Finding your expertise – 5 questions to ask

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How do you narrow down your interests?

I had a conversation with a senior consultant from a big 4 company, who now needs to pick her field of expertise in order to move ahead in her career. She is interested in a lot of topics and finds it hard to pick one.

Here are 5 questions, you might consider, when narrowing down your expertise.

  1. Where is your passion?
    When choosing your field of expertise, in order to become a “Subject Matter Expert” it is beneficial, if you enjoy the topic. I have switched my field of expertise in the last 20 years twice – from integrated financial planning to information management. Remember, this is not a choice for the rest of your life – but probably for the next 3-5 years.
  2. What do your most favourite customers struggle with (now and in the next few years)?
    If you have customers you love working with, you might find topics that are very relevant and important to them. Becoming their “go-to-expert” will allow you to work with these customers even more – making more projects (billable hours).
  3. What is your boss working on (the partner you are reporting into) ?
    Partners usually know the industry trends and have picked topics, where they see the best business potential. Picking a topic that is relevant to the partner, will also put you in a very good position for a career move. Helping the partner you are reporting into achieving their business goals, helps you building your case for promotion as well.
  4. What is the business strategy of your company?
    Identifying a topic that is very relevant to help your company to implement its business strategy can not only open up your promotion within your current team but more likely also across teams or business units.
  5. What is the business strategy of your dream company or favourite partner, you would like to work for?
    This is a tricky one. If you plan or wish to change firms or sometimes even teams, you could pick a topic that is relevant to them. However, you will probably also need to find a twist to make it attractive to you current employer. And to be fair, management consulting companies address the issues of their clients. So there might not be a massive difference, unless these companies focus on different industries or niches.
    So, ideally you will find a topic that reflect to your strengths and talents. Diving into a completely new topic may also create this new passion and interest for you. In the end, the topic should make you and your team chargeable. That’s what it comes down to.
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