There are two fundamental pillars to being an expert. The first, obviously, is being an expert. In other words, performing the hard work of learning and practicing to gain expertise in your chosen profession. The second, and which is the topic of this post, is your reputation as an expert. Anyone can claim to be knowledgeable about a subject or profession. The question is how do you separate the posers from the real experts? The answer is through evidence: specifically, building a body of evidence that demonstrates expertise in your profession. So let’s start with:
A time honored tradition for demonstrating expertise is to write about it. Pick a subject related to your profession and write a paper about it. This not only demonstrates mastery, but doing the research needed to write intelligently about a subject will enhance your knowledge and make you even more of an expert. However, in order to build the body of evidence needed to enhance your reputation, you need to have your writing published. And, fortunately, the Internet has provided a very easy way to do that: a blog.
People write blogs for many different reasons. But the main purpose of a professional blog is to provide a centralized means of publishing evidence of your expertise. Whenever you publish research on your blog, it documents your expertise. If you do this routinely once or twice a week, you will soon create a substantial body of knowledge and evidence. You will also create a body of research for your own use; I often find myself referring back to blog posts I have written to refamiliarize myself with topics I have written about and for inspiration on future topics. You will undoubtedly do the same. Which leads into the next step:
Few things demonstrate mastery and expertise than teaching others. When you become a teacher, you are the de facto expert in the room. Not only that, but doing the research needed to prepare for a lecture will enhance your knowledge. But how do you leverage this as documentation of your expertise? By publishing presentations and webinars to your blog.
Did you get up in front of a room of people and give some training? Most likely you developed a presentation as a part of it. Add some notes to your presentation and post it on your blog. Don’t have access to a group of trainees? No problem. Develop a webinar and present it online. Does it matter if only a couple of people log in when you present it? No! What matters is that you can record the webinar and post it to your blog. Whether someone attends the webinar live or views it later is irrelevant. What is important is documenting your ability to relay your expertise in a teachable manner, and to further enhance the body of knowledge you build on your blog. This also leads to the third step:
Writing and teaching are important steps for building expertise, but you also demonstrate mastery by doing. Did you write about some new technique related to your profession? Go out and practice it! And then document what you learned through practice and post it to your blog as evidence. Did you go out on a job and do something different? How did that work out? Write about it and add it to your body of knowledge.
Another aspect of doing is documenting your experience. You can create a resume page on your blog and add to it whenever you do something relevant. You can also create a page on a professional networking site, like Linked In, and link that page to your blog and vice versa. This will help to drive traffic from one to the other and help to get the word out.
You will also need to get out and network. Are there local events related to your profession? Go to them and put a face behind your blog. Are there professional blogs and online groups you can become a member of? Join them and constructively comment on others’ posts. Have a professional business card ready at all times to hand out, and make sure you have the url to your blog on your business card. After all, what better way to impress a potential contact than to have him or her log onto your blog and experience that amazing body of knowledge and mastery you have created as evidence of your expertise?
Finally, you need to loop everything back into your writing and teaching. All three steps—writing, teaching, and doing—are mutually reinforcing. By documenting this mastery on your blog, you will create a unique and personalized body of knowledge that will allow you to stand out as an expert in your profession, and provide a resource to help you advance to the next level in your career.