Experts have influence – when they are known. The vehicle of influence is driven by the engine of credibility. And credibility is based on the foundation of authority and expertise. But what does it take to become an expert?
The vehicle of influence is driven by the engine of credibility. And credibility is based on the foundation of authority and expertise.
In this last post of the series, we look at practical steps to actually becoming an expert and being known locally so that you can begin to reap the rewards of specialized knowledge and advance your career. Let us begin.
Becoming the expert
How easy is it to become an expert? The short answer is not very. However, getting started is relatively a breeze. And all you need is to get started and get noticed. The rest will be about growth and maintenance. Below is my three-step process to help you do this. Keep in mind this is an ongoing process. True experts never really arrive. They embrace continuous learning – that is how they stay relevant – even if only to their locality. Now step 1.
True experts never really arrive. They embrace continuous learning – that is how they stay relevant
Find 3 – 5 books in your chosen field and study them. I recommend reading books by different authors. This way, you have a more balanced perspective. This is the start. Let’s dig a little deeper.
Best-selling – use the wisdom of the crowd
Note that I recommend best-selling books. This is a good place to start because a best-selling book, generally, will be a good one as vetted by other people interested in the subject. As you get more knowledgeable, you will want less popular titles with more nuanced insights. But don’t be afraid of always coming back to the trusted favourites. And beware of reading purely for volume of knowledge instead of mastery. That brings me to my next point.
Anyone can read, but an expert studies
Note that I ask you to study the books. Really immerse yourself in the content. Read them twice each – maybe three times. Jot down unanswered questions and seek answers. You are deepening your knowledge – but maybe even more importantly, you are developing confidence.
Both the insights above can be summarized in one of my favourite quotes on the subject of reading. Paraphrased, it says this – Let your books be like your friends, few and well chosen.
Books, like friends, should be few and well chosen. Like friends, too, we should return to them again and again for, like true friends, they will never fail us – never cease to instruct – never cloy.
– Charles Caleb Colton
Studying will be work – but it can be fun work. Whether the work is fun or not will depend on how well you have done in the process of choosing your expertise. If you have read and applied my tips from this post, you will likely have chosen a niche that is interesting to you. This means you will enjoy studying the subject and becoming immensely knowledgeable in the field.
On to step 2.
Now you need to turn that knowledge into a product. There is no higher form of learning than making.
There is no higher form of learning than making.
Project your skill with a project
If yours is a hands-on technical skill like writing computer code, then write some functioning code (preferably that solves a real-world problem in your locality). Not only does this help you improve your expertise, it also means you are developing a portfolio. And a portfolio is a compelling negotiating tool. Anyone can take a course and gain knowledge. But few people convert that knowledge into something useful.
If your expertise is in a more conceptual subject like time-management, or change management, then write an article based on the information in the books you have read.
In the words of William Zinsser – best-selling author – “clear writing is clear thinking”. You will be amazed at how much sharper your insights will be and how many weak spots will be revealed as a result of writing about an idea. You can strengthen these weak spots with more study. You will be deepening your knowledge – but maybe even more importantly, you will be developing confidence.
Clear writing is clear thinking – William Zinsser
If applicable, you can also develop a short process that distils a lot of the information from the books into an actionable procedure. Test out the procedure on yourself or a few others. Most people will be happy to help since it will benefit them. And if you can get people in your office (locality) to be your “tests”, then you have already begun creating notoriety – and that’s a good thing.
This is very important. All the work you have been doing so far will culminate in this 10 to 15 minutes. This is when the impression is made. Make sure you have the right people in the room. NEVER underestimate the power of a good presentation. I have been in rooms where decisions were made on lay-offs. In one instance, a senior manager suggested a particular employee for release. Let’s say, Karen. Another manager responded, “we couldn’t possibly let go of Karen. She is very valuable. Remember that presentation she gave a few weeks ago? The team still talks about it till this day!”
Karen got to stay. She eventually left the company but on good terms – her terms – and in a way that provided the company with a smooth transition.
Crafting a presentation – sharpening your skills
Crafting a presentation for a given (often short) time span can be invaluable as it forces you to focus on key concepts. Guided by the desire to provide value to the audience, you will challenge your thinking, and this will make you even sharper and agiler within your subject. Did I mention it can also do wonderful things for your confidence? If you struggle with a fear of public speaking, you can apply the principles in this post to get you going. This is worth doing so you don’t end up being a “secret expert” like Mike was in the first post in this series. As we saw with him, secret experts get passed up.
Once you have decided to give your presentation (and I absolutely recommend you do), read the tips below.
Tips on your presentation
In your presentation, be sure to:
- Introduce your subject clearly
- Explain how it is relevant to the company or industry
- Share your work from step 2 above. Showcase the program or code or provide a printed version of the article. Alternatively, you may teach or demonstrate the process you have developed.
- Offer to help anyone who needs more information or who is challenged in the subject.
- Thank them for their time.
Bonus Step 4 – From time to time, repeat steps 1 – 3.
Believe it or not, you are now seen as the expert in that field. It is really that simple. Simple, but if you have come this far, you know it’s not necessarily easy. But is it worth it? Is it worth taking charge of your own future and directing (or re-directing) your career intentionally? Perhaps it is worth the financial and personal benefits of doing more of what gives you fulfilment. Who knows how far this will take you? No, it might not be easy, but it is probably worth it.
I will be rooting for you.
Until the next post, be your best and do your best.