It happens all of the time. When I ask someone, “What brings you to mind when people are facing challenges at work and they need some help?” guess what happens.

Nothing. Dead air.

“Well, I’m good at solving problems” will then trickle out. Next, “I like to develop strategies to address companies’ needs, then to follow up on them and make sure things happen” comes a little more strongly.

Now, they’re on a roll. “I’m good at managing people, too.” Do any of these help people remember you and turn to you when they’re in a crunch? No. You’ve just lost a branding and a reputation-building opportunity.

Way too generic

Why don’t these claims work? You feel like they’re an integral part of your brand. All of these claims are bound to be true, too. The problem is that these are just too generic. Everyone, trust me on this, everyone, says the same thing. You’ve just tried to be all things to all people, and that never works.

The results are that you are not top of mind when someone is hiring, looking for the best person to promote, or looking for someone to solve a specific problem that is probably one of those problems that you love to solve. In other words, your brand isn’t sticking.

Get specific to get results

How do you change the general to the specific to get people to remember you? You’re in charge of this decision. Define just two areas of expertise, “master of two,” and you not only will build your reputation and brand, but you’ll change the tide. Once people become aware of your focus, they’ll start coming to you for this expertise rather than your being the one to chase them when you want your next opportunity.

You’ll want to do your current job well, i.e. be a “jack of all trades,” because that’s your base reputation. If you can’t deliver on the day-to-day and be part of the team, you can have all of the masteries of the world and people still won’t want to work with you (did Randy Moss come to mind?). Assuming that you’re doing your overall job well, what do you choose for your “mastery of two”? That’s the fun part.

Which two?

This isn’t a random selection. Your interest in computer games and old motorcycles doesn’t typically make it to a company’s play list…unless they develop motorcycle race video games. Pick out two areas that both you and your company value, and you’ll get their attention plus set up your future.

You get bonus points if you develop a mastery that will have some “legs,” i.e. that a future company will want, too, so your time will be well spent. You just need to project into the future a bit to anticipate what current trends will still be important in 3-5 years.

What if you became the Queen of the Fiscal Reform Bill? What if you found ways to build virtual, 24×7 teams from different countries? Whoever first claimed expertise in Sarbanes-Oxley after the Enron meltdown surely created a fortune, so you can be the next person to claim theirs with your in-depth knowledge of the latest pieces of government legislation or other pressing needs (financial, political, climate, terrorism, currency, real estate, etc). Opportunities to develop areas of expertise to solve new and evolving problems are endless!

Stepping forward

So you’ve picked out the two areas you’re interested in and that would benefit your company and career. What next? How does word get out that you know about these two areas? First, educate yourself. Next, step forward.

Just reading the Dodd-Frank bill or following the news on the latest development in a pharmaceutical company doesn’t get you very far. Everyone else can do the same thing. What you can do is project its ramifications into the future. What are the implications of this bill or drug development for your company? Your industry? For individuals? Having an informed point of view and thoughts about what companies should be doing now to prepare for the future is what sets you apart.

Stepping forward is the final part of “master of two.” You can have the best ideas in the world, but if you don’t step forward and articulate them, no one will know that you’re a star.

Talk them up to people in your company that are doing planning, volunteer to lead a feasibility study, write a blog, volunteer an article first (an on-going column later) to an online publication, speak at professional groups. You’re working your way up the food chain. By stepping forward and talking about your area of expertise, you’re letting the world know that you’re not only a jack of all trades, but you’re a (Jedi) master of two. The Force is with you.


Pam Lassiter is author of the award winning The New Job Security and Principal of Lassiter Consulting, a career coaching firm doing outplacement or internal growth programs for companies and individuals.