Recently, I’ve realized there are quite a large number of experts around in our industry. It’s not that I didn’t realize this, but I think the magnitude of them has hit me. It leads me to wonder if there is a glut of experts?
It happens that I was having some conversations with various consulting companies in the past few days and I realized they are chock full of industry experts. That’s no surprise, but when you think how many experts they already have, one begins to realize that each one of them needs just some select number of experts that will then guide all the more junior people. What I’m saying is that they have some number of experts and don’t need more experts – they need more bodies to do the work. Additionally, if you add their experts all together, they would make quite a number of them.
Also, if you consider the number of experts that are writing for the magazines in our industry, plus all the people like me who are out there writing independently and add those people together, the number gets even larger. For example, I was paying attention to just one magazine and noticed they already had so many experts that they could almost start their own company, just from the people they’d gathered for their articles.
In fact, there is so much written out there that I’ve run across people who claim to have made themselves experts merely by reading all of what has been written about our industry, in the past years.
There are a couple of software vendors out there that claim they don’t have enough experts for various aspects of their implementations but whose job ads suggest they need someone more junior. Possibly their shortage are due to poor recruiting practices.
Large services groups that want to get into our industry sometimes look for industry experts in order to build their practices in these areas. Yet, it isn’t easy to find these types of people who both have the industry knowledge and the business knowledge. In this particular instance, this combination of person is probably difficult to find.
If you think you’re an industry expert and you’re looking for new opportunities, you’ve got a few choices:
1. Give up on your expertise and take a lesser job. Personally, in the past, I’d done this and it’s hard to feel satisfied when you do this. I find it frustrating when you know you could contribute more but work for those who know less and don’t want to hear from you. Unless you’re desperate for work, this is probably the hardest choice to make.
2. Find some large services vendor who wants to get into our industry. This is a tough choice, too. First of all, you must have the business skills to do business development and to hire and manage people, but you also have to be able to devote all your waking time (plus some of your non-waking time) to this effort. Basically, you will probably give up your life for it. Make sure there’s great compensation before you do this. A couple of options are some kind of bonus based on sales or to make partner when you hit some goal.
3. Go off on your own. I was just speaking with a couple of people about this very option, lately, and it’s probably the only way most of us will ever be allowed to make real use of our industry expertise, to reap any real reward out of it, and to enforce our own work-life balance. However, this route is not for everyone. Some people won’t like working for themselves, others won’t be able to build the necessary business skills to do this (business skills are as necessary as the technical or industry skills), or will just find it too scary and frustrating.
There are a choice few people in the industry who will get other choices., Consider this, though – for every job in our industry for one kind of expert or another, there are a LOT of people who won’t make it to that level. I mean that there are a LOT of people who will remain systems analysts, junior programmers, technical writers, system architects and the like.
Let me be clear that I’m not trying to diminish the important role these people play in our industry. They’re the cornerstone of any industry. They make it run. Without them, no work would get done. However, these aren’t the thought leaders. They aren’t the people that guide our industry. These people represent the multitudes of jobs available in our industry. Those of you who aspire to become an expert – a thought leader – someone out in front of the pack – you need to find a way to stand out because there’s a LOT of competition to be an expert. So much so that some of you who are truly talented might want to consider looking at other industries where there’s less competition and more ability for you to create your niche.