Quick Guide on How to Build Expertise in New Field

Better pay, more joy, or even pre-requisite to promotion?

Whatever the reason might be for building expertise in a new field, the question is how to get there.

And these following steps could serve as a quick guide on how to develop your expertise in new fields.

(1) Identify the best exemplars

Get a mentor or a role model. The one who is really good at what you want to do.

So in order to locate such personnel, ask yourself this questions.

  • Who is really good at what you want to do?
  • Which experts are held in high regard by their peers and immediate supervisors?
  • Whom do you want to emulate?

(2) Assess the gap between you and them

This requires a rather brutal self-assessment.

Ask yourself how much work will this change require and are you ready to take it on?

And if the gap are fairly small, that should give you warranted confidence. But if it’s large, take a deep breath and consider whether you have the courage and resolve to handle such burden at the moment.

(3) Study on your own

Especially when the knowledge gap between you and the experts in the field is large, try to figure out what you can do on your own to begin to close it.

Self-study, talking to knowledgeable colleagues and even online courses will help tremendously.

You could also read further on

(4) Persuade experts to share

Most of us like to talk, especially on the matter which we are an expert on. So, trust me, many will be pleased to share their expertise, especially if you’ve done your homework first and actually have some foundational knowledge.

And as per 47 law of power suggest, don’t try to shine brighter than your master (teacher) for the master might resist to help you in fear of his or her own position. So, some might resist to share for a host of possible reason, from lack of time to fear that you’re after their job. So, remember, don’t try to outshine your ‘master’.

You can strengthen your case by focusing on how helping you will benefit them. Look at it as a case of mutual relationship rather than just a stepping stone. For example, you could take over some routine tasks that are tiresome to them, but new to you. If the experts are in your own organization, management may reward any investment they make in developing talent.

Emphasize that the time commitment can be minimal and you’ll find small time slots in which to query them.

(5) Learn to Pull Knowledge

You need to keep an open eye for opportunities to learn and avid to absorb. Since you can’t expect experts just to tell you their most critical know-how in bullet points.

Plus, it is impossible because what they know what they know in context, insulting even if it were that easy to impart since if it’s easy, it wont worth much, and frustrating if you tried to do so. Everything have its context.

Instead use the 2 most powerful questions in eliciting knowledge

  1. Why?
  2. Can you give me some example?

(6) Observe experts in action

Now, concentrated observation is often more effective than interviews since it shows you how they think and act in real time. Ask to join in on crucial meetings, accompany them to conferences and customer visits, follow them as they solve problems.

This is far from a passive process which you’ll need to constantly ask yourself:

Why did he / she do that?

what was the effect?

Would I have done it differently?

Afterwards, informally insist for a debrief, even if it’s just during a walk to the parking lot.

Check what you observed against the experts intention and see if you can “teach it back” by explaining the steps taken and the reasons for them.

(7) Seek mini-experiences

Identify opportunities to experience in some limited fashion, the environments, situations or roles that have made the experts so valuable to the organization.

(8) Add visible value as soon as possible

They would expects to see some evidence that all this work is paying off. A simple log of what you’ve done and learned shows efforts and progress. My was to record my reading and learning notes in my website.

Do what most practical to you.

In summary

Spend time to improve yourself in term of your technical expertise, and know how, on top of that, work on your manners and character as well.


Categories: Careers & Work Life Pro Tip, Personal Development, Reading Notes

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