Being an expert isn’t always as beneficial to your career as you might hope: some companies target their expert employees during layoffs in favor of employees still learning the ropes. It isn’t because those employees are necessarily assets — it’s just that they’re cheaper. Either way, though, it makes you question how worthwhile your expertise really is.
If you take a look at companies that get rid of their experts, though, they are never better off. Sure, a company can cut its payroll quickly by getting rid of some of its highest paid employees — but there is usually a reason that an employee has earned such a salary. It can take months to get a newer employee up to the performance level of a missing expert, assuming it’s possible at all. At least a few balls will get dropped and it’s likely that a few clients will be disappointed. In the mean time, you can use your expertise as a way to move on to bigger and better things.
Expertise Opens Doors
Even during a hiring freeze, many companies will find a way to bring the right expert on to their team. And if business is going well — depending on your field of expertise, you may be able to name your own terms. No matter what industry you work in, you’ll get a better deal over all if you’re an expert. You have to make your abilities work for you, of course: most resumes don’t convey true brilliance any more than they prove that a person really is an expert in a field.
Instead, prospective employers — or clients, if you’re ready to take your expertise solo — need to be able to easily find out about your impressive abilities. You can toot your own horn a bit, but it’s better if they find out about just how great you are from parties with less interest in the end result. In an ideal world, running an online search for your expertise would return your name. An employer mentioning that they need an expert in your field would hear your name from all of their friends and colleagues. Everyone would know your name right off the bat.
Unfortunately, things aren’t quite that simple. In most industries there are thousands of experts and only one or two are known by absolutely everyone involved. It’s only more complicated if a prospective employer isn’t actually involved in your particular field — if, for instance, a company needs IT personnel but actually sells clothing. Name recognition just isn’t going to get the job done.
What you need is recognition for your expertise. When someone says your name, they should immediately add “the sales expert” or “the contract expert” or whatever your area of specialty might be. If you can’t be in the top ten search results for your field, your field should be in the top ten results for your name. It may not get you an immediate consulting job or immediately convince a hiring manager, but after a web search or a reference backs up your expertise, you’ll be on your way to that bigger and better thing.
Getting Recognition For Your Expertise
Relatively speaking, becoming an expert is easy: you read, you go to classes, you try out new things and so forth. Getting known as the go-to guy or gal, though, is a bit harder. In a sense, you have to advertise your expertise. And while getting known can be a little more complicated than becoming an expert — there are so many ways to go about it — it’s worth doing right.
Lately, blogging has been described as a great way to get credit for your expertise — after all, if you write about a topic regularly, you’ll get recognition for knowing your stuff, right? It’s an arguable point. If you put in a lot of time and effort on a blog, you can really show off your expertise. But you have to spend an incredible amount of time on it: the ROI on that kind of work is just not good enough to rely on blogging to establish your expertise. Writing an article for a trade publication will do a better job — the fact that an editor has to agree that you know your stuff can make it a much better indicator of your expertise. The same goes for getting quoted as an expert source in a magazine article, on the nightly news or anywhere you can reach. An added bonus is that you won’t have to work nearly as hard to make sure that a magazine article shows up in the search results for your name as you would to promote your own blog.
Here are just a handful of ideas that can get you a little recognition as an expert:
- Respond to requests for information from journalists on HARO
- Volunteer your expert services for a non-profit
- Give a talk at a conference — and if you can apply your field to another industry’s conference, go for it!
- Offer a guest post to a blog
- Submit an article to a trade magazine
- Present to local organizations, like the Chamber of Commerce
All of these options work equally well whether you act as your employer’s expert, you run your own business or you’re looking for a new opportunity to use your expertise. But there are a million more — if you have one to add, let me know in the comments!
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