Developing and Using In-Depth Knowledge
We all have some level of expertise – we couldn't do our jobs if we didn't! But how many of us can say that we're genuine experts in our area?
Maybe you do consider yourself an expert: you've spent years building your knowledge, you're confident in your skills, and co-workers regularly seek your advice. But, despite your expertise, you may be little-known outside of your close circle of colleagues, and this could limit your opportunities for progression.
In this article, we look at how to become a real expert in your field and build a reputation to match!
Why Build Expertise?
An expert is someone who is an authority on a particular subject, or has mastered a specific technique or skill.
When you become an expert, you'll be the go-to person for help or advice. You'll be more innovative in your role, too, because you'll be able to spot opportunities. This can open doors to better assignments, promotions, speaking invitations, and to a great reputation.
With expertise comes the potential to develop expert power. Managed correctly, expert power earns trust and respect from others, making it easier to inspire people and to get everyone on board with new projects and ideas. This can be deeply rewarding and give your work great purpose.
How to Build Your Expertise and Reputation
Here are five steps that you can follow to build your expertise and develop your expert reputation:
1. Choose an Area to Develop
You likely have a deep pool of skills already, so how do you decide which one(s) to develop?
Start by considering your personal passions. What interests you most, and where do your talents naturally lie? Choosing something that you genuinely care about, and that you have an aptitude for, will be more motivating than something you find dull or difficult to master.
Then, consider the skills that matter in your industry. Which areas are valued most or will be most useful in the future?
Also, look for knowledge gaps in your organization – areas that are underserved or which have the potential to make a huge difference in the long term. (Focusing on this is also a good way to "future proof" your career.) And, if you work with clients, consider which skills and techniques they value. How could developing expertise in a particular area be of benefit to them?
Remember that the expertise you choose to develop doesn't have to mean gaining a professional qualification, a high-ranking position, or an award. Soft skills matter, too. You could build experience in conflict resolution, for example, or in facilitating group training sessions. It's preferable to focus on a niche, because you need to be able to master your subject – and the broader the field you choose, the harder it will be to do this.
Take time to write a definition of "expertise" that makes sense and is realistic for you. (The SMART goals technique can help you with this.)
2. Schedule Time
Next, make time in your schedule for building your expertise.
You could use your lunch break, your commute, or free time in the mornings, evenings or weekends. Any time you can dedicate to building your expertise, however long or short, will be time well spent.
The key is to make a commitment to building your knowledge. A good way to do this is to craft what you ultimately want to accomplish (and why) into a Personal Mission Statement. This will motivate you to stay "on track."
If you already have a full schedule, read our article Creating Time in Your Day to help you to find that extra time you need.
3. Build Your Knowledge
Now it's time to start building your expertise. Find all the information that you need in order to become, and to be seen as, an expert. For instance, will you need specific qualifications? What credentials do other experts in the field have? If you need formal training, your organization may even be willing to cover the costs.
It can be useful to identify a role model – someone who you view as an expert. Using their example, find out what makes them an expert, and how you can achieve a similar level of knowledge, skill or exposure.
You can also try to find a mentor who's already traveled a similar path. Mentors can share hard-won expertise, broaden your network, and teach knowledge that often can't be found through theory alone.
Once you've identified what you need to know or learn, find ways to use that knowledge. Seek out challenging assignments or on-the-job training that will test your skills. Even if you make mistakes, you'll learn valuable lessons.
Other options for expanding your knowledge include joining industry or professional associations, and using social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter, or the Mind Tools Club forum. There, you can connect with other experts in your field, who likely have years of experience to share.
Attending conferences is another great way to develop contacts and to stay up to date with your industry or subject area. Conferences and industry events also offer the opportunity to build professional networks and establish invaluable relationships. (If the idea of networking fills you with dread, read our article 10 Ways to Overcome a Fear of Networking.)
4. Share Your Knowledge
You'll need to share your expertise in order to put it to good use and to establish your personal brand and reputation. 
First, identify your audience: who do you need to target to make the greatest impact? Who will it most benefit you to help? And who do you most want to influence?
Then, think about how you can get in front of your audience. There are several strategies that can help you to develop your reputation as an expert. For example:
- Public speaking. This is a great way to demonstrate expertise. You could, for example, present at trade conferences, business groups, board meetings, company updates, and at schools or universities.
- Write a blog. Blogging allows people to get to know, like and trust you from afar. It also provides you with a potentially worldwide audience. You could start your own blog or ask to contribute to already established blogs.
Volunteer as an expert source. Writers and journalists are always looking for expert sources to interview for TV features, and for print and online articles. Offering your expertise to them can boost your reputation and generate buzz around your products and services.
Websites like Help a Reporter Out (HARO) and ProfNet are a great way to locate these opportunities. You can also contact relevant media outlets directly. For example, you could offer to write a column for a trade publication, or for your local newspaper's business section.
- Creating information products. Webinars, ebooks, podcasts, and online videos are all great ways to share your expertise, and they provide added value for your audience.
- Helping others. There are many ways to use your expertise to help others. For instance, you could volunteer for a committee within your organization, or lend your skills and knowledge to a nonprofit that you care about.
5. Avoid the Expertise Trap
Experts must continue to learn and be open to new possibilities. The knowledge and skills that have made you successful in the past won't always be the right ones for the future. Have the humility to recognize that things change and that you can't know everything.
An expert is someone who, through dedicated study and application, is recognized as an authority on a given subject.
Being an expert has many benefits. It enables you to help others, and to develop expert power. It can also lead to promotions and high-profile assignments.
To build expertise, pick a topic and set aside time to work on it. Use training, networks and industry events to expand your knowledge. Then, cultivate an expert reputation by sharing your expertise through public speaking, blogging or mentoring. The more you learn and apply, the more your expertise and reputation will grow.
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