Choosing a Specialty

I’m a management consultant with an MBA and a technology focus. Every time I try to choose an area to specialize in, I get interested in something else. I really don’t care very much what subject matter I’m working on. What I like about my work is rapidly learning new things, making sense out of ambiguous situations, high pressure to deliver, meeting a lot of new people and the prestige and good salary/benefits that allow my husband to stay home with our kids. There is enough work to do at my company that so far I have always taken new projects in totally different areas just based on what interests me and avoiding too much travel.

But I don’t think I’m going to be able to progress and become a leader if I don’t choose a niche – and I can’t see myself ever finding a new job with such a broad focus. I do eventually want a new job to avoid travel and to build a more lasting network. For that I am pretty sure I need to specialize and become an expert in something. But how do I choose what?  It can’t just be random or I’ll have a hard time committing.
3 replies
  1. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    You are really smart to be thinking about this now. So many people find themselves in great shape early in their career and do not plan for later in their career, when specializing is what keeps you employable.

    You have done a good job of figuring out your talents. And you know what you like. The last step is to look at where you are most needed. Figure out where the demand is highest and go there.

    A lot of this will be specific to your firm, because you know where the biggest openings are there at the top of the ladder. There’s no point aiming to get up a crowded ladder — go for one that other people have not filled.

    Ask for some advice from people higher up. They have a better view than you do in terms of where the open areas are. It doesn’t really matter, given your skill set, where you specialize. So go with where you find the most openings.

    The way I ended up writing career advice is that this is what was open. There were, of course, a lot of things I would have chosen to write before I’d have chosen careers. But I got way more opportunities to write what I like by writing what was most open to me. And you will, too.


  2. emily
    emily says:

    since youre on this blog I’m thinking of you as an insider with an edge. also, you’re ability to get an MBA and a great job – means that you have enough people skills to handle difficult topics through traditional means. what about a focus on: the future of social media, community, philanthropy and the market + the reorganization of publishing companies?

  3. channa
    channa says:

    Your answer now seems obvious but somehow has been totally not obvious to me. For 7 months I’ve been wallowing in a rut of introspection, thinking I somehow need to know myself better to figure out my plan. This introspection was not getting me anywhere and I was doing a really half-assed job of it because it was super boring. And ironically my self-absorption has made me give less attention to the demand around me when I should really be giving it more. I feel energized now and I am putting together a plan. I really love your writing and your advice is brilliant. Thank you!

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