“An expert is someone who has succeeded in making decisions and judgements simpler through knowing what to pay attention to and what to ignore.” ~Edward de Bono
Want to boost the number of clients your company has? Want to attend industry conferences around the world for free? If you want to boost your company’s presence within an industry you need a “known” expert within your organization. While topic experts are not the fast route to riches, becoming known as an expert is a great way to promote your organization and build lasting value for yourself.
Is it possible to become an expert on medicine without going to medical school? Probably not but there are numerous subjects which still have plenty of space for topic experts. Before deciding that you want to become an expert on something, you must know what you want to become an expert at and be willing to dedicate years of your life to mastering that subject. One book I read says that it takes 10 years to truly becoming an expert however Tony Robbins claims that he was able to become an expert speaker by taking on as many speaking opportunities as possible in a 1 year timeframe.
While you may not be able to have the experience of an industry veteran in 12 months, it’s possible to brand yourself as an expert by using social media. For those that aren’t clear about what an expert is, I’ll use Wikipedia’s definition: “someone widely recognized as a reliable source of technique or skill whose faculty for judging or deciding rightly, justly, or wisely is accorded authority and status by their peers or the public in a specific well-distinguished domain”.
Before walking you through the process of becoming an expert, let me be clear that becoming an expert is a choice it’s not for everybody. Many large corporations (to their detriment) frown down upon known experts within the organization. Regardless of those that dislike experts, becoming one will open far more doors than it closes. Any of the doors that close as a result of you becoming an expert probably weren’t worth opening anyways if you ask me though!
Pick A Topic And Set A Goal
So now that you’ve decided on becoming an expert, you need to choose what topic it is that you’re going to become an expert on. This does not have to be a lifetime commitment but keep in mind that it’s something you’ll want to focus on for years to come. You must be passionate about the topic that you’re going to focus on. Will some of the work become boring? Possibly, however most people who are truly passionate about what they do never work a day in their lives.
Also, be prepared to set a goal. “Becoming and expert” is not a tangible goal. A goal that you can work towards is something such as:
Over the next two years I will become an expert on leveraging social capital to market individuals and businesses. I will have accomplished my goal once I’ve been published in four magazines, chosen to speak at five conferences on the subject of social technology, and regularly receive over 150,000 monthly visitors to my site.
Without listing out objective items that will show you’ve accomplished your goals, it’s less unlikely you will accomplish something remarkable. While you may come close to your goals without listing them out, it’s possible that you’ll keep working because you don’t have the feeling of accomplishment without tangible items. Set your goal and write it down! Hang it on your bedroom door or somewhere that you’ll see it regularly and you’re moving in the right direction.
Commit Yourself To Learning
I have a lifetime commitment to learning but even if you don’t want to study the world forever you can at least commit yourself to learning a specific topic until you reach your goals. Without dedicating a large portion of your time to learning more about the topic which you hope to become an expert on, you will not succeed. So what is the best way to learn? There are numerous models for learning but before giving you the best model for learning online, let me suggest that you do a bit of background research on “accelerated learning” and “speed reading”.
Both topics will help you to increase your efficiency when studying various topics. The aim is to digest knowledge and then quickly turn that information into actionable steps that can be applied in the “real world”. While knowledge about accelerated learning and speed reading is not a prerequisite, they are more than useful in that you can increase your efficiency by over 400 percent or more, which over the course of a few years is a significant amount.
Now that you’re committed to learning about your topic, here are a few actionable steps that will get lead you down the path of becoming an expert:
- Configure an RSS reader – If you’re reading this site than you probably know what an RSS reader is. However, if you are not familiar with RSS, head over to Google Reader and learn about it. This is a tool that you’ll use to quickly browse through a large amount of content related to your topic.
- Find the leading sources of information on your topic – Spend some time finding out who the current experts are on your topic. If there aren’t any well known “experts” on the topic you want to cover, and the topic is indeed large enough to write about for a few years, you may have just hit the jackpot. There’s a good chance that at least one topic expert exists so spend your time searching on Technorati, Twitter search, and Amazon.com to find the leading thought leaders on your subject matter.
- Find all the industry conferences related to your topic – The most important aspect to becoming an expert is having others recognize you as one. By networking with other individuals in the industry, you can quickly boost your influence. Between networking with press that cover your space as well as event organizers, you can gain access to other influencers as industry conferences and trade shows.
- Search for the best books for your topic – As I mentioned moments ago, search through Amazon.com to find the top rated and best selling books to find out who the most influential authors are. Read the best books to learn about your niche and even reach out to some of the authors to try and expand your network. Many authors will have great advice on how to improve your expertise as well.
- Set up a place for aggregating notes – As you read it’s important to keep track of those things which are relevant or can be turned into actionable steps. I personally keep track of all information through two methods: the notes on the Amazon Kindle and through Evernote. Evernote is great because you can access your notes on your mobile device or on your computer which makes it accessible just about everywhere. I also take advantage of delicious for bookmarking all relevant articles and go back to them regularly when referencing sites in articles.
Share Your Knowledge With Others
After spending some time beginning your quest for knowledge on your subject, it’s time to begin sharing with others. Whether it’s daily news stories that will impact the future or general trends that people should be aware about, you need to share your knowledge with others. My best recommendation for sharing information is to create a blog. If you aren’t much of a writer you can try creating videos however written content is much more effective at driving targeted users to your site.
In addition to creating a blog you should try teaching others about your subject. This can be through speaking at conferences or seminars or even setting up your own course (although that takes much more time). By sharing your knowledge with others, you show that you are truly an expert on the subject matter being covered. The best way to share your expertise with others is through writing a book but this is also one of the most challenging tasks.
As you share your information and attempt to effectively explain it to others, new ideas will surface and things that you never thought of will suddenly appear as thoughts that deserve more exploration.
Build Relationships That Validate Your Expertise
The final task that’s important to becoming an expert is to build relationships with others. In social media this means following up with people that comment on your blog posts, linking to other people who have interesting and relevant content, or simply retweeting those Twitter updates that you find to be compelling. While in person networking is always better, online networking can accomplish a lot.
Target specific individuals in your industry and make it a goal to get in front of them and to foster lasting relationships. As I’ve been writing over the past couple weeks, social capital can often times get you further ahead in your career than monetary capital in a shorter period of time.
What Else Can You Use To Become An Expert?
I’ve found that many of the things outlined are extremely effective at helping you to become an expert but as usual there are many other things that can help that I haven’t mentioned. What activities do you think are most useful for becoming an expert?
Expert chart image from Kathy Sierra