This is a guest blog by Patrick Sweet, P.Eng., MBA, PMP, CSEP
No matter what your particular engineering discipline or industry, there is immense value in establishing yourself as an expert. In both Seth Godin’s “Linchpin” and Cal Newport’s “So Good They Can’t Ignore You,” very compelling cases are made for why someone should strive to become an expert in their field. To be the go-to person for a given subject is not only incredibly gratifying, it also provides excellent job security and flexibility.
While it may be clear that becoming an expert is extremely valuable, it’s less clear how to go about becoming an expert.
In this post, I’ll offer five concrete strategies you can use to establish yourself as an expert in your field.
1. Become a Lifelong Learner
The first and most important thing you can do is adopt a mentality that learning never stops. Gandhi once implored people to “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” If you want to become a recognized expert in your field, it’s important to make learning more and more about your subject a routine.
Learning can take on many forms. On one hand, you can learn relatively informally through trade magazines and books. On the other, you could pursue formal education. You could also consider night classes at a local college, massive open online courses (MOOCs), or attending conferences and seminars.
There is no shortage of opportunities to learn for anyone who is ready to put the time in. If you can make a habit of looking for and pursuing these opportunities, you’ll quickly build your profile as an expert.
2. Get Hands-on Experience
Besides learning about your subject, it’s important to put that knowledge into practice. This can be done through your work, through volunteering, or through personal projects. Regardless of how you get the experience, it all counts.
By putting theory into practice, you can firm up your understanding of what you learned theoretically and establish additional credibility with your peers. With practical experience, your knowledge within a certain field becomes much more valuable to others.
3. Write About Your Subject
There is something incredibly validating about having your thoughts and ideas put into writing. What many don’t realize, however, is just how easy it can be to get your writing published.
Many specialized trade magazines and websites are starved for high-quality content and are happy to publish work from new authors. You don’t need a doctorate in your subject in order to be recognized as someone who can write with authority.
Once you do start writing for one publication, it gets even easier to write for others. This momentum builds and you can quickly establish yourself as a recognized expert in your field.
4. Build a Web Presence
In addition to writing for others, you can establish expertise by building your own presence on the web. This can be through a personal blog or website, a podcast, a YouTube channel, or any number of other channels. Through regular creation and promotion of content you create, you can create and serve an audience who really do view you as an expert in your field.
5. Teach Your Subject
Finally, another powerful way to not only learn about your subject more deeply, but also to establish your expertise, is by teaching. Whether it’s at a local college or library, online, or at a conference, when you teach a subject, you get to know your material intimately. There’s no better way to learn something than by teaching it. There are often opportunities to teach within your company as well — whether through a formal course or informal “lunch and learns.” It can be surprisingly easy to find opportunities to share your knowledge with others, thereby planting yourself firmly in the minds of your students as an expert.
Establishing yourself as an expert is both personally satisfying and professionally advantageous. Luckily, there are several approaches you can take to truly become an expert and share that expertise with the world.
For next steps, I encourage you to take one of the five strategies above and establish a concrete goal related to putting it into practice. You might just surprise yourself about how easy it is to really and truly become an expert in your field.
About Pat Sweet
Patrick Sweet, P.Eng., MBA, PMP, CSEP, is a recognized expert in engineering management, productivity, and leadership. He is also the host of the popular Engineering & Leadership Podcast, a show dedicated to helping engineering leaders thrive. Download his free engineering leadership e-book, “Engineering Leadership 101 – Practical Insights for Becoming an Engineering Leader at Any Stage,” to grow your leadership skills today.
We would love to hear any questions you might have or stories you might share about the things you do to establish yourself as an expert in your field.
Please leave your comments, feedback or questions in the section below.
To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success