Like many autodidactic web workers out there, I never received a formal indoctrination in my various fields of expertise. Sure, I learned some useful things in college, but there’s a wide gap between my education and my professional ability. Realizing this, and the fact that I learned at least half of my professional disciplines on the job, I came up with this list of three things you need to be an expert in just about anything.

1. Knowledge – Know What You’re Talking About

This one’s just common sense. In order to be an expert, you have to have expertise. You have to know your subject inside and out. If it has some sort of functional application, you must also be able to work with it. Without knowledge, you can sound like an expert, and people may even regard you as such, but you’ll inevitably give yourself away as a fraud.

2. Confidence – Regard Yourself as an Expert

Knowledge is not enough without the confidence to apply it. That is, you can’t just have the right answers; you have to trust that your answers are correct. Often, this means you have to fail a few times. That’s fine. In fact, it’s something most experts go through in their professional development. Learn from your mistakes and use those experiences to build confidence.

3. Voice – Get Others to Recognize Your Expertise

Knowledge and the confidence to apply it are enough to be an expert. Without voice, though, you’ll never be recognized as an expert by your peers. You’ll be a master of your subject, but never a leader in it. To make that leap, you have to make your opinions heard. Join in the discussions of your niche. Pioneer new advances and ways of thinking. Publish well-thought-out opinions on current and emerging trends. As others hear you, you will garnish a reputation as an expert.

Discussion

Granted, there are plenty of so-called “experts” out there who lack one of more of these three things. Beyond what I’ve listed, however, is there anything else that you need to be an expert in anything? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

3 thoughts on “The Three Things You Need to Become an Expert in Anything

  1. I can relate to this post in so many ways. It seems in my post-college career I’ve been not so much as forced into positions but more so brought into positions people think I’m an expert at (but I’m really not). This can be positive and negative. Let me explain…

    It can be negative because once you’re brought into that position if you make a mistake they frown upon you and think “oh she’s a fraud..a fake”. Then you lose credibility and people no longer listen to you or go to your for advice and/or help.

    However on the contrary, when you learn from those mistakes, read articles and books on your subject of “expertise”, and speak with other more seasoned people in the field you get better.

    After reading this post and applying it to my life, I think I’m okay with #1. You can always learn things, apply what you learn, and then use common sense the rest of the way. As far as #2 and #3 go…I think I may need to improve. For some reason some people are confident in me but I’m not so confident in myself. I know it’s my fear of failure, and it will one day be my downfall or the brick wall that keeps me from going as far as I would like to go. Then if anyone knows me…they know I’m not a very loud person. :0)

    Great post Stephen. Really makes you step back and asses what you (or others) think you have expertise in.

  2. When it comes to being thrust into positions of expertise without having any of these three things, San, I am reminded of my conversation with Boris over on Death of the Computer Guy. Boris boldly proclaimed that he was the mythical expert in all things computer-related, all the while admitting that he was essentially good at faking it until he learned the ropes of whatever he was doing.

    I think that’s the key. If you’re forced to be the expert in something, the best way to do it is to step up. Learn as much as you can, project confidence (even if you don’t feel it right away), and speak your mind on the subject. Eventually, what was a facade will become the truth if you work at it.

    Mind you, I don’t advocate that as the best way to become an expert, only the best way to do it if the mantle of expertise is thrust upon you. It’s the better alternative to saying you’re not up to the task. I think an employer would frown more on that than if you simply tried your best and stumbled a few times.

    Besides, situations like that are great ways to expand your resume. Just try to look at them as on-the-job learning opportunities. 😉

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