Many of us want to be recognized as true experts in our field. We want to become thought leaders and influencers who change the way people think and do things.
However, in order to be impactful, our expertise has to be highly specialized. When our ideas and insights are broad, we are unable to deliver practical solutions that respond to specific problems. It’s also a lot harder to convey and monetize our value when we sell ourselves as the jack-of-all-trades who can master it all. It just isn’t believable.
When we aren’t aligned with the exact thing that makes us unique on this planet, we don’t stand out in the crowd. We end up sounding like everyone else. This leaves us feeling bored, unfulfilled, and probably underpaid.
Marketing experts tell us that in order to find our expertise, we need to start with finding our niche—a specialized segment of the market. While finding your niche is a critical step to claiming your expertise, it is only the second step, not the first.
When you start with finding your niche, you risk creating a wobbly foundation for your venture. Why? Because that niche is in essence outside of you. It describes an issue that’s out there, about other people. This removes you from the equation, as well as your vision, experiences, gifts, talents, etc.
When the attributes that give you distinction are overlooked, you end up being pulled and tugged into different niches and becoming confused by the needs and wants of different markets. (This, by the way, is when pivoting turns into a downward spiral.) You end up trying to serve others out of a sense of obligation, or painfully retrofitting yourself into the niche, which takes the passion right out of your work.
If you’re in the generalist boat and want to get out of it, the niche you first have to focus on is inside of you. It’s the problem, big or small, that you’ve experienced and solved over and over in your life. It’s the problem that you’ve had to deal with on your own because others didn’t have the solutions that worked for you.
Keep in mind that even if you haven’t completely solved the problem yet, you’ve likely started the process of figuring out what does and doesn’t work, which gives you enough expertise to get started.
You don’t have to be perfect to claim your expertise. Mastery comes over time. For now, you are good enough as you are. There are people out there who are ready to receive your help today.
Think of establishing a match between you and your external niche. Your ideal audience will match you in specific ways, and I don’t mean demographically. They too have struggled with your problem and experienced the same pains. In a sense, you already know them because you’ve walked in their shoes.
This is precisely how you attract the very people who need what you have to offer and are far more likely to benefit from it.
If you’re ready to level up and pinpoint your signature expertise, here are four tips to guide you:
As you become more aware of the chasms you’ve personally crossed and how you crossed them, you’ll find a sense of authority. You’ll be able to convert your experiences and wisdom into actionable ideas that can help others.
Naming your expertise should be filled with fun and laughter, so don’t take yourself too seriously. Once you’ve claimed your expertise, discovering your external niche should be easy-peasy.
Bianca Finkelstein originally published this article in Fast Company Magazine