Building a reputation is key to your professional success: Who knows you and what are you known for? I talked last week about the importance of personal branding is the 2013 job search, and that is certainly one way to build a solid reputation. But there are other equally important factors involved.
Dorie Clark wrote of three ways to “Build Your Reputation the Rachael Ray Way” on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network. One of those ways is personal branding and another is luck. These are good points, but the first point she mentions is one we want to draw your attention to. It’s the one piece you must start with: Skills Development. Clark says:
Broad public exposure won’t do you much good if your ideas and skills aren’t sharp. In fact, it would probably be harmful for you to be under the searing klieg lights too early in your professional trajectory. You need a period of tim to hone your skills without public scrutiny.
Whether or not you’re a fan of Rachael Ray, this is what she did. She began as a teacher of 30-minute cooking class for a gourmet food market in Albany, New York, and worked her way up to where she is now. Another good example I’ve seen are my friends who work in broadcast news. Out of college, many of them went straight to the small market news stations in towns most of us have never heard of before. They paid their dues as one-man band reporters, and most have since worked their way up. In many cases, they’ve moved up well beyond those who started in a mid-size market.
So if there’s a project you really want to start, a career-changing job that you really want, a topic you really want to write about, then take some time to immerse yourself in research. To be honest, research is one of my favorite parts of the process. And you can do this by:
- Talking to another expert and asking questions
- Reading books and articles on the topic
- Starting with low-paid or volunteer projects until you build your skills
- Taking classes on the topic
- Earning a graduate degree or certificate
Don’t be afraid to start small. Thinking your are exempt from this won’t help you in the long run, especially if you’re trying to appeal to an audience full of people who have paid their dues and are starting small. Knowledge and true skill development builds your credibility. It’s why we tell every middle school student that yes, he must learn algebra, even if he thinks he’ll never use it in the real world.
Have you been avoiding learning certain skills or have you found yourself impatient and wanting to jump ahead? Don’t — enjoy the learning process, enjoy where you are right now. People always say you’ll be thankful you did it later, but be thankful for it now. It means you’re moving in the right direction.