Job Search: Communicate Your Specialty

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Harry Beckwith is one of the great business minds of our generation.   His particular expertise is  around branding and modern-day marketing.  He is a NY Times bestselling author and head of strategy for Beckwith Partners. His firm services industry clients in 37 states and 16 foreign countries, ranging from boutique professional firms and venture-capitalized startups to 24 Fortune 200 companies.

Below is an excerpt from one of his books called The Invisible Touch.  Although primarily written for corporate branding advice, it clearly applies perfectly to personal branding.

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Communicating Your Special Expertise

A surprising lesson, learned the hard way.

Our doors opened in 1988 and we immediately acquired our first client, a national collection agency. For several months our work helped generate business for them. One afternoon in the following year, however, the client’s marketing director called with bad news. He was leaving the company and a new director would be replacing him-a danger signal to a service like ours.

Six months later, we received confirmation of the signal.

“We’ve chosen another agency.” the new director said.

“Oh Who?”

“We are a family business,” he said. “Mater & Pater specializes in family businesses.  They were hard to resist.”

Being diplomatic, we did not let this client know that no marketing or advertising agency specializes in family businesses. Or that “knowing” family businesses in marketing is like “knowing” brunettes in shoe sales: useless.  Unfortunately, “apparent” specialized knowledge mattered to that prospect-as it does to most.

The unique value of even worthless specialized knowledge can be explained by the fact: Every industry, like every person, believes itself-it’s markets, processes, challenges-to be unique.  Businesses and people believe that previous experience with similar businesses and people help, even when it doesn’t.

The title “specialist”– however fraudulent, irrelevant or even comical–packs a persuasive wallop.  You cannot justify, or argue with, the success of hair salons that specialize in blondes, benefits consultants that specialize in law firms, or ad agencies that “know” family businesses.

…..however irrational it is, understanding and capitalizing on this “specialist bias” can launch a small firm faster than any other single tool.

FIND YOUR SPECIALTY—NO MATTER HOW NARROW IT IS—AND COMMUNICATE IT CONVINCINGLY.

How well do you communicate your specialty?

To secure your next job, you will need to convincingly communicate why your skill set, experience and “apparent specialized knowledge” make you the best candidate to meet the hiring company’s needs.  Remember, perception can quickly become reality.

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