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The Power of Positioning Yourself as an Expert

These days good accountants, lawyers and similar are common place. Technical capability is a given in professional services. But what exactly is expertise? And hos does it help with the way you brand yourself in the marketplace?

‘An expert is an ordinary fellow from another town.’ Mark Twain

Wikipedia describes an expert as ‘someone who has a prolonged or intense experience through practice and qualification.’ An expert acquires such status through extensive research, practice, occupation or study. They are vouched for by credential, qualifications, training, education, profession, publication or experience.
They go above and beyond that of average people They are acknowledged by both their peers and the public as an oracle or pre-eminent authority in a specific well-distinguished domain. They are thought leaders, opinion formers and influencers, renowned for their wisdom and sound judgment.

‘An expert is a man fifty miles from home with a briefcase.’ Will Rogers

Research on expertise probes into the realms of knowledge, skills, techniques and personal characteristics. Once applied, these yield exceptional performance – the fruit and product of expertise. Based on simulations, scientists estimate that about 50,000 chunks (units of memory) are necessary to become an expert.  Hence the many years needed to reach this level. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell asserts that 10,000 hours of practice in any field defines expert status.

Because experts see so many common situations, they recognise patterns and trends. They predict outcomes and solve problems based on what they’ve seen many times before. They somehow cut through the crap and see exactly what the problem (and the solution) is. They have an internal database of experience and a long-term memory packed with thousands of similar scenarios. This gives them the context, the vital rules and necessary frameworks to make smart decisions quickly. Novices can’t do that. They can’t see what’s relevant and what isn’t. They don’t have the repeated patterns to work from.

‘An expert is a person that has made every possible mistake within his or her field.’ Niels Bohr (Danish scientist and Nobel laureate)

Experts have almost all of the following:

  • Deep knowledge specific to a field of work
  • Relevant education and qualifications that validate expertise
  • Training in their area of expertise to yield high skill or technique levels
  • Ambition, drive and a desire to improve, increase or advance
  • A yearning for fulfilment that comes from deep work
  • Collaboration skills and the ability to relate to other experts to make sense of multi-discipline problems
  • Intuition to discern what’s important and what isn’t
  • Self confidence or self-assuredness to back themselves and articulate their arguments and opinions

These days, so many people call themselves experts. The term has been diluted to some extent. Some say an expert is somebody that knows just a bit more than you do. These is often no objective criteria for expertise – it can often be a matter of opinion and perception.

Professionals in legal, accounting and other professions need to announce and give credibility to their expertise. Here are the three ways to do that:

  1. Show evidence for your supremacy. That could be through qualifications, a track record, testimonials, care studies or word of mouth. This makes it harder for people to dispute your claims to expertise.
  2. Communicate your expertise. There are some geniuses that the world never hears about. They lock themselves in labs or dark rooms and make ground breaking discoveries. That doesn’t work in the professional world. Speaking, writing and networking are the holy trinity of personal marketing. Specifically, share your smart thinking and breakthrough ideas through talking, publishing, creating and conversing. Author = authority, so anything in writing tends to have credibility.
  3. Strive to be an expert practitioner. A practitioner is an expert who uses that knowledge in a professional, paid-for capacity. You are paid handle the kind of complex problems and complicated situations that mere novices cannot. You are valuable because you go beyond common knowledge and into deep, critical areas of knowledge or skills to bring about specific results. What you do is not easy for mere mortals, which is why they pay you to enhance their pleasure, solve their problems or take away their pain.

Note that a practitioner practices. That means you never stop learning. You are always looking for training, coaching, mentoring, learning and upskilling. You stay ahead of your game. You are always developing professionally. You aim to be the very best you can in your field. That’s the kind of professional and advisor people can put their trust and their money in.

‘Expertise comes from practicing the correct way for a total of around 10,000 hours.’ Malcolm Gladwell