Becoming the Expert

Billiard balls in the A-formation - Expert / Leadership

Billiard balls in the A-formation - Expert / LeadershipA friend of mine came into the coffee shop one day and announced he had gotten a job as a fifth grade teacher.  I nodded approvingly.  “What do you teach?” I asked and he answered dryly, “French.”  I set my gaze on him, furrowed my brows then burst into laughter, “Dude, you don’t speak French!”  And he answered with the wisdom of aged guru, “I speak more French than they do.”  He spent three weeks that summer in Quebec then became a French teacher (charter school).

Isn’t that a simple kind of wisdom?  Experts and gurus are just guys and gals who know a little more than we do.  Mark Paddock is a Social Media Manager who wrote a rather detailed account of how he got into social media consulting and management in a recent Socialmediatoday.com article, “9 Steps for Starting Out as a Social Media Manager.”  In it, Mark writes, “You don’t have to know it all when you’re just starting out BUT you need to know enough.”

So what is enough? I would define ‘enough’ as more than.   An expert who knows more than the average bear can build his/her credibility and visibility through social media, conducting classes and seminars, creating online courses, doing talking head videos, by consulting,  meetups (one of my favorites – Greater Atlanta is a Meetup.com mecca!) and of course, through blogging.

Put all of that on your To Do List.  If you’re just starting out, however, your focus should be on educating yourself, creating opportunities to refine your skill and slowly but surely getting the word out.

Educating Yourself

Read everything.  Anything you can get your hands on, any links that will click through, any newsletters on your particular niche that make it into your spam box, read them.  Find bloggers and other writers who are experts in the field.  Listen to their speeches, read (or skim) their books, and find out what they know.  My French-speaking friend had taken high school French, but understood submersion to be a powerful tool in preparing him for those rambunctious ten year-olds. In the same way, educate yourself in the field in which you will become an expert.  Give yourself time to learn the material.

Refine Your Skill

Ericsson, Prietula and Cokely penned an interesting article called, “The Making of an Expert” for the July 2007 issue of the Harvard Business Review wherein the distinction is made between natural talent and skill that is developed.  As it turns out, science backs up the claim that experts are not born; they are made through years and years of study, top performance and commitment. Refining your skill set requires time invested in deliberately performing in your area of expertise.  Mike Paddock calls it “getting your hands dirty.” For him, that meant taking over the social media strategizing (by taking over, I mean blowing the cobwebs off the company’s SM accounts and building relationships) for the car dealership where he worked as a salesman.  His social media efforts succeeded where direct mailers had failed. But Mike would not have known that success if he hadn’t just stepped up and gotten right in the thick of things.

Looking Ahead

There’s much to be said for starting with the end in mind.  Plan for where you are going, not where you are.  If you want to be an expert, you will need to make proper use of your time and other resources.  And you’ll need to understand that the title of expert isn’t earned overnight. If you want to eventually leverage your online persona and parlay that into keynoting, you’ll have to get over your fear of speaking in public.  Join a local chapter of Toastmasters and practice delivering your speeches in the mirror.  Churchill did it. You can too.  Whatever hindrances currently stand in the way of you reaching expert status and using your blog as a tool for your success, address those issues now.

Get the Word Out

Slowly but surely, start cultivating the right connections and forging partnerships that are mutually beneficial.  Don’t oversell yourself, but don’t sell yourself short either.  Mike Paddock recommends even doing pro bono work to build your credibility and portfolio of experience.  Do the best work you can every single time – your reputation and future as an expert depends on it.  As your skill level builds, the gift you’ve nurtured will make room for you.

Sorilbran says…

  • Being an expert is hard work.
  • Becoming an expert takes time and commitment.
  • Educate yourself, refine your skills, plan for the future and cultivate relationships.

Thanks to Tatiana nikolaevna Kalashnikova  for the image.

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