Friday, August 26, 2005
Phil found that his comparative advantage was in part his willingness to work in the geography of the Midwest. My first break in international consulting was simply a willingness to work in Ukraine and be able to teach through a translator and get a message for researchers across to them. It was remarkably easy for me, just as Phil seems unfazed by high humidity.
I'm fortunate that SCSU was my first post because I found a good fit. I had absolutely no idea what my research interests were outside of macro and public choice. I even wandered a couple of years into sports economics, getting so far as a job offer from a Big 10 school as a sports finance guy. ("How did you turn that down?" you ask. Money ostensibly, but more just something in my head screaming "mistake!!!" God bless that voice; it has saved me more often than I care to admit. It remained silent when I agreed to go overseas.)
The advice I got from a dean long ago was "be known as THE expert in something, no matter how small. If you keep publishing, academia and the public will eventually find you." That ex-dean, who still lives near me, has a cigar out of my humidor any time he wants.
Find your comparative advantage -- that which you do better than you do anything else -- and specialize, specialize, specialize. You can trade for whatever else you need. It's not just the advice I give for international trade; it's an organizing principle for your own affairs.
Everyone has a niche. What's yours?