Business books, keynote speakers and leading bloggers have picked up the content marketing gospel in a big way: “You’ve got to get published! Become known as a thought-leader!” But if you’re expected to speak, blog, tweet and write -- what should you speak, blog, tweet and write about?
The answer depends on what you want to do for a living. All the content you generate, and all your speaking engagements, should be focused on showing that you can provide solutions to issues in your chosen field.
It sounds simple enough, but what I find in the Q&A sessions after my presentations is that many business professionals aren’t all that clear on their business purpose, or even their preferred kind of work. So, here are my thoughts on how to choose your work-related destination. I don’t claim that these ideas are original with me; I’ve heard bits and pieces of the ideas below from many different sources.
There are three main filters for choosing your work:
- What you want to do
- What you’re good at
- Where there is effective market demand
Let’s look at each of these in turn.
First filter: picking work that you want to do
If you don’t really enjoy your work, you’re not likely to put your heart and soul into it, and you’re not likely to become very good at it. Sometimes, this requires some research and trying a few things before making a choice, as the story below indicates.
I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I could put two pencil strokes together to form letters. In my undergraduate university years, I got involved in student newspapers, and this helped point me to a way of writing I enjoyed. This involved providing news about events affecting the paper’s readers, so they could live more informed lives and make up their own minds on how to vote as well as make other decisions. This evolved into wanting to serve the Great God of Truth, being part of an independent news media that held others to account.
But I soon found that often the stories I wrote in newspapers and magazines weren’t doing anyone any good. So, via a few dead ends, I discovered my current calling -- helping business professionals working towards a more sustainable world, to get recognized for their expertise and thought leadership. It’s work I find meaningful and is my way of contributing towards a better world.
You too, need to find work that you enjoy doing, so that you actually look forward to Monday morning. Yes, that is possible! I’m proof of that.
Second filter: Picking work you’re good at (and others agree)
I enjoy cooking, particularly for dinner parties at our home. But although I’m okay at what I prepare, professional chefs don’t have to worry about competition from me. I’m far from being able to combine all the different tastes into something that forms a unique dining experience. Even if I needed to, I doubt I could earn a living as a cook, baker or other culinary professional.
For you too, you need to pick the kind of work that you don’t just enjoy doing, but that you’re actually good at. And it can’t be just you who thinks so -- you need to have people with the ability to judge performance, who agree.
Third filter: Work for which there is effective market demand
For about ten years, I volunteered at Matthew House, which is a residence in Toronto intended for refugee claimants to Canada. Once a month, I’d go there on a Friday evening and scoop up all the recent arrivals -- usually about six or eight people -- and take them on a tour of Toronto. I’d show them how to use the streetcars, busses and subway system, the layout of the city, and we’d see some of the usual tourist sites.
I enjoyed that work and I became good at it. Helping people from Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Colombia, North Korea and various “Stans” understand their new home met the requirements of the first two filters above. I found real purpose in helping out people who’d had a rough life, and I felt privileged to serve them.
But that work absolutely fails the third filter, which is why I have no urge to be a tour guide for a living. The money’s bad. I mean, I was doing this for free -- how can someone who wants to earn a living from it, compete with the rates I was charging?
You need to be sure that in the work you choose, that there is someone with money, for whom your service solves a problem they’ll pay to solve. Nothing happens until you can find that, because you need to earn money to live, unless your surname happens to be DuPont, Ford or Walton (and maybe not then either).
Many writers are being squeezed this way. Freelance fees are sliding due to many factors, not the least being content farms that can pump out content -- of a sort -- for just pennies a word. But there are still many writers who make a good living. You need to find someone with money who has a problem you can solve.
Picking the right work
The work you do for a living needs to pass all three filters.
That doesn’t mean that you avoid all contact with other kinds of work. Any work that passes even just the first filter -- you enjoy doing it -- can become a hobby. This can involve anything from blowing up virtual aliens in an online game like Halo 5, to painting. Any work that passes just the second filter -- that you’re good at -- can become volunteer work, like my tour guiding.
But many people get stuck in work that meets only the third filter -- they can earn money from it -- while meanwhile they hate their work and maybe aren’t very good at it.
How content can help you get through all three filters
This being a newsletter on content marketing, as you might imagine, my solution is what we led with -- getting yourself published and known as a thought leader. And the topics you choose should support your positioning as a subject-matter expert in the field you’ve chosen.
For example, I have a cousin who when younger, was fascinated by everything to do with the ocean. But he knew he’d never make a good living as an oceanographer -- so he became a lawyer, focusing on marine law. A young woman in my faith community is an enthusiastic athlete -- but knows it’s unlikely she’ll be able to make a living from that.
So her goal is to become a physiotherapist focusing on sports injuries.
So, think of what you can do that meets all three filter tests. Then get known on that subject. How? Well, taking a look through some of the resources in the Wiki on the Global Reach website would be a good start.