I’ve published more than 10 episodes of TUB-Thump already. If you’re a regular reader of TheUniversityBlog, you’ve heard me going on about “Mind Your Higher Ed” and “Learning, Always” too.
Throwing myself into audio is a new endeavour. I see a gap where few people are producing radio shows and audio on-demand.
And since there’s a growing appetite for audio right now, it seems like the perfect time to get involved and do a lot in that direction.
I’m not saying that you need to start your own audio show or podcast too (although I think that would be a great idea!). My advice is to do more of the amazing things that most people aren’t doing.
When I say ‘amazing’, I mean the great ideas that have been overlooked right now.
Find Your Unique
So let’s step back a moment. What is your position as a student?
On a basic level, the degree is what you’re expected to get. The degree isn’t the top prize, even if it is the overarching reason you’re at university.
It’s what comes next that will set you apart. The unique story of you. Wrap all your achievements at university (including your degree) around a narrative and tell the best story of you.
The next question is: How far are you willing to take it?
In the new year, I’ll be putting out the TUB Manifesto. It’s all about moving beyond the basics and about forging a path that’s unique to you.
And that’s where the amazing things that most people aren’t doing makes an appearance.
Why do something that many haven’t yet started working on?
- It helps you map out your unique path a bit more easily.
- It helps you shape your story without so much fuss. People will be more likely to show interest because of the scarcity, increasing your chances of being heard.
- It makes you stand out through your new and exciting angle.
- It takes the pressure off some of the fierce competition in more crowded arenas.
Gary Vaynerchuk calls this the “white space” where others aren’t yet focused on:
“…start paying attention to the white space; where are things not happening yet that you think could be huge?” [SOURCE]
For you, the aim is to distinguish yourself from other graduates. Be memorable through your actions and through the story you tell.
Blogging Used to be White Space
I’m diving into audio now, yes. But what happened before? Let me take you back to when I started this site, back in 2007.
When I launched TUB, it wasn’t so common to have a blog. Not so many people were producing all this written content online.
However, blogs had been around long enough to make it easy and cheap to get started. That combination of ease and unusual made a huge difference. If you were writing articles back then, it was a much bigger talking point than it is today.
The idea is to find the equivalent opportunities. My example is audio. Here are just a few of the benefits:
- More intimate than reading text;
- Not the same production values (and expense) compared with making video;
- Fewer people producing podcasts than there are people writing online and publishing videos;
- No need for consumers to be tied to a screen. Audio can use attention times that aren’t possible using other media.
Positives for the person making the content and positives for the people consuming the content.
And, as with blogging in 2007, it’s easy to get started with audio, but not that many people are working with it.
Same Thing, Different Presentation
Podcasts have been around for ages. I’m hardly the first person to do this.
Run with the idea yourself. What career do you have your sights set on? What hobby are you most interested in?
Now take your answer(s) and imagine writing 10 articles on a blog about the subject. Consider how much work you’d need to put in and how far that would move you beyond other people with a similar interest.
Now imagine presenting 10 audio shows on the subject instead. There’s still work involved, but how many podcasts can you find on the subject? How many people produce audio content right now?
The scarcity of the medium puts you in a more original light. You’ve still got a learning curve and a need to think about production values. But there’s more room for forgiveness, and you’re far more likely to be noticed because of the relative novelty in audio.
Audio is just one example. Look for other opportunities where the “white space” may not be white space for long.
When anything becomes popular, the novelty ends. The sweet-spot is while it’s novel, yet also easy to jump into.
In other words, the groundwork has been set, the interest is there (and growing), and little is happening in that space right now. What white space sweet-spots can you think of?
Another bonus is that you can choose whether to be generalist or niche in your approach. A decade ago, you could start a website dedicated to your musings and it might take off in surprising ways. Today, starting niche is a much better prospect. Even then it may be difficult to stand out in a crowded space.
Sticking with audio, can you find many current shows in your general area of interest? It may be difficult to find many shows in that general subject area, let alone a niche part of it.
Even if you find 20 shows, that’s still nothing compared to the number of websites dedicated to the subject.
Drill down on those 20 shows. Check the content, production values, and consistency of the shows you’ve found. Chances are, you can listen to them and feel that you could improve some of them. Chances are, not all those podcasts are being published any more.
Why Tried and Tested Isn’t Always the Answer
You may still be arguing that if so few people are concentrating on this white space, surely that’s a clue for you not to bother. Why tackle something that others haven’t embraced yet?
Actually, it is a valid question. Sometimes there is a good reason.
Other times, it’s because there’s too much work, the metrics aren’t clear, and the focus is still on tried and tested methods as opposed to new ideas.
Those reasons are weasels. It doesn’t have to be too much work, metrics aren’t the sole key to success, and tried and tested can easily become old and stale.
Chris Voss uses negotiation techniques to highlight the way tried and tested can lose effectiveness. As a hostage negotiator, Voss has been involved in some incredibly tense, life or death situations.
In his new book, “Never Split the Difference“, Voss highlights some negotiation techniques that used to work well. But he explains that people have become used to these methods. The once tried and tested methods may even work against you now.
Nothing is stopping you from sticking with the more common ways of putting yourself out there. At the same time, by setting out your stall in a different way can help get you noticed more quickly and more effectively.
I’m sure you don’t want to ignore everything else. Here I am writing an article of well over 1,000 words for a website. There are still many reasons to turn up where lots of people ARE still doing amazing things.
But I urge you to consider your choices and put some energy in an area that most others haven’t yet put their weight into. The aim is to increase your chances of being heard, listened to, and truly appreciated.
For all the choices you make, whether well-worn paths or walks through the white space, embrace the learning in everything you do.
For more on this, follow the shows on the Learning Always Network. Because learning doesn’t stop once you graduate.