Career Tip: Become An Expert At Something (And It Doesn’t Have To Be Big)

At every job I’ve had, I have attempted to be “the guy” when it comes to something.  It’s been as big as a major piece of technology (the ‘Citrix’ or ‘Virtual computing’ guy) and as small as a piece of software (the ‘Excel’ guy).

It’s important to be ‘the guy’ or ‘the girl’ at something for one reason: People will think of you.

In business, you can be better at something than anybody else on the planet, but if people don’t think of you first, then it’s pretty much all for nothing.

So, make sure they think of you.

The funny thing is that you don’t even have to be expert level at what you do.  Just so long as you can answer the questions that are presented to you within a reasonable amount of time, you’re good.

When I was the ‘Excel guy’ at a recent job, I got the reputation pretty early on.  I happened to help someone with a problem who used it a lot and who did a lot of talking in the department.  Word spread quickly and people asked me Excel questions all the time.

My dirty little secret was that, for many of the questions, I didn’t know the answer off the top of my head, and simply used Microsoft Help or Google to figure out the answer.  I’d look it up, try it out myself to make sure it worked, then head over and show off my mad skill as ‘the Excel guy’.

It worked because it kept me talking to people that I might not otherwise talk to.  That can never hurt in business where it’s all about networking.  I’m pretty sure I even got asked an Excel question or two by people with Manager or Director (or better) in their title, and that was double bonus day.

So, find something that you can be ‘the guy’ or ‘the girl’ at and get cracking.  Don’t make a big deal of it, but if you can quietly take on that role, it can only help your reputation.

7 thoughts on “Career Tip: Become An Expert At Something (And It Doesn’t Have To Be Big)”

  1. I got great at excel too when I did a six sigma role. I'm still a go to person for some people even though I've been in sales for 6+ years.

    I think the general act of helping people with stuff that's "not your job" gets you a good reputation at any rate.

  2. They call this added value! You can make yourself more valuable and hopefully more promotable. It is an excellent way to distinguish yourself. Even as a teacher, I look for things to distinguish myself (outside the classroom). It makes me more valuable!

  3. This is a great tip – at my office, i'm the Database/GIS Guy. Though at this point, I havent used GIS in so long I cant always remember what to do, but If i'm left alone with the problem for a while I can figure it out.

  4. This is an awesome career tip, and it also shows how important social networks are in all aspects of our lives.

  5. I agree. I received two promotions based on the fact that I learned how to do something in the company that no one else knew how to do.

  6. Love this tip MB! I think it's a very important takeaway for careers. In my last job rotation (sort of an extended internship), they didn't give me many projects to work on, and as a result, I wasn't know as "the guy" for anything. I could definitely feel that they missed me less in that job compared to previous ones.

  7. I like to read career advice and I have to say that this is one of the best tips I've come across. Now I have to think how I can apply it to my job.

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