Become an Expert by Demonstrating Your Area of Expertise

 Photo via  Flickr

Photo via Flickr

expert
noun

  • a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area.

expertise
noun

  • expert skill or knowledge in a particular field.

Looking at the definitions of expert and expertise, you would be hard-pressed to see a meaningful difference between the two. In fact, as you probably could guess, expertise is derived from the word expert. However, in practice, the two words are very different, with one increasingly becoming more important in today’s workforce.

Experts are extremely important. They’ve developed an understanding of an area of study to such an extent that they are some of the most knowledgeable people in world.

As an expert, you can use this knowledge to create products, sell services, provide insights, or just enjoy learning for the sake of knowledge.

However, becoming an expert takes an incredible amount of time and dedication to a particular topic. Whether they are an astrophysicist, a professional dancer, or a personal trainer, experts put in hundreds to thousands of hours to build their knowledge base and experience.

But what if you want to translate your existing knowledge into a job or career and work towards becoming an expert? How do you do that when you’re not already an expert?

Leverage your existing Expertise.

The distinction I make between being an Expert and having Expertise is really about scale. Experts are able to bring a very deep understanding of an entire area of study. In the example of the personal trainer, they may be an expert on a wide-range of strength and cardiovascular exercises, developing a healthy diet to promote muscle growth or weight loss, and keep up to date on the latest medical developments for overall health considerations. Someone with expertise, on the other hand, may only be well-versed in one part of one of these points, such as running long-distances or developing a clean diet.

This may seem like an unnecessary distinction, but it shapes how we think about ourselves and our ability to contribute to the world.

The expertise you have already developed has been honed over a much shorter time than that of an expert's, and as such it is applicable to far fewer situations. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

A surgeon might be an expert in healing large life-threatening wounds. However, a high school nurse might have developed an expertise in treating small injuries, which is more than enough of an expertise to serve a high school very well.

An architect might be an expert in designing massive skyscrapers. However, a carpenter might have developed an expertise in building beautiful affordable tables and chairs that appeals to a large set of customers.

A hedge fund manager might be an expert at choosing investments for multi-millionaires. However, a parent may have developed an expertise in balancing their family’s budget, stretching each dollar to its absolute limit.

Just because we aren’t experts in a particular field, doesn’t mean we have nothing to add, and that others have nothing to gain from us. It’s common to think “I don’t know enough to market my skills, there are tons of experts out there who are much better at this than me.”

First off, not everyone needs an expert to solve their problems. Using experts is almost always a very expensive solution, and rightfully so as these people have given up a large part of their lives to become experts. Imagine hiring Steven Spielberg every time you wanted to film a family gathering.

Additionally, how do you think experts became experts? Yes reading and listening to lectures can be helpful, but experts are only created through practice. No one would trust that surgeon if they said, “Don’t worry, I’ve read at least a hundred books on how to do an open-heart surgery.” Patients would run out of that operating room as fast as their legs would carry them.

Demonstrating your expertise is the first step in building a true understanding of a topic. It exposes your strengths, as well as any weaknesses in your understanding.

Learn from your experience, and build on it. You are capable.

For every Albert Einstein, every Richard Branson, every Yo-Yo Ma, there are thousands of people who regularly demonstrate their expertise in science, business, and the arts. And each of these famous experts were at one time like you and me, showcasing their expertise where they could, and learning from others along the way.

Even if you just have a limited amount of expertise in a given area, start with that. There are people out there with even less who want what you have, and are willing to pay you. It's up to you to help them find you and give you the opportunity to prove yourself.

- Ryan

Ryan BonaparteExpert, Work, Practice