes to dealing successfully with those who present with similar challenges.

Sometimes, you can keep your ears and eyes open and identify opportunities to seize on where your peers universally dislike or avoid aspects of their work. They may be more than willing to pass on what they perceive as difficult or undesirable clients who share common attributes, even taking two or yours to divest themselves of the unwanted one. In such a case, you could gain a reputation as handling well what others see as difficult, and you’ll be appreciated for it.

Suddenly you could find yourself being the one who gets the nod when it comes to attending courses, seminars and going to conferences that provide additional learning opportunities for dealing with hard-to-serve populations. Then after attending a few of these, not only do people in your organization see you as an authority, but employees from other organizations at those events start to regard you the same way. You may wake up one day and suddenly realize that without really planning it, you’ve morphed into a specialist.

What might then occur to you is that because you have developed a knack for working with a certain population, you find yourself wanting some further formal education to obtain some academic accreditation. This opens up the idea of night school or taking a leave from your workplace. If you look into it, you might even find that your employer is willing to pay for all or part of your educational development as they would get a higher return on their investment upon your return to the workplace.

For many this is how they evolve, stay fresh and grow. If you sat down and had a conversation with these people, they might tell you that they never really set out to become a specialist; it kind of snuck up on them and took them by surprise.

The wonderful thing about this entire process is the personal growth that occurs. The more you are identified as a leading authority or have some unique insight, the more likely it is that you will discover opportunities which you previously didn’t know existed. Hence, you could compete in the future for a position you wouldn’t have thought possible or perhaps even known existed. The other possibility is that your organization might actually create a position around you which only is being created to both recognize and take advantage of your well-developed expertise.

If we take this idea even further, it may turn out that you wake up one day and wonder if you aren’t in a position to actually break away from the organization you are employed with and set up your own entrepreneurial business. Your expertise might be in such demand that running your own business is in the cards.

Have a look around the organization you work for and see if there are opportunities to seize upon. Based on your present skills, interests and those of your peers, are there areas in which someone could capitalize upon and with a little effort be the go-to person, the expert, the specialist? Perhaps that person could be you!


Be The One

Have you had the benefit of someone in your past who really made a positive impression on you? Someone perhaps who you admired because of how they went about their life, the actions they took, the things they believed in? And furthermore is it possible that one of the things they believed in was you?

Some people you know never get that experience. They don’t have the benefit of nurturing parents who create a caring and loving home and pass along the early lessons which are the building blocks for positive growth. No instead of placing value on inclusion, giving back, leading by example, sharing and education, they teach looking out for number one, taking what you can get and the school of hard knocks.

To be fair, most parents do believe they love their kids. Some are overwhelmed with the responsibility, lack the skills required to really be positive role models because they never had the benefit of positive ones in their own upbringing. They pass on what they know because it’s all they know, and they lack the resources to learn anything different.

By the time many young people are conscious of themselves, society at large and where they fit in, they’ve already been largely identified as having potential or not, from good homes or not, and the labels for good or not are being affixed. The future for such a young person is largely influenced by which social class they are born into, their location of birth, the opportunities they are afforded and their genetics.

One key factor as well in affecting someone’s potential is the appearance in their lives of someone who truly cares enough to provide some ethical or moral guidance; often unlooked-for and unexpected. Now it could be a teacher, a big brother or sister, a neighbour, shopkeeper, social services agency worker or, well…maybe even you or I.

In the case of a formal arrangement, there are groups who pair up young children and teens who could use some positive role models with older adults. These groups hold events, encourage interaction on a regular basis and hope that just time together will influence for good the young developing child who could use the benefit of a nurturing guide.

Formal arrangements are fine for some. Often; more often actually, we are influenced by those around us who we interact with on a more random basis. The teacher whose class we find ourselves in might be such a person. Seeing something of interest and value in a child who can’t see it themselves yet, and providing that same child with the opportunity to explore and experiment with whatever talents they might have in small doses without trampling and squashing out that gift.

What though of you and I? After all, maybe in the work we do and the lives we interact with because of it, there are opportunities each day to connect with people and possibly lay some foundation for a relationship. Maybe it starts off with a few positive interactions, casual offers of help or even just being available. Some people who have had the benefit of a mentor or guide can think back very clearly to their very first encounter with the person, while the mentor has no recollection of that initial contact whatsoever.

This difference is largely attributed to the fact that many people are so use to being passed over, talked down to – if talked to at all or being ignored, that it is a memorable event when someone engages with them who doesn’t necessarily want something in return. How significant it is then to constantly be aware of the potential you and I have each day to influence for good or not, and to look for the opportunities of engagement.

