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Boost Your Human Capital: Become an Expert

This article was written by in Career and Work. 10 comments.

Education and experience are necessities for increasing your human capital, with human capital as an approach to looking at your potential overall worth, a grand analysis of which your financial net worth is only a part. With education and experience, you have the ability to become a versatile subject matter expert. As a recognized expert, you would add another layer to your measurement of human capital.

There are two kinds of experts. The first kind of expert you can identify easily because individuals who fall into this category typical market or advertise themselves as experts. Self-declared experts tend to be people who are more interested in selling something than any other professional goal. Selling something, however, is key to financial independence, so we can’t put off that particular skill.

True experts, however, are recognized within their fields, and that recognition sometimes requires a little marketing in a crowded field. But you can’t just say you’re an expert without something to support the claim, as when your expertise is called upon, you will be required to live up to your name. If you choose to “fake it before you make it,” you should hope that your claim goes unquestioned until your education and experience catches up with your marketing.

Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers: The Story of Success, came to the conclusion that the key to success in any field is the “10,000 hour rule.” You need to practice any activity, whether that be writing, performing a musical instrument, or policing the streets a minimum of 10,000 hours in order to excel. That’s the baseline. After 10,000 hours of education and experience, you will likely see success and perhaps recognition within your field.

Being an expert requires more: admiration within your field. Other successful individuals should be looking to you as an example. Expertise comes in a variety of different levels. You may consider any of the following an expert, using physics as an example because I’m currently reading a biography of Albert Einstein.

  • Everyday expert: Your college physics professor, who holds a PhD and has published research in a peer-reviewed journal.
  • Respected expert: Your graduate-level physics professor, who has published innovative research and several books about physics or a specific topic within physics.
  • Renowned expert: An adjunct physics professor at a major university, who is called upon by companies and government organizations for advisement.
  • Revolutionary expert: A physicist who changes the way we understand the world, such as Albert Einstein.

While the above examples are centered around academia, there are equivalents in the private sector as well.

Specialism vs. generalism

There are two approaches to becoming an expert. The first is to focus your expertise on a fine point and drill down deep into a slim area and the other is to widen your angle to add to your versatility across many aspects of the same field. The specialism vs. generalism is a lively debate, and each approach has its benefits. While I favor the generalism approach and the concept of a Renaissance man (or woman), either path can gain human capital.

With the specialist approach, the increase in human capital comes from the notoriety you will gain from people in your field; as long as your particular focus continues to be relevant to the world and to your industry, your recognition as an expert will keep your talents in demand.

I often use Ron Howard as an example of the generalist approach. From his time as Richie Cunningham on the sitcom Happy Days, he worked hard to expand his skills beyond acting, seeking a mentor in the form of Garry Marshall and experience behind the camera. Ron isn’t remembered today for being one of the world’s greatest sitcom actors, but for being a highly-respected producer and director within the industry. Ron’s talents will always be in demand.

Both categories are experts, and both benefit from an increase human capital. I tend to think that the boost is greater for a successful generalist, but it may be more difficult to gain the advantage as expert generalists are not as easily recognized as expert specialists.

Teach others

Seeking out a mentor who success you respect is a great way to acquire valuable insight, but little is more effective than becoming a mentor. As a mentor, you are required to thoughtfully consider the choices that you’ve made to accomplish your success thus far. The process of teaching and leading others often elucidates your own philosophies and paths, connecting the dots from your adventurous onset to the present day. If you’re asked to give advice, you might, on the spot, come up with a tactic that would help yourself.

This has happened to me many times. I talk to many financial bloggers, for example — split relatively evenly between those who I’d like to learn from and those who intend to learn from me (although I believe I have much to learn from everyone). Almost every time, I gain some insight that proves to be invaluable or potentially helpful whether from myself when discussing my thoughts on a topic or from the other party.

Perhaps this also comes from my background in education. As a teacher, you are on the spot, forced prepare for your lessons by knowing the issues inside and out. This preparation is necessary because many of the most involved students ask questions and offer challenges.

