2007/04/25

Having an Area of Expertise

Everyone should find something about which they can be passionate and should develop that interest into their area of expertise.

Developing a recognized area of expertise will help you meet new people, it will help you in either your job or avocation, and you'll enjoy knowing that you're pretty darned good at something.

If you haven't already done it, take some time to write down what things you are truly passionate about, what areas of your vocations or avocations you enjoy and take a deep interest in. At a minimum, you should come up with at least one focus area like this for your main career area and one for your interests not related to work.

Once you've decided on two or more areas of high interest, consider summarizing what you know about those areas, defining your scope of knowledge about those passions in writing. Develop action items to make good use of what you already know and come up with next steps to further increase your skill and knowledge on specific topics.

There are several ways to make good use of what you already know. If you enjoy writing and the internet, consider writing a blog on your area of expertise. You will likely find many other people out there writing blogs on the same topics, but that's a good thing. By reading those other blogs, you can learn more about your favorite subjects, you can make new connections with people who have some of the same interests as you, and you may find some specialty areas where you know more than most other people out there.

Another way to assemble and further develop your written knowledge about a particular topic using the web is to launch, develop, promote and maintain a wiki. If you're not familiar with wikis, look up the term at http://wikipedia.org. There are several options for having free wikis, but one good place to start is www.wikispaces.com. If you'd like help setting up a wiki, contact me, and I'll be happy to help you.

If you like to write, but don't care for the internet or don't feel you have the tech knowledge to enjoy doing a blog or wiki, consider writing articles for magazines, newspapers, journals or other media. Even if you don't get the articles published, or only have a couple published, the act of writing the articles will help you clarify your thoughts on various subjects. Research for the articles can help you connect with new people having similar interests or can help you learn more about your favorite topic.

Consider joining associations related to your interests. Joining the associations will lead to all sorts of opportunities to meet people, increase your subject knowledge and find new ways to use your skills and experience.

If you like speaking in public, consider joining a Toastmasters club in your area. This will create opportunities to talk about your passion. Approach local clubs and organizations about speaking at their regular meetings or special gatherings. Find out what specific questions they have for your area of expertise and develop a presentation around those questions.

Those people who have an enormous amount of energy should consider organizing events related to their passion. With the rise of unconferences and informal gatherings, it's easier than ever to bring together people with common interests. Attend other events related to your interest first to find out what they are like. Determine what you like and dislike about those events. Do some research to find out what other events for your subject area are held in your community, state or region. If there is a particular type of event that you'd enjoy and that a few others would probably enjoy, develop a plan for the event. Find five or six other people who want to help organize the event. Working with others on organizing and putting on an event is always a good way to get to know them better.

There are a ton of ways to leverage knowledge and expertise in an area about which you are passionate. Put some time and effort into at least one of the above suggestions, or another type of activity not listed here. You'll enjoy it, others will benefit, and it may lead to something totally unexpected and really worthwhile!

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