The Benefits of Becoming an Expert in Your Field

Malcom Gladwell, author of Outliers once wrote about a statistic that says that in order to become an expert in any given thing that you must actively participate in that activity for 10,000 dedicated hours which translates to 20 hours a week for ten years or 40 hours a week for five years.

If that’s not overwhelming, I don’t know what is. Becoming an expert in your chosen profession or hobby takes time. Success doesn’t happen overnight and when it does it’s very rare.

You need time to read, do, absorb, fail, and then fail again.

To become an expert, you must put in the practice and establish a level of credibility above and beyond the level of knowledge that everyone else has. If you are just entering the workforce you might feel fully prepared from your collegiate courses but I can promise you that no level of education can prepare you for all of the real-life situations you will face. No matter what college you attend, there is always room to grow when you start a new job. Processes to learn, other experts to connect with, learning never ends.

When people start to seek you out for answers, that’s when you know you are STARTING to becoming an expert.

Becoming an expert will take time, but when you learn everything you can about a specific subject you are setting yourself up for success. Here are some tips and tricks to help you feel confident in your level of expertise!

  • Teach others what you have learned. Try out a mentorship program or talk to your company about joining the training team for new hires. This allows you to work through questions that you might not get it if you are just performing your day to day tasks. It also allows you to think about the subject matter in a different way. Young, fresh minds tend to challenge the status quo and ask really good questions.
  • If you have been in the field for an extended period of time, consider teaching at a local university. Some University programs have opportunities for you to teach alongside an “actual” professor. You might even make some spare cash in the process. If teaching isn’t your thing, you can always reach out to your alma matter or high school and see if there is any interest or need for a guest speaker. Once you have mastered the subject matter enough to teach it, it doesn’t hurt to share what you know.
  • Have a never-ending curiosity. Read everything you can get your hands on, attend any seminars and lectures that you can. You need to be a sponge and absorb everything. I MEAN EVERYTHING. Note: Make sure that the materials that you are studying are legitimate. Wikipedia is probably not the right place to start.
  • Stay up to date on trends. Add google notifications for key terms so that you get automatic notifications when big things happen.
  • If there are parts of the business that you work on that you don’t understand, it doesn’t hurt to ask to shadow someone in another position or get invited to re-occurring meetings. You would be surprised by how much you can learn just by being a fly on the wall.
  • When you start to feel like you are getting the hang of understanding the material, start writing about it. It doesn’t matter who you write for. It could be your company’s newsletter, a trade publication, a scholarly journal, a magazine. Writing allows you to begin to establish yourself as a credible figure.

Again, it takes time. It’s not an overnight process but think how great it’s going to feel what you can say “I’m an expert at {insert topic here}”.

Not only does it feel great but it also helps you accelerate your career. You should try to make a goals list before and after every performance review of things you need and want to learn. Align with your manager and then go after them.

Becoming an expert will position you as an authority figure, someone who gets to make choices and decisions, someone who knows enough to be part of the bigger conversations. Someone that people listen to and value their opinion. Someone that people want to work with and for.

The cherry on top is that typically when you have mastered a job function, you tend to make more money which is never a bad thing.

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