1: Share Expertise
CASE STUDY: After two years on the job at his PR firm, Philip was slowly becoming frustrated that new projects and opportunities were not happening quickly enough. Maybe, he thought, it was time to move on to a new company. He was spending too much time waiting for the firm to use his knowledge. He took a step back and decided to no longer be a victim. Although he wasn't working sixty hours a week like at his last job, he was certainly underutilized by his current employer. Philip determined how he could take initiative to share his knowledge with others in the company. He also realized that in his current situation he was working fewer hours and getting paid more money. Isn't this what he wanted anyway? Philip concluded, "Hmmm. More money, fewer hours, and it's like I am a consultant on retainer sharing my expertise when the company needs it."
Liberate yourself by making the shift from indentured employee to expert on retainer. Share Expertise to use what you know, maximize your effectiveness, and manage your energy. You have a unique and specific set of skills and knowledge. This is why your company employs you.
Is This Strategy Right for You? The Share Expertise strategy is likely to work for you if
• You feel confident you've got what it takes.
• You're ready to contribute your expertise to provide solutions.
• You enjoy continually sharpening your skills.
• You want to position your skills so they'll be put to maximum use.
When to Apply: Breathe a fresh and liberating perspective into your work. It's time to recalibrate your expectations of your job—what you give, how you give, and what you expect in return. Share Expertise to manage your expectations of your work and to maximize your unique skills and knowledge.
What Sharing Expertise Will Do for You: Sharing expertise will help you to effectively contribute what you know, reevaluate your relationship with your work, and appreciate your workplace in a whole new way. You'll experience a transformative shift from simply being an employee to redefining yourself as a paid expert. You will feel liberated because you will contribute on your terms. Making this choice will also help you save and manage your energy for when you need to step up and put your knowledge, skills, and talents to use.
Do you go to work feeling like the knowledge you bring is not always used by your employer? Does it seem that, although you are engaged and motivated, only a small percentage of what you have to offer is used? Maybe you feel tired of extending yourself—volunteering for projects, suggesting new initiatives, and working way too hard, yet not reaping the rewards. Sometimes you need to step back, evaluate the true value of what you bring to your job, and identify the most efficient way to contribute—even if it means working less.
What Is Expertise?
Imagine a world of work where you get paid for your ideas. In fact, people depend on you to share your expertise with them. Wouldn't that be a great world in which to exist? Wait a minute—you already work there! That's what you are paid for: contributing your ideas and knowledge at work. It is challenging to have this perspective when your work environment feels out of your control: customer demands, team dynamics, market shifts, projects that come and go, and demands that are placed on you can push you from too much down time to no time to think. What if you stepped out of your current perspective and put yourself in the driver's seat? For a growing number of people, their workplace is viewed as a customer; they are available to that customer when and how they are needed: as experts on retainer. As hired experts, they share their expertise to their employer when and how it is required. In making this shift, your perspective changes from floating adrift in the demands of your workplace to a self-defined relationship with your work.
In the context of this little book, expertise is defined as having a body of knowledge, perspective, or methods that are transferable. You have expertise. Recognize yourself as someone who has unique and useful ideas to contribute to others. Most of us assume that expertise is defined as having a depth of knowledge in one particular area. Although this is true, for the purpose of creating your end of work as you know it, we expand on this definition to include "unique and useful knowledge"—because everyone has ideas to contribute. Each idea is unique, because we all have different experiences that color the lens through which we view the world. As such, each idea holds possibilities. Each idea has value.
Share Expertise is a strategy to manage and deploy your ideas and add value to your organization. Granted, every day will not always be an expertise day. Sometimes it's going to be "organize your files day" or "empty out your email inbox day," which are the mundane tasks of even the most exciting job. Other days, you will be asked to be the hero or take initiative to jump in and save the day with a great solution that draws on your expertise. Therefore, consider yourself on retainer. You'll be called on for your expertise when needed.
Our expert, Philip, wanted his capabilities to be put to maximum use by the organization. He wanted to make great contributions on a regular basis to feel like he was adding value. He wanted to add value regularly because it gave him a sense of accomplishment, but his expectations were not realistic, given shifting company priorities, a chaotic work environment, and a chorus of other employees seeking attention. What the company needed was for Philip to be generally reliable and engaged and, when they needed him to be a star, to step up and perform admirably. Once Philip understood that this process was about the organization's timing, not their judgment of his worth, it liberated him to see himself in a different light. He was an expert on retainer. This shift in how he saw himself and his role enabled him to be less focused on competing for attention, less personally attached to a single soon-to-be reprioritized initiative. He would instead focus on what he could control and where he could add real value.
This particular definition of expertise is intended to shift our current paradigm for how we see ourselves and our contribution to our employer. Not every moment at work is going to be a career-defining moment. Sometimes, as employees, we become "defining-moment junkies." We want every moment and every day at work to feel like a rush. Although this could be exciting, it's not necessary or realistic. If you see yourself as an expert on retainer, you shift to acceptance of being the hero and getting the rush only when needed by the organization, not because you need it every day. Even the most high-achieving experts need slow days to regroup, catch their breath, and even refresh their expertise in a subject.
The Principles of the Share Expertise Strategy
Here are three principles to help reinforce your expertise perspective.
First, you need to define what knowledge, experiences, and insights make your ideas and contributions unique. Then look to see when you can impart this unique knowledge so that it's most useful to your organization. Finally, determine how to manage your contribution through a targeted effort.
Here's a deeper dive into the three principles.
1. What knowledge, experiences, and insights do I hold that make my ideas and contributions unique? Most of us have followed a singular path to reach our current situation in our job and career. What was your path? What training, courses, degrees, or certifications did you pick up along the way? What projects did you get involved in? What did you learn from those experiences? What were the politics of the people and organizations with whom you've worked? What insights did you gain about how best to get things accomplished, given those complexities? No one else has had your exact experience. The insights you've gained in the course of your career contribute to the knowledge you bring to the table. This is extremely valuable information that you can in turn contribute to your organization.
