Have you ever felt that your voice would never be heard? That all the lessons you’ve learned are headed to collect dust in the recesses of your memory? That no one wants to hear what you have to say because it’s all already been said?
Well, it’s time to change your mind, because you couldn’t be more wrong. That’s the wonderful thing about the human race; each and every one of us has a lifetime of unique experiences that have shaped us into who we are today — and that includes you. We all have a different understanding of the world born out of our personal histories, which also means that we all have something to say that others could benefit from.
There are many potential reasons someone may feel uncomfortable sharing their insights with a broader audience. Maybe they genuinely feel that no one would benefit from what they have to say. Maybe they don’t know how to organize their thoughts into an appropriate and shareable form (or wouldn’t have the time to organize them, even if they did). Maybe they understand the key principles they’d like to share but don’t know how to put them into the words that will most effectively communicate their importance.
Whatever the reason is, it can be challenging to figure out what and how to share — but it’s also important that you don’t allow your insights to go to waste. These steps will help you find your insights and determine how to share them.
Define Your Experiences
Of course, the first step is figuring out which experiences to talk about. It might seem overwhelming — either due to a lack of ideas or too many of them. Honestly, I faced this same dilemma myself recently. I felt that I could only talk about topics related to my career — which I found very limiting. Certain aspects of my career I was still new to and learning while others I have extensive experience with — but how could I make those sound interesting? And weren’t there other experts out there who had already said the same things, perhaps more skillfully?
After spending a little time thinking on it, it came to me: actually, I have a wealth of diverse experiences that have led me to where I am today, whether they were on the job or not. Every experience taught me a lesson that I used to further not only my career but also my life. And I realized that others, too, could benefit from what I could share, from the lessons I had learned. Suddenly, my options were near limitless.
With a little reflection, you can extract the lesson you learned from a past experience, one that someone else may also need to hear. Think about some of the major (and sometimes even the minor) moments in your life — for me, it was the summer I was in and out of the hospital, for one. This had nothing to do with my career, but it taught me things I could apply in my life and work that would better my outlook and outcomes. If I told others about it, perhaps they could benefit, too.
Once you know what you want to talk about, discovering how to say it starts to come more easily. And knowing your audience goes hand in hand with that.
Discover Your Audience
Knowing who you’re speaking to will help you frame your insights in a particular way. It can drive not only what you talk about, but how you talk about it.
There are many communities out there who need your help. Everyone is hungry for stories of success (and failure) and the principles that might help them achieve (or avoid) the same fate. Sure, a CEO in your market wouldn’t benefit much from your tips on organizing a resume, but there are multitudes of job seekers who would jump at that knowledge. You’ve become a leader in your field because of the innovative steps you took to create and seize opportunities, and there are thousands like you out there who are longing for the same opportunity.
Then again, perhaps you don’t feel like your job is really your passion or the topic you want to write about. Great! What are your hobbies? Maybe you have know-how from those that can help others interested in the same things. Or maybe you’ve learned a valuable life lesson or skill from your hobby that you use in the workplace. What about sharing an experience that has shaped you as a person — a medical situation, an adventure, a great loss? No matter where they come from, your experiences give you insights. Once you figure out who will most benefit from them, you’re well on your way to figuring out where and how you want to share them.
This applies even in the most practical of ways, as you determine which publications you’re interested in pursuing. Because an integral part of sharing your insights is having a place to share them.
Determine Your Action
Don’t put yourself in a box based on your career. You have a story to tell that goes far beyond your job, and your audience is limitless. There are so many different blogs, publications, and “swimlanes,” as we call them, that there’s really an option out there for everyone. Don’t let your lack of confidence rob the world of the insights you have to offer. Find out who needs them and then offer them: on a blog, on social media, on an industry-related publication…wherever your people may be.
If you’re not sure where to go or don’t have the confidence yet to approach someone, try self-publishing sites like Medium, Thrive Global, or LinkedIn to start and share what you publish there across your other channels (Facebook, Instagram, etc.).
The organization process might be rough at first, but once you determine you have things to say and people who need to hear from you, you’ll figure out a way to overcome the boundaries so you can help them. Your work and your life are valuable, so don’t keep them hidden out of fear. Be bold! And once you’ve taken these first steps, you’ll be well on your way to becoming the thought leader you’re meant to be.