How to Identify the Next Big Thing

Meg Prater
Meg Prater



When I hear someone mention “the next big thing,” I generally roll my eyes. It’s usually the same recycled two or three points you find scattered across the web and every other self-titled thought leader’s blog (cue: “2019 will be the year or AI and Blockchain”).


But how do you identify and personalize the next big thing for your own industry, career, or even personal growth? Below, I’m sharing a few simple questions to define the next big thing in your life.

So, the next time someone asks you what the next big thing is, give them an answer that comes straight from your experience -- instead of a watered-down version you found on the internet.

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How to Identify the Next Big Thing in Your Career

1. What do I want to keep doing?

These first three questions are derived from the classic Stop, Keep, Start (or SKS) formula. It’s a staple in employee-manager one-on-ones, but it’s just as effective at helping you determine what’s next in your career.

In this first question, identify the tasks and projects you enjoy doing in your current role and the skills you like developing. Write them down and note what you enjoy about each one.

An important part of the SKS framework is to avoid asking others for their opinion before you've identified your own feelings on the matter.

Be honest with yourself. There might be a part of your role you’re really good at but hate doing. Marinate on these things before sharing them with your manager or mentor for feedback.

Here's an example of what this list might look like:

  • I enjoy preparing and giving demos because I love the rush I get when I present and it clicks with the audience.
  • I enjoy closing deals that I know will bring value to the prospect's life and business.
  • I enjoy initial discovery calls because they're like a puzzle I'm trying to solve to discover what the prospect's pain points are and if my solution can solve for those issues.
  • I enjoy presenting in front of my team because I get to be the thought leader in the room and facilitate great discussions.
  • I enjoy mentoring my younger colleagues and sharing what I've learned to help others succeed.

These are specific tasks and you've noted what you enjoy about each one. This will help you identify what you want to continue to develop in your next role.

2. What do I want to stop doing?

Don't hold back on this question. In fact, jot down a few answers before you've even spent time really thinking it through. You'll get your most honest response this way.

If you're a team leader who dreads weekly one-on-ones with your direct reports, it might be time to consider moving back into an individual contributor position.

If you're having a hard time identifying things you don't like about your role -- first of all, congratulations -- and second, here are a few questions for you to ask yourself:

  1. What do I put off until the end of the week or month?
  2. Which parts of my job would I most like to offboard to someone else?
  3. Which parts of my role do I hope I'm not doing one year from now?

Don't be afraid to identify bad habits or areas you'd like to improve upon in this section either. Identify why you don't like certain tasks, just like you did in the section above. Here's what this list might look like:

  • I don't enjoy sending outreach emails because they seem random, I rarely get great responses, and I don't have the time to really personalize them.
  • I don't like managing my schedule because it requires a lot of back and forth between myself and prospects who seem only halfway interested.
  • I don't like being stuck behind the phone all day. I love to be in front of prospects or presenting over video.
  • I don't like simply being an attendee of conferences because I'd rather be speaking at conferences and attracting leads that way.

3. What do you want to start doing?

Your answers to the first two SKS questions should help you answer this one, but feel free to identify growth areas outside of these parameters as well.

Here's an example of what this list might look like:

  • I want to start managing a small team because I like helping others on my team and I'd like to spend more time expanding those skills.
  • I want to start speaking at conferences because I'd like to become a thought leader and experiment with attracting leads that way.
  • I want to network more in my industry because I think it's a better way to prospect than sending warm or cold emails.
  • I want to present in front of the executive team more because that's a great way to get my ideas implemented and grow my career.

4. What do I value?

What's important to you in your role? Consider these the non-negotiable items. They transcend projects and quarterly goals. They're the pillars of how you conduct yourself in the office and outside of it. For example, your values might be:

  • It's important for me to have a good work/life balance because my family is my priority.
  • I must like and respect my coworkers, because if I don't like who I'm working with every day it takes a toll on my performance and my overall satisfaction with life.
  • I need to believe in my company's goals and what we're working toward in order to feel like my time is being well spent.
  • It's important that I feel respected and valued by my manager and company in order to feel adequately motivated to perform in my job.