Now I myself know the faces of those whom I’ve had the benefit of positive engagement with in the past. Often I wasn’t aware enough in the time I had with them to appreciate or thank them. As we grow and age, people come in and out of our lives, sometimes reappear and sometimes leave for good. It’s not essential or required that we hunt them down years later and thank them when we realize their impact on us. In fact, many of them know instinctively at the time they are influencers of good and that’s enough for them. That’s part of their make up.

You and I though? We don’t need a formal education or a fancy job title. We don’t have to have a big pay cheque or a shiny new car. To be an influence of good, to be thought of later as ‘the one’ who believed in me when nobody else did; who saw something in me I couldn’t see myself – to be that person, could you do that?

I believe we have these chance encounters on a daily basis. Maybe it’s sitting down distraction-free and really just listening to someone with your full attention. In a digital age with technology at our fingertips, that may be shocking to some people just to have someone give them 100% of their attention.

Maybe too it’s just saying, “Sure”, when someone says, “Have you got a few minutes?” or just going about your own work with a moral compass as your guide. Who knows? Listen to others this week and look for the opportunities. See if you don’t find yourself in a situation where yes, you in fact, might just be the one.




Some Words To Work By

Having worked in the field of Social Services for many years, I can acknowledge quite openly that the way I think and interact with my clients and co-workers has changed over the years. Call it maturity, wisdom, experience, even trial and error, but I like to think it’s a sign of growth and continuous understanding. Many have guided me along.

And so, I would like to pass on some thoughts and advice to anyone interested; whether you are a client, a customer, a seasoned professional or just launching your career, I hope you’d agree that sharing such information might prove a good read and useful. Take what you will, leave the rest, add your own as you choose.

Listen attentively in order to determine exactly where your clients are in this moment.

Don’t assume the goals you’d have in someone else’s place will be theirs.

Be forgiving of those who fall short. Find the positives in what they did and start anew.

Surround yourself with positive people whenever you can; you’ll be happier.

Trust in your Supervisor when you’re asked to. Leave things with them.

Be observant, learn from everyone. Your teacher might be a client with a problem.

Build a personal code of ethics and follow your moral compass. It always points North.

Share what you can with those at any and all levels who are open to learning.

You’re skimming without reflecting. Pause, reflect, consider.

Make sure you only hit, “Reply All” when it’s appropriate.

If you are in a position of influence, do so with the best of others in mind.

Do your best whether you run a corporation or dig ditches. Take pride in your work.

If the job isn’t for you, get out without regret over money or benefits. Save yourself.

Hope is sometimes all people have; you may in their eyes be that Hope. Think on that.

Be consistent with your answers and your actions. That’s your reputation growing.

Work productively when no one is watching and a lesser you could get away with it.

Be a person of integrity; you’ll come to admire the person you see in the mirror.

Humour can lighten many a stressful situation.

Smiles cost nothing to give and often have the power to appear on others when given.

Be a Superhero and discover your super power.

Offer to help a co-worker when you can, learn to ask for help when you should.

If you’re lowest on the hierarchy, you influence the people who matter the most.

Dress yourself not for your current job, but for the job you eventually want.

Be kindest to the people who are most affected by the quality of your work.

Even when you are at the top of an organization, you needn’t look down at people.

Asking for help is a sign of strength not weakness.

Being asked for help is acknowledgement of your ability to provide it.

Do what’s right; always.

Be punctual at all times which respects the time of others.

Apologize when you make a mistake. It takes two words; “I’m sorry.” Done.

When you say, “Good morning”, mean it.

If you ask someone, “How are you today?” wait for the answer.

No matter how much you know, you’ll never know it all; keep learning anyhow.

Every now and then, stretch yourself and try something challenging.

Get out into the sun and clear your head. Breathe in some good air. Repeat.

Every so often, “No” is the word you are looking for.

There’s always a way to say, “Yes”. “Is there the will?” is the question.

Re-read your job description at least once a year. Surprise yourself.

Thank the person with a note who cleans your office. Surprise them.

Be considerate of others who share your workspace.

Others have to find their way just as you did. Let them make small mistakes.

People are counting on you; don’t let yourself down.

Be proud of the scars. You survived whatever assaulted you.

Get help before things completely fall apart. Know your limit.

Kind words build good working relationships.

Be someone to look up to even when you’re at the bottom.

Market yourself, promote your skills and abilities.

Your next job interview has already begun. Someone is always watching.

Get over yourself; others can replace you and maybe do things better.

