Many employees only hold affiliation to their profession or function. They will identify themselves primarily by profession. For example, they will think of themselves as a marketer, an HR professional, or salesperson or engineer, IT Professional, accountant and so on. Only a few think about the industry of practice. In the process, many professionals end up mastering their subject of activity (the profession) while ignoring the field in which they play – the industry in which they operate.
The few people that spend time to think about and master the industry in which they operate, stand a much better chance to rise faster especially as they approach the top ranks. You cannot be a senior executive in any company unless you demonstrate significant mastery of the industry in which your company operates.
Like everything else, if you leave it to chance and generic accumulation, you will amass very little knowledge and information about your industry. To accelerate your mastery of the industry, you need deliberate and coordinated actions.
Of course, most industry players do not invest much in enabling their employees to learn about the industry in which they operate. This is no excuse for not mastering the industry in which you operate. Make personal savings that you can use to learn about your industry. Even if funds may be difficult to raise, you can learn without spending even a Tambala. Simply develop interest and an inquisitive mind. Ask questions. Ask those that know. Ask those that have been in the industry longer. Ask yourself the question ‘Why’ all the time and keep observing and critiquing. This way you will find that you are learning quite a lot over time – for free!
As you master the industry in which you operate, you build not only your personal confidence but also a good edge over your peers in competing for the next opportunity not just in your current company but even for more senior positions in competing companies. You will command greater levels of articulation in the field in which you operate. You will have a good base for fostering innovation and creativity. You will have adequate knowledge to allow you to function more effectively and more efficiently than those that are ‘industry-blind’.
To illustrate: If you are an accountant at an insurance company, make an effort to understand the insurance industry. Don not just count the money, balance the accounts and report on business performance. If you are a marketer at a bank, make an effort to understand how banks determine interest rates, inflation, deposits, investment banking, non-performing loans, risk and security and the rest of important matters that banks deal in. if you are legal officer for a telecommunications company, make an effort to understand a bit about towers, signals and systems and the marketing, sales and distribution of telecom products. The same applies to a human resources officer at a hospital – needs to understand high level aspects of the hospital industry and health in general.
Here, we are talking of gaining general knowledge about the industry in which you operate, not necessarily becoming an expert in the profession of the core business. Some of the questions that you need to ask yourself in order to master the industry include: What is the core business or product here? What value does it deliver to our customers? What are the real needs of our customers? Who are our main competitors and how different are they from us? What can make us more competitive? What are our unique features? What are the components of our business? What are the key terms used and what do they mean? What is the brief history of our industry? What is the outlook and where is the industry going in the near future?
If you keep asking yourself simple questions about the industry, your company, the competitors and the products you deal in, then with time, you will master the industry in which you operate. By mastering the industry in which you operate, you will have a leading edge over your peers as you compete for bigger opportunities and positions of greater responsibility. Good luck!