These values are what contribute to your quality of life. They also bridge the gap between work and life. Having these values met in your role is also how you turn a job into a career you love.

5. How is my current role fulfilling my values?

Is your current role fulfilling those values? Run through your list of values and answer that question. If your answer is "Not really," to any of them, brainstorm how to change that. If You can't land on a solution, it might be time for a new position or company.

If that's the case, ask yourself what steps you need to take to have those values fulfilled in another role.

6. Who’s career do I admire and how did they get there?

This could be an old boss, your current supervisor, a mentor, or someone you worked with in passing. If you admire their professional accomplishments, schedule some time to ask them how they got there.

How to Identify the Next Big Thing in Your Industry

1. What’s staying the same in my industry?

What's not being innovated on within your industry? If there are areas no one's spending time to improve upon, that could mean one of two things:

  1. This area of you industry is becoming obsolete
  2. This area of your industry needs someone to innovate on it

It's your job to determine which of those options is true.

For example, if you notice that fewer and fewer deals in your industry are happening in person, ask yourself, "Is this because getting on a plane to close deals is expensive and unnecessary or is it because no one is innovating on outside sales?"

The answer is probably the former. If you identify that inside sales isn't evolving because it's becoming obsolete, ask yourself what's replacing it. That leads us to question two.

2. What’s changing in my industry?

Ask yourself how your industry is currently evolving? If we're looking at our outside sales example above, most sales organizations would rather give presentations to non-local prospects over video chat instead of paying for an expensive plane ticket, hotel stay, and per diem for a deal they're not sure they can close.

So, the industry change that's being experienced is a rise of demos being given over video or dial-in service. Which leads us to the next questions ...

3. Where does my industry want to be?

To determine where your industry wants to be, ask yourself what's being automated or what could be automated.

Looking at our outside sales example, we know that traveling to close deals is outdated and video meetings are the current best practice -- but what's next?

The obvious next step might be automating demos by creating pre-recorded presentations the prospect can watch whenever and wherever they wish. Simple Q&A might be available via chat bot once they've watched the demo, and that bot might schedule a live follow-up meeting with interested prospects.

If your reps are able to give 12 demos a month to highly qualified prospects instead of 26 demos a month to a mixture of highly qualified prospects, somewhat qualified prospects, and no-shows, your sales organization immediately becomes more efficient and cost-effective.

What will be automated next in your industry? Identify it and you might have found the next big thing.

4. What does my industry value?

Where is the time and money going? Where are the investors going? Where are the highest paying jobs going? The answers to these questions will tell you what your industry values.

For example, if you're a software analytics salesperson and you see that firms are investing heavily in platforms that have in-house analytics features, you might see that native analytics are an emerging trend -- and one you can help your company get on top of before if affects your business.

5. How are industry trends affecting my industry’s values?

HubSpot faced this question a few years ago. The software industry refocused their values to be customer success and retention and the old sales funnel didn't align.

HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan noticed this shift in industry values -- from "how can we innovate on our products to how can we solve for the customer," and he proposed a solution to the outdated funnel problem: the flywheel.

HubSpot VP of Marketing Jon Dick explains, "Flywheels represent a circular process where customers feed growth. We’ve invested more in customer marketing, more in customer advocacy, and more in creating delightful onboarding for new customers." He continues, "Friction kills flywheels. We’ve made investments that systematically target our biggest points of friction."

By identifying how the trend of refocusing on the customer was impacting the software industry, Halligan was able to introduce a flywheel approach to sales, marketing, and service that improved upon the funnel and would help the industry evolve with shifting demands.

So, what's the next big thing in your industry or career? Use this formula to find out.

Want to keep learning how to set your business up for success? Check out this ultimate guide to entrepreneurship.

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