The Secret Ingredient to Defining a Successful Career Path

I mentor a lot of students from my university, my younger family members, friends’ family members, random people I meet in book stores; really anyone looking for advice on how to structure their goals and optimize the time they spend in a classroom, workplace, and even a social setting.

No matter how the conversation ends, I always leave my mentees with one, critical piece of advice: “if you want to be really successful down the line, make sure you build expertise in a very specific area.”

This isn’t an easy feat, and many people tend to end up in the jack of all trades and master of none category.  And while JOATAMON is not a terrible place to be early on your career – because it helps you identify your interests – at a senior stage, you REALLY have to be good at something unique, or you will NEVER be the success you’ve always dreamed to be.

I’m still pretty young, and have yet to truly master something.  However, when I want to get really good in a particular area, I try at all costs to: stay interested and focused, dig deeper, master one task at a time, and constantly ask myself what I’m really good (or getting good) at.  This may seem obvious, but it is often overlooked.

At the end of the day, you want to be a person that someone thinks to go to when they are facing a particular challenge, whether it’s related to legal issues, taxes, sales, negotiation, engineering, finding an apartment, etc.  You want to have a skill.  A discernible, transferrable, tangible, measurable, and valuable skill.

The job market is more competitive than ever, and the specificity of roles and skills desired are narrowing.

You can be a lawyer, a salesman, analyst, or engineer, but what does any of that really mean anymore?

You can be an IP lawyer, an enterprise technology salesman, an equity analyst, or a software engineer, but what does any of that really mean anymore?

Instead, try being an IP lawyer that focuses on patents for emerging biotechnology companies, an enterprise salesman that can build out a sales organization in the career services space from scratch, an equity analyst that covers young solar companies, or a software engineer that builds applications for education.

Always be aware of what you’re learning, and whether or not you’re building expertise in a very particular discipline.  Track, iterate, and do whatever it takes to build a skill set that can and will be in demand elsewhere.  Build a niche for yourself, and define exactly who needs you and why.

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