Tim Ferriss or Malcolm Gladwell? Four weeks working on your credibility indicators, or 10,000 hours of intense practice? What really makes you an expert? On the subject of expertise I tend to agree more with Malcolm’s definition than with Tim’s. Becoming an expert takes practice and experience.
Here are, in my opinion, the five main characteristics of an expert:
- Knowledgeable: You can’t be called an expert if you don’t know your subject matter. Being intimately familiar with the technical aspects of your job is absolutely necessary, and it is the first step on the road to expertise.
- Experienced: Experts need to apply the theory and face many different scenarios. A physician may easily recognize the symptoms of an illness, but the right treatment will depend on each individual patient. You may have read about how to manage people, but until you’re actually in charge of a team and deal with real personalities and real conflicts you can’t really call yourself an expert manager of people.
- Well Rounded: An expert who only cares about his/her subject matter is not really an expert. For example, a good SEO must also have an understanding of subjects like marketing and PR. If you want to become an expert at something, seek to also learn near-neighbor disciplines.
- Up-to-Date: Knowledge changes fast. That’s why experts are always thirsty for new information. It’s not uncommon to see top experts attending seminars given by other experts, trying to learn something new. Experts reinvest part of their revenues in education. Experts experiment constantly.
- Humble: Should you call yourself and expert? Just as PR is more credible than advertising (because it is what other people are saying about you), it is more effective to let others call you an expert instead of blowing your own horn. Work hard at becoming good at what you do, get good mentors, gather honest testimonials, attract links from quality sites, and land mentions in important media, and you won’t need to hard-sell others on your expert status.