Philip grew up in a household with a father who was a doctor, a mother who was a homemaker, and three other siblings. He earned a degree in communications and studied abroad for a year while in college. He worked for several marketing firms before joining this public relations firm. He decided to make the switch because he wanted to grow into a related area to round out his experience, and also to challenge himself to build on his prior skills and apply them in a different arena. His background, upbringing, degree, international experience, and marketing background all enrich his perspective. They are what make his ideas and contributions uniquely his.
2. When to impart unique knowledge. Experts know exactly when to apply their ideas. As an expert, you are keenly aware of the organizational state of your company and what it needs from you. Something relevant and useful is much more valuable than an outside or uninformed view because of the level of impact it can have for the organization at that particular time. This is not about your ego—this is what the organization needs. Experts are fully aware of this.
Never short of ideas, Philip was quick to come up with new angles and fresh client pitches. It frustrated him that although his ideas were acknowledged, often they were not acted on. Isn't that what he was hired to do? Not just to make proposals, but also to implement the solutions? What was going on? His initial response was to blame himself and dwell on a growing self-perception that he was not living up to expectations. It was not until a check-in meeting with his boss, in which he shared his concern, that he realized he was overanalyzing the situation. His boss said he loved his contributions and was fine with the fact that clients did not always move beyond recommendation to implementation. Philip finally realized that this pattern was not about him; rather, it was about the organizational state of flux and the client's timing, so he quickly got over his doubts. He would still put 100 percent into his work. The difference is that now he will manage his assumptions and effort by first ascertaining what he can provide and deliver when and as needed—as opposed to constantly going above and beyond, overextending himself, and making assumptions about what his company and the client needed him to provide.
3. Manage your contribution through a targeted effort.Experts understand the environment and landscape of their workplace. As such, they manage their contributions accordingly. They identify the needs of the people around them—this could include a boss who wants to demonstrate competence and have a high-performing team, coworkers who want to look good and do the right thing by the organization, and a department that is struggling to achieve its goals with limited resources. By understanding these dynamics, an expert is able to determine whether contributing ideas about process improvement or ideas about new initiatives would be most valuable to the organization. By creating a category by which to define your organization, you are able to look at your contributions through that particular lens and determine what to contribute and when.
For Philip, being more targeted in sharing his expertise meant that he would keep in mind the state of his organization and the client's needs at all times. Philip created categories he noticed about his clients' needs: "cool and innovative," "sure wins," and "biggest bang for the buck." Depending on the needs of his clients, he saw the problems and solutions much more clearly and was able to contribute more effectively. This left him with a much more satisfying experience of work.
Why Share Expertise?
It can be really frustrating working for an organization that doesn't seem to be efficient and effective at using your skills. You may feel like you are firing on half of your cylinders most of the time. Though it may not seem to bother your employers that they are not getting their money's worth, you still feel bored and underutilized. The only way for you to stay engaged and feel good about being at your company is to share expertise when it's needed. This is the best way to reframe your experience so that you don't get frustrated and can manage your energy. The good news for both you and your company is that when you manage your energy using your expert perspective, you make the most of the opportunity when the time comes to add your input.
Additionally, the experience of getting worked up and frustrated is not worth the emotional roller-coaster ride. At the end of the day, the sun still sets in the same place, and your organization is not going to change how it fundamentally operates. You can choose to get sucked into the drama and politics of that or to see yourself as an expert on retainer. You get paid for maintaining a certain level of performance, and every now and then you are asked to step up and contribute your phenomenal ideas. That's the beauty of being on retainer: you get to be a hero when your clients need you—which will probably not be every day.
Is the Share Expertise Strategy Right for You?
Expertise is a reflection of the unique knowledge, experiences, and insights you bring to the table only when needed; think energy management. You are an engine of potential that, when appropriate, will unleash your horsepower. Use the following criteria to determine whether this is the right strategy for you to create your end of work:
• You've got what it takes. You've worked hard on earning your degree(s), achieving your certifications, getting trained, and doing your research. You've lived through many reorganizations in your career. You've dealt with company politics and the nasty sharks that have infested the waters. You've endured unkind managers and appreciated kind ones. You've earned your marks. The title of expert is yours. You've held back; now it's your time to shine. You've got something to say. If you are ready to step up and claim your part as the expert in your team, department, or organization, then Share Expertise is the right strategy for you.
• You're ready to contribute your expertise to provide solutions. If you are tired of hearing others talk about their ideas when you know that yours are better, then Share Expertise is the right strategy for you. You've been sitting on the sidelines. You know your solutions are more comprehensive, better thought through, and more effective at yielding both short- and long-term results. You are ready to make that contribution to your organization.
• You enjoy continually sharpening your skills. If you like to learn and constantly hone your skills, then Share Expertise is the right strategy for you. You take the time to invest in your skills. You enroll yourself in courses and take advantage of organizational trainings. You get excited by learning something new. You take pride your abilities. With all the investments you've made in yourself, you are sitting on quite a bit of knowledge and expertise that could be put to good use.
• You want to position your skills so they'll be put to maximum use. If you want to be used for what you know, then Share Expertise is the right strategy for you.
If any of these four descriptions sound like you, use the Share Expertise strategy to help you create the end of work as you know it (to find out how, read on). Your Share Expertise strategy will help you define your knowledge and find useful ways in which to make significant contributions while managing your efforts and collecting a full-time paycheck.
Excerpted from The End of Work as You Know It by Milo Sindell. Copyright © 2009 by Milo Sindell. Excerpted by permission of Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.