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Career Coach: How to be an expert

By Ken White,

You’re reading the newspaper, watching television or looking at something online that features comments or advice from an “expert.” How did that person get there? Why do reporters call on that particular individual? You know just as much, and reporters aren’t calling you.

People often tell me they would like to be seen as an expert in their field. They understand how promoting their expertise can help their careers. But they often have no idea where to begin.

If you truly have expertise in a particular area and you’re willing to devote time to get there, you can become a recognized authority on a topic or field.

What’s your goal? First determine why you want to invest your time and energy to establish yourself as an expert. Do you have your sights set on a leadership position in your firm or field? Are you hoping to increase your client list? Pinpoint why you want to be an expert to help determine where you should focus your efforts.

Mark your calendar. Becoming an expert will require time and energy so commit to making the investment. Whether you blog, tweet, write or speak, if you don’t block time on your calendar, this will quickly fall off your priority list. Frequency is critical to being seen as credible.

Select your field. Do some research to check out the competition. Who is positioning themselves as experts in your field and how are they doing it? Can you offer something different or better? Then check your level of passion. You have to love something if you are going to be speaking, tweeting and writing about it frequently.

Check your credentials. People expect substance. They also like experience and credentials. Titles and letters after your name never hurt.

Figure out your game plan. The Web can provide a great launch pad for establishing yourself as an authority. But there are many things you can do — figure out what best fits you:

Blog — Anyone can start a blog using tools such as Blogger or Word Press. If you choose this outlet, be ready to post new entries often. Before starting, see if you can quickly come up with 50 blog post topics. If you can, you are ready to begin.

Tweet — Establish a presence on Twitter and tweet regularly. Go beyond just pushing out information and forge relationships with other experts on Twitter. Retweet, respond to others and fuel conversations.

Create videos — Share your expertise by producing a series of videos to post on YouTube. These can be quick and easy – detailing tips related to your expertise or commenting on current events. It can be as simple as setting up a camera in your office. Or see if your company has some production support for you.

Record podcasts — Audio podcasts can be another way to share your expertise. Write a script or talking points. Then, record yourself. Podcasts can include tips, opinions, commentary, or you can conduct interviews with others in your field.

Speak — Many types of organizations are looking for experts to speak – nonprofits, schools, professional organizations, etc. Hone a few presentations that really showcase your expertise.

Write — Most people who get paid to speak have authored a book. It’s instant credibility. You can easily self-publish today.

Teach — Landing an adjunct teaching position at a university or community college immediately positions you as an expert. Plus, you’ll be amazed how much you learn by teaching.

Provide content — Think about ways you can offer content to specialty or mainstream media outlets and contact an editor. News organizations are often operating with very lean staffs. Your weekly or monthly contribution could be a great fit.

Find a partner — Think about partnering with another expert to compliment your offerings or increase your reach. Partnerships can be powerful. Imagine a blog written by you and three other experts in your field. People would read that.

Involve your organization — Though every profession is a bit different when it comes to embracing experts, it can be wise to tell your employer your plans. They might be able to support you in ways you haven’t considered, such as providing technical support, speaking opportunities or media training. And depending on your goals, your company may be an important part of your expertise credentials.

Once you’ve made the investment to establish yourself as an expert, make sure people know about it. You’ll have to push and promote to make things to happen. But your consistent, high quality content, along with your outreach plan, will eventually position you as a “go-to” authority.

Ken White is associate dean of MBA and MS programs at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. He holds a Ph.D. in communication from the University of Missouri. He teaches communication and public relations to executives and MBA students. He previously served as the chief communication and marketing officer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business and the Virginia Military Institute.

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