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Being good at your job helps. But to get the best jobs you also need to work on your profile. When top-flight companies hire people, the first question they ask themselves is ‘who is the ideal person for the role?’

More often than not, the first name that comes to mind is someone with the right skills set and a high-profile. One sure-fire way to build a higher profile is to become a taller poppy or a media star. This isn’t hard.

Media people know reporters and editors are only as good as their contacts. Although stories appearing in newspapers, magazines and online or broadcast via radio and television are increasingly manufactured – many are not. Journalists often need expert sources to explain things or to put them in context.

Journalists need sources

When journalists need sources fast they turn to the people they know first. If a military coup erupts in a third-world country, reporters will search their contact books – sorry databases, this is the 21st Century – for citizens of that country or at least someone who has more than just a passing knowledge of the country.

This process gets granular – particularly with the trade and specialist press. If a computer virus infects government computers, reporters look for an online security expert. Computerworld reporters will find the operating system and hardware concerned and look for, say, Windows Server 2008 security experts.

And that is the opportunity.

No matter how obscure your area of expertise, if you are a knowledge worker you are an expert on something and a valuable resource to journalists and editors. In fact, the more obscure your expertise the more valuable you are as a contact.

Be ready to comment

Being an expert is not enough. You have to let journalists and editors know you are there and available for comment. They are not going to find out about you through psychic power. This is the hardest part of building your profile.

If you work for a big outfit, one possible approach is to use your company’s public relations agency or marketing communications person. Simply make sure that they circulate your name to editors and key journalists as a possible expert contact.

Don’t forget to include online news sites, TV and radio stations on your list.

Running a blog centered on your expertise will also help you develop a higher profile.

Another approach is to wait until something happens and issue a statement. For this to work properly you need to anticipate the news and prepare your statement in advance. If you are a subject expert this won’t be that difficult. But you’ll have to move fast. Journalists tend to work around the clock and time waits for no-one.