Many business owners wrestle with this notion of “expertise”, feeling certain that they don’t know enough to be looked upon by anyone as an expert. I avoided that expert label as well for my first 5 or so years in business, despite being very good at what I did. I was always comparing myself to other “experts” in the field and felt myself falling sadly short on the experience meter of what I thought an expert should be.
As I reflect back on those early years, I now have to laugh at my lack of self-confidence. The only thing holding me back from declaring my expertise was me. Granted, I have run into a few nay-sayers over the years who have belittled my lack of experience in their industry and refused to talk with me further because of their skewed perceptions of my abilities. However, I’ve come to realize that many of those types of people are bogged down in their own fear, and it is easier for them to criticize others than to take any action to move themselves forward.
I also held myself back by filling my head with the “ought-tos” — someone else is doing this certain thing, and I “ought to” be doing it as well. Or, I was encouraged by well meaning friends that I “ought to” go in this direction instead. Or, I let myself become distracted by the BSOS (Bright Shiny Object Syndrome) and head in a direction that I would later end up regretting.
I wish I’d had someone early who could have really helped me determine my expertise in my particular industry. After many wrong turns and hitting alot of dead ends, I’ve devised this list of questions to help you determine your expertise and help you stand out from your peers.
1. What comes easily to you? I always viewed the stuff that came easily to me as stuff that everyone knew and was good at. I made the mistake many people make — because it comes easily to me, it must be that easy for everyone. What comes easily to you, may, indeed come easily to others, but by and large that’s not the case. Don’t dismiss all the skills, talents, and abilities you have that seem to be innate — they are a vital key in excavating your expertise.
2. What are you good at doing? Look at your skill set and how you spend your time. What kinds of tasks, activities and experience are you good at doing? Make a list of those for this discovery process.
3. For what reasons do people ask for your help? Over the years, people have sought you out for your help and experience in certain areas. Why did they come to you? What did you offer to them? What benefit did they gain by getting your help? What results did your assistance help them achieve?
4, What have you achieved based on what you know? Don’t overlook any of your experiences, as they may provide valuable clues to help you in this journey. Your achievements could include awards or accolades that you’ve won, or could simply be accomplishments that you’ve achieved for yourself, your business, your life, or for your clients.
5. What are you naturally drawn to learn? You’ve been learning all of your life, and some subjects are naturally more appealing to you. Some are so appealing that you learn about them just because you want to — there’s no other reward or economic payoff for you. What kinds of information do you soak up like a sponge?
6. What parts of your past work/volunteer experiences have been most enjoyable? We’ve all held jobs that we loved and others that we regret ever taking. What parts of your work experiences or volunteer stints did you like the most? Did the enjoyment come in the tasks performed or from the people with whom you worked or the environment in which you worked?
7. What kinds of tasks do you complete in which time flies quickly? Have you found yourself doing something and before you know it several hours have passed? Those are the kinds of tasks to note in this question. When time passes effortlessly because you’re fully engaged, that’s a sure sign that you love whatever it is that you’re doing.
8. What have you spent lots of money and time on getting good at? Your employer or friends or spouse may force you to spend time learning things you don’t really want to learn as a condition of your employment or because your want to be a good friend or a supportive spouse. Aside from those, on what do you spend your time and money to learn more about?
9. What major obstacles have you overcome in your life? Sometimes stumbling blocks and obstacles and low points in our lives offer the greatest learning experiences. In my mid-30s I ripped apart my life and moved halfway across the country and started all over again as a single divorced woman with no job — I had only the dream of becoming self-employed. I glossed over that part of my life and didn’t share that story for several years because I was embarrassed about my failed marriage and ashamed of the fact that I had to move back in with my mother for a short while to get back on my feet again. It took me a long time to realize that this experience of building a new virtual businesses from my small, rural East Texas hometown using only connections made online and Internet marketing strategies wasn’t simply a survival strategy — it was an example of how I could teach others to do the same. How can your obstacles serve as teaching moments for others?
10. What would you be doing if money were no object? If you were to win the lottery and then do the world tour with your new-found wealth, eventually you would return home and realize that you need to be doing something to fill the endless days. Shopping on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills like Paris Hilton is sure to grow old fast. So, how would you spend your time day-to-day?
Your knowledge, likes and dislikes, and life experiences are all valuable keys to help you unlock your expertise. Learn to value these experiences and realize that there are others who desperately need what you know and will benefit from this expertise.
Copyright (c) 2007 Donna Gunter