On your very first day, think what they’ll say about you when you retire.

Know when it’s time to move on and have the courage to leap.

Even in bad times, see the bigger picture.

Every so often, get up and watch the day break over you.

There is usually at least one other solution than the one that you know.

People are entitled to hold their own opinion.

As you age, realize things aren’t black and white, right and wrong.

You can make a difference, and it always starts between the ears.

I certainly don’t mean to come across as a philosopher or a preacher. The ideas and thoughts above are just this mornings thoughts passed on for you to take in, think about, possibly act on or share.

You I’m sure have your own intelligence, wisdom, advice and suggestions which are also valuable. And so, I would encourage you to pass that on to your clients, your peers and me. There is much to be said for learning things on your own, trial and error etc., but advice offered is a valued gift.







Older Workers: Your Advice Would Be What?

You’ve seen I suppose those great movies where somebody needs great advice and wisdom in order to achieve something important? You know, there’s usually some big trip involved, (sometimes referred to as a quest) and eventually the audience gets their first glimpse of the person with all that wisdom. And who does it usually turn out to be? Some old dude.

It makes sense after all, because the older one is, the more likely they’ve got some insight into how to handle a problem because they have been around long enough to have gone through it themselves, or know others who have. And so, they are sought out for advice by those who have yet to experience the solution, who are currently going through the problem.

Luckily, there aren’t many problems that require you or I to travel around the world scaling mountains, traversing seas or even having to leave our towns and cities. No, there are people you probably know with a great deal of wisdom in your own neighbourhood, and in fact, you can now reach a large number of those people from the relative comfort of your own home where you can seek them out on-line.

In the movies or the story books, after the heroine or hero had gone immense distances and survived all kinds of obstacles to reach the wise one, they often never got a straight answer, but some cryptic message they had to then decipher for themselves. Yes, it made for great stories and movies when the lead character or protagonist had to then use their own wisdom to figure things out on their own with the new advice.

In our current day though, the wisdom is usually passed along in this cryptic way. And just as some cultures revere their elders and consult them for advice, I want to give the more mature and older workers out there the opportunity to pass on their wisdom. The key difference is that there is no single person sitting or standing before you who has come with a specific problem to present. No, this is a different situation and requires you to use your imagination to view a different scenario. This would be more like tens of thousands of people gathered in one spot to hear whatever wisdom you think worthy of passing on. It’s more like, “What’s on your mind old one?”

So let’s see if this goes anywhere. My challenge or request to you is to add a comment and reply passing on you own advice to those younger than you with the only limitation that it be related to employment. You can pass on your best advice for getting a job in the first place, keeping the job someone has now, or how to get ahead. Yours can be a philosophy you’ve found works for you, a single line or several paragraphs. Think of this like a, “Best of” collection of thoughts and advice.

So what do you now wish someone had told you or shared with you when you were a younger person with respect to the world of work? What would have made things easier, or maybe making things easier isn’t what’s important at all. Okay, so what would you have appreciated knowing to make your work life more rewarding, more meaningful, or got you where you are now, only faster?

What topic you choose to add to the thread I hope ensues could be about different stages in one’s life too. Are you directing your words to a teenager, someone in their 20’s, their mid-life years or maybe only a few years away from retirement if you yourself are already comfortably in your twilight years? It could be that someone reading this shares this with their own mom or dad who has little to no computer skills, and therefore acts as the recorder, taking their advice and adding it on the elder person’s behalf. That would be a useful exercise on many levels.

Just imagine…a string of thoughts on the web in this thread, stumbled upon by browsers in months and years to come, or shared and passed round by regular readers of this blog, or members of a discussion group. And what if there were already a group out there, or we came to find a plethora of groups out there, where a whole bunch of old dudes hang out who in addition to any words of advice shared here, invite us to sit in their audience there? Wouldn’t that be one of those, “good for you and good for us” moments?

Matured or older workers aren’t automatically smarter or more intelligent. Age alone doesn’t guarantee wisdom. However, older and more mature workers do have a wealth of experiences that when shared can be learned from. By sharing our stories, our experiences and the outcomes, other readers can benefit from seeing what you thought at the time, what went into your decisions of the past and how those decisions affected you in the present day. No matter where you are in your own life, there’s a mixture perhaps of satisfaction, regrets, opportunities seized and lost – passed over altogether or challenges accepted and conquered.

So, now it’s your turn. Add a story that shows something learned or to learn by. Give some advice, do this alone or sit down with someone now you respect and make it an activity between you two. What’s on your mind?