Redefining expert

The word “expert” has had some stressful times recently.   It seems like every other talking head on TV or on a blog is calling themselves  an expert.  There are even over 15,000 social media experts on Twitter.  That number tripled over the past six months, so by this time next year, there should comfortably be 100,000 or so.  Naturally, wikipedia covers the expert topic.  This is my favorite part:

An expert can be, by virtue of credential, training, education, profession, publication or experience, believed to have special knowledge of a subject beyond that of the average person, sufficient that others may officially (and legally) rely upon the individual’s opinion.

The key part is italicized – the expert’s knowledge goes beyond that of the average person.  I think the problem people have in being acknowledged, or acknowledging someone, as an expert is held over from an older use of the term, also as defined by wikipedia.

Historically, an expert was referred to as a sage (Sophos). The individual was usually a profound thinker distinguished for wisdom and sound judgment.

We can’t all be Socrates.  But we all can have knowledge beyond that of the average person.  In other words, an expert doesn’t have to be an all-knowing sage; only good at doing one particular thing.  So how do you make yourself into an expert?

1. Develop your expertise

Remember the initial definition of expertise – knowledge beyond that of the average person.  This doesn’t mean you can read a book and call yourself an expert.  But it also means you don’t need to wait till you’ve been practicing in a field for thirty years.  There are many good ways to practice your craft depending on what your profession is – writing a song if you’re a musician, designing a pendant if you’re a jewelry maker, coding if you’re a developer.  You should also subscribe to relevant blogs, read magazines and books on current developments and work with potential customers.  Volunteering is a good way to develop a skill set and find mentors while gaining practical experience if you don’t yet feel comfortable charging for your services.

2. Start writing!

An important demonstration of your expert level of knowledge is to write about it.  The simplest way to start doing this is to write a blog focused on your area of interest.  Make it useful too!  Don’t worry about readership levels.  Your guiding principle on writing should be that if someone was interested in your field and wanted to learn more about it, would they be interested in what you had to say?  If the answer is yes, write with your own voice and be guided by your experience.  You can also participate in discussions, both online and off, by commenting on other expert blogs in your field and by going to local meetups to exchange ideas.

3. Develop a process

A process is critical for replicating results and replicating results is critical for having a viable business.  Process will eventually underlie every aspect of your business – production, marketing, customer service and innovation.  And it doesn’t matter if you’re a photographer or a musician or a masseuse.  A well-defined and manageable process for doing your work will allow you greater flexibility to exercise your creativity and individual expertise.

What do you think – has the expert tag become more meaningful or less meaningful since its mainstream adoption?

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