It is no longer enough to do your job properly. Standing out has become essential in a world with a lot of change and uncertainty around future job prospects. If you want to attract business or new opportunities, it has become essential to work on your influence, both offline and online. If fact, says Dorie Clark, a seasoned Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur and Forbes contributor, standing out has become an essential form of career insurance. Developing a reputation as an expert in your field, whatever field that may be, helps to differentiate you in an already crowded marketplace.
In her book “Standout”, Clark suggests a process for helping all of us to get better at standing out. There are 3 main parts to it: one, finding a breakthrough idea, two, building a following around your idea, and three, making it happen. Here is a bit more detail on that process.
- Finding a breakthrough idea
This part is all about cultivating a questioning mindset so that you can discover your own niche. Clark suggests setting up your own curriculum of study, and given the age we live in with so many free resources at our fingertips, this is much easier to do than ever before. She emphasizes the power of learning ‘not to collect dust’ but rather to have some defined impact in the world, no matter how small it is.In generating your idea, think about doing new research into a topic, or combining existing ideas in new ways. You may discover that it is useful to pull everything you learn into a new framework. Collect, process and prepare yourself to share the ideas you have. What topics do you feel passionate about? What conventional wisdoms do you want to challenge? Who might need your skills and approach, but does not typically have access to them? Where can you learn more, from websites, courses, events, other people? How will you share your ideas?
- Building a following around your ideasThe best idea in the world will have no impact if nobody hears about it. Part 2 is about getting your ideas heard in a crowded world, and this starts with building a personal network. Who do you respect among your peers? Are there any well-known influencers that you would like to engage? How will you engage? How will you add value? You might want to attend events where influencers are speaking, and to connect with and follow them online. Consider how up to date your LinkedIn and other social profiles are. A lot is taken from what Google search returns about you. Shift from just ‘listening’ on profiles to sharing thoughtful and useful insights, and refine your blogging skills, even if you just blog occasionally using a platform like LinkedIn. The final frontier may even be to write a book! This part of the process is all about building your audience and community.After all: “The best ideas don’t stay tied to their creators forever, they go out into the world and make a difference because people make them their own.”
- Making it happenAnd that brings us to the third part of Clark’s process: making it happen. It takes hard work to succeed. One could devote all the time in the world to researching, learning, helping others in your network and building a reputation for ideas online. But how does one earn a living from all this?Firstly, being recognised in your industry (even if you have not taken this all the way to the ‘novel niche’ or ‘expert influencer’ status that Clark outlines) definitely stands you out from the many other people and companies competing for the same jobs, customers and opportunities. Develop your coherence of ideas and stand for something larger than just yourself, and ensure that others can discover this about you either online or in interactions with you.Secondly, Clark provides numerous examples of individuals who earn significant returns through their ideas. Some are monetising through speaking, coaching and online programmes and courses. These sources of income free them to focus on other areas, such as furthering research or, as in the case of Seth Godin, finding generous internship programmes and other pro bono passions that allow them to give back. You may also want to think about product creation or building a business around an idea. If your following or community grows substantially, perhaps you will consider taking sponsorship.Building your influence may be alongside your ‘day job’, for now. What can you start doing today, for free, that may one day lead to paid work? It’s a question everyone should be asking.