Career advice: how to be an expert in your field

Career advice: how to be an expert in your field

Have you ever wished you were more expert at what you do?

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to gain more knowledge of course, but I’ve started to notice how often we use this as a stick to beat ourselves with because we don’t feel like we’re enough as we are.

You know by now that your career path is never going to be perfectly linear. Sometimes it’s going to look like a hard-core mess and you’ll wonder how you will ever make sense of it. When you feel disillusioned, it’s worth remembering that the careers of the most successful people you know started out pretty messy too.

Take rock band the Foo Fighters. When they first appeared on the world stage their line up changed so many times it became a running joke in the media. They made several albums with different band members before they hired their third guitarist Chris Shiflett and made the album One by One, which reached the Billboard top 3 in 2002. Right before this album, the band seriously considered breaking up because of all the tension between members.*

No matter how much creative tension they endured in those early days, they didn’t give up making records. Working with that tension is crucial with respect to your career. You’re going to have times when your instruments aren’t all playing together in harmony, especially when you’re going through changes in your career and learning new skills.

There will be friction. There will be learning curves.

You may experience a drop in confidence or feelings of frustration when you can’t see a way to make your goal happen. You may wonder if you really have what it takes.

During the journey of becoming an expert, it’s important to stay with the program even when it feels like you’re taking one step forward and three steps back. One day soon if you keep doing the work, everything will start coming into alignment.

The time span between the Foo Fighters first gig above a boathouse in Seattle in 1995 to two sell-out shows in Wembley in 2008 was 13 years. In the intervening years they played small festivals, they were the support act (for Pearl Jam, but still). They went on tour all over the world multiple times over. They disrupted their lives. In essence, they kept showing up.

They didn’t, as far as I could tell, let concerns about whether they were good enough affect their momentum. They focused on doing what they loved, inspiring others and making people happy and then they went balls to the wall.

If your career is in a state of flux and you can’t see a way through, focus on how you can be a light for others. Keep showing up. Learn from the inevitable challenges and upsets along the way.

Remember that your version of Wembley Stadium is waiting. Keep it firmly in your sights.

Even if your rhythm section needs some work, your drummer could do with cleaning up his act or, like the Foo Fighters back in 2001, you’re still waiting for your third guitarist to show up and make the magic happen.

I don’t know about you, but I can hardly wait.

Always have the highest bar for yourself. Wake up every day and no matter how crappy you feel, want to change something for the better. Do something that makes someone happy. Create something that inspires someone. Be someone’s light when they are hopeless. ~ Dave Grohl

* PS: I’m not an expert on the Foo Fighters although I did watch this awesome documentary on Netflix.


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