Getting the word out about your expertise

It doesn’t help if you’re an expert who nobody knows about. It does help, but being known as an expert — if you are in fact an expert, not a charlatan — is better than being an expert locked in your basement without any publicity. I am not a fan of the approach that calls for calling oneself an expert. If everyone who called him or herself an “expert” truly was exceptional, there would be no value in being an expert.

Here are some tips for sharing your expertise with the public.

  • You should have your own website. This is a minimum. The website should be personal in nature, should preferably include updated content like a blog, and should include evidence of your expertise without explicitly calling yourself an expert.
  • You should be published. Writing a book is usually not a good money-making venture in the short term. Even best-selling authors calculate they earned roughly minimum wage for their time writing and promoting. On the other hand, being a published author increases the value of your “brand,” solidifying your place as an expert.
  • If publishers aren’t interested, self-publish. Working with a publisher lends credibility to yourself, but not everyone can reach that level due to the subject matter being too risky for a major publisher to invest in and market. Anyone can publish a book on his or her own, so this in itself doesn’t add to credibility. If you’re able to market it well, a self-published book may attract some attention, but it’s only a good choice for those who can’t find a publisher.
  • Use radio and television. Target media that have audiences similar to your potential audience, and find ways to get noticed by the producers. Agents and public relations firms help with this, though some charge you by appearance.

What are your suggestions for becoming an expert? If you are an expert, how did you get to that point?

Published or updated October 13, 2011.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 wylerassociate

this is an interesting article. I’m someone who likes to be well versed or have a general understanding in different fields.

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avatar 2 Anonymous

The message is clear that others must look to you fro advice and you must be known for that expertise. Blogging or any published worked satisfy being known and it is up to us to known as an expert.

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avatar 3 Anonymous

Great points! Finding your voice via a blog is so important. Writing for my blog has helped me define which areas I’m passionate about. I’ve learned so much from interacting with my readers and that has helped me see in which areas I am helping them the most.. It’s very rewarding!

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avatar 4 Anonymous

I agree that blogging is a great way to share your expertise. As a small business, it’s also can be a great way to bring in new client who are interested in what you specifically have to offer. Working as an Account Manager I see a lot of young entrepreneurs who have launched their businesses by starting with a killer website or blog.

I also blog personally, and I agree with you Maggie, it’s very rewarding even if its not boosting sales!

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avatar 5 shellye

Great post – I recently read an article about building your ‘brand’ via blogs and social networks that seems to dovetail nicely with what Flexo is saying about building your image as an expert in something. Social media of all forms has become a great equalizer in that it allows anyone to have a voice and share their expertise.

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avatar 6 lynn

Sometimes a person runs out of time. After 42 years in my specialty (specific specialty) I’m tired and just want to live the Jimmy Buffet life. But I’m thinking I’m the oldest person on this site.

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avatar 7 Luke Landes

Hi Lynn,

You’re young! I know there are many regular readers here older.. approaching or in retirement. But sitting back and relaxing after a few decades of working hard is an enticing image.

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avatar 8 Anonymous

Don’t worry Lynn; you can retire and build your brand via blogging if you want. I’m 64–yeah, I know I’m ancient! We are retired and enjoying a relaxing lifestyle of travel, family, and great hobbies. I blog wherever we are because most places have wi-fi. It’s a bit of a Jimmy Buffet life as we have a sailboat & are on the water a lot. We don’t like to sit on the beach too much because we like to go! It is nice to have choices after years of putting time and money into our kids. We are reaping the rewards now and consider it “the sweet life.” We’ve always been frugal, so spending just a bit more in retirement seems like luxury to us!

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avatar 9 Cejay

Okay Maggies, what do you blog about? The money saving and couponing field seem pretty full. Otherwise, I am not sure what I could even remotely blog about. I read this site since I want to get a better handle on the fnances that I do have.

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avatar 10 qixx

One good place to help become an expert is on forums. Answering question that other’s have lends credibility. For business you may want to find groups on LinkedIn in your field. The more questions you join the discussion on the more your will be in demand to answer them. This is a good location to show your expertise to help move your human capital.

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