What is an expert?
While knowledge is obviously an important quality of expertise, it’s only one of several factors that make someone an expert in their field. An expert is someone who has:
Clearly being an expert requires an immense working knowledge of your subject. Part of this is memorized information, and part of it is knowing where to find information you haven’t memorized.
In addition to knowledge, an expert needs to have significant experience working with that knowledge. S/he needs to be able to apply it in creative ways, to be able to solve problems that have no pre-existing solutions they can look up — and to identify problems that nobody else has noticed yet.
Expertise without the ability to communicate it is practically pointless. Being the only person in the world who can solve a problem, time after time after time, doesn’t make you an expert, it makes you a slave to the problem.
Expertise is, ultimately, social; experts are embedded in a web of other experts who exchange new ideas and approaches to problems, and they are embedded in a wider social web that connects them to people who need their expertise.
How to spot out an expert
The sad fact is, there are a lot of people out there passing themselves off as experts who aren’t experts at all – who may not even be competent. How can you tell if someone’s putting you on?
It can be hard to tell the fake experts from the real ones; many fakes have a great deal of expertise in the field of coming off as an expert! But here are a few things to look for:
Experts are enthusiastic about their fields of expertise. It’s the only thing that keeps them growing as an expert. Look for someone who is serious, obvious commitment to the field. Experts don’t have to do what they do, they get to.
A real expert doesn’t need to scam anyone to sell his/her services. S/he practices what s/he preaches. If you feel that someone is trying to pull one over on you, find someone else.
Expertise speaks for itself. Trade secrets are for people who aren’t confident in their abilities that fear you won’t need them if you know what they’re doing. If someone is unwilling to explain to you what they’re doing, move onto the next expert.
Experts are always looking for new approaches to the problems they’re good at solving. They should also understand the mistakes that non-experts make, and why they’re mistakes. If your expert is dismissive when you explain what you thought might be the problem, it usually means they think they have all the answers. Real experts know they don’t.
An expert should be able to explain to you exactly what they’re doing and why. If they can’t say what they’re doing in language you understand, there’s a good chance they’re either trying to rip you off (think “shady auto mechanics”, here) or they don’t really understand what they’re doing or why.
Now you know what you need to do to become an expert in your field and how to spot out a genuine expert to learn from, go out and explore knowledge, stay curious and practice to turn yourself an expert!
Revised from www.lifehack.org
WOW Magazine – Living March 2019