How do you become a subject matter expert?
From applying what you learn to consistently publishing content, here are answers to the question, “How do you become a subject matter expert?”
- Application of What You Learn
- Firsthand Work Experience
- Your Easy is Your Expertise
- Follow a Structured Approach
- Publish Content Consistently On the Subject Matter
- Constant and Persistent Education in All Forms
- Study and Do
- Live It
- Surround Yourself With Established Experts
- Practical Experience
- Read the Room
- Write and Share Your Knowledge as Much as Possible
- Commit to Teaching Someone Else
- Stick to Expectations
- Say Yes to Public Speaking Requests
- Calculate the SME Training Involvement
Application of What You Learn
All subject-matter experts should have experience in their field as a commonality. You can’t consider yourself an expert in your field without having applied what you have learned. Research, academics, and any type of extra learning to enhance your knowledge in your field is helpful, but to really be an effective subject-matter expert, you need to have experience working in your field.
Without experience doing what you know, you’re just a wealth of theory with no practice. The truth is, you can’t be a complete expert in your field without experiencing your field in some way. Every subject and career field have both an educational component and a field experience to go with it in some way. You need to harness both to be a true subject-matter expert.
Mark Smith, Program Chair, University of Advancing Technology
Firsthand Work Experience
Books, research papers, theoretical information, and even learning programs can provide a lot of information on a particular subject or segment of work. These learning methods are necessary to gain information and insights into a certain topic or field and are an integral part of the learning process.
However, when it comes to becoming an SME, there is no alternative to hands-on work to provide us with pragmatic experiences that offer experiential knowledge and a broad and more comprehensive perspective.
In the legal industry, for example, no matter how many law books an attorney may have mastered, unless they test their grit and knowledge in an actual courtroom, the mastery they claim over the subject matter they are proficient in will never seem convincing enough.
Your Easy is Your Expertise
The truth is, you probably are a subject-matter expert already. You can’t go through life without picking up a unique collection of knowledge that, if brought to light in the right way, is valuable to someone, somewhere.
Ideally, you want a large audience for that subject matter expertise, but if you know a lot about mechanical keyboards, then hey-something for everyone, right? Whatever you find easy-that’s your area of expertise. That could be people management, computing, process design-what you do every day is what you know best.
And you can become blind to the fact that your knowledge has value because it seems so mundane to you. But for other people, what you know is what they need to know. So, rather than becoming a subject-matter expert, consider your existing areas of expertise, then figure out how to promote that knowledge to others. Spoiler alert: The answer is marketing.
Follow a Structured Approach
One effective way to become a subject-matter expert is to follow a structured approach to learning and gaining experience in a specific area.
This may include
- Gaining a solid foundation of knowledge
- Start by learning the basics of your chosen subject area
- Read books, attend courses or workshops, and seek out other resources to build your knowledge
- Practicing and applying your knowledge
As you learn, try to apply your knowledge to real-world situations. Seek out opportunities for further learning and growth. Look for opportunities to learn from others who are experts in your field, such as attending conferences or joining professional organizations.
Share your knowledge and expertise with others. As you become more proficient in your subject area, consider sharing your knowledge with others through writing articles, and giving presentations.
Publish Content Consistently On the Subject Matter
To be seen as a subject-matter expert, you should consistently publish content within your niche. For example, if you have a social-media platform, blog, or podcast, you’ll want to explore the topic from different angles and deliver your research and thoughts to your subscribers. Before you know it, people will reach out to you for your expertise on the subject matter.
Constant and Persistent Education in All Forms
One effective way to become a subject-matter expert is to consistently educate yourself on the topic. This can be done through reading and researching industry articles, attending conferences and seminars, participating in online courses and webinars, and seeking out opportunities for hands-on learning and experimentation. It is also important to stay up-to-date with the latest developments in your field and to continually seek out new opportunities to learn and grow.
Additionally, sharing your knowledge and expertise with others through writing articles, speaking at events, or teaching classes can also help establish your reputation as a subject-matter expert.
Study and Do
Theory is nothing without action. Action is less effective without training. If you truly want to become a subject matter expert that’s not just regurgitating what other people are saying, you need to be in the trenches.
Did you learn a new strategy? Nice, now implement it. Stress test it. Do your own research. You’ll be able to internalize and improve upon what you’ve learned. To me, that’s the only way to become a true subject matter expert.
To become a subject matter expert, you need to live it every day.
For instance, I became a subject matter expert by learning all I could about franchising and engaging with the smartest people in the field. My learning included years of reading books and other publications on franchising, video learning, and attending franchise conferences. In addition, I visited with franchisees and franchise executives.
Next, I began to write about what I learned. As a matter of fact, I wrote so many articles that I was eventually approached by a major book publisher to write a new book on buying a franchise. My book sold well and opened doors to media appearances and more.
These days, I get asked for my franchise expertise a lot. Why? Because I was able to create a name for myself and serious credibility along with it.
Finally, I’m known for telling the truth about franchising-no spin from this guy (The Franchise King®)-someone who lives franchising every day.
Surround Yourself With Established Experts
One effective way to become a subject-matter expert is to surround yourself with established experts in that field. While directly networking with these individuals might not be possible, for most niches there is a plethora of high-quality content available online where experts share their insights.
Consider subscribing to credible YouTube channels, podcasts, and blogs for regular updates on the subject matter you’re most interested in. By doing this, the goal isn’t to exclusively use these experts’ insights as your primary education source, but also to discover themes and topics to research further through other sources. It’s important to consume content from a variety of reputable sources.
As you grow more knowledgeable, you may also want to find other experts who are teaching skills at a more advanced level.
One sign of being a subject-matter expert is extensive practical experience in a specific area. Practical expertise helps you apply your knowledge and develop your skills, which is a crucial supplement to theoretical knowledge.
This can be gained through various methods, such as internships, additional part-time or freelance jobs, or other hands-on opportunities. Don’t forget what you can achieve with self-study, research projects, or volunteer work.
The knowledge that is reflected in practice gains value. Practical undertakings confirm that an expert can indeed be called an expert.
Overall, gaining practical experience is an essential element on the path to becoming a subject-matter expert. By immersing yourself in your field and applying your knowledge and skills in a practical setting, you can gain valuable insights and build your expertise.
Read the Room
It’s as simple as it sounds. More than knowledge of that particular subject and your own experience, you need to know about the field itself. This includes what people are talking about and what they agree with within the content.
Only then can you acceptably share your viewpoint. The most effective outcome of this is that you would learn to answer those questions no one thought of. This is because you understand the new perspectives present and how to navigate your way through them.
It leaves room for thoughts or answers no one came up with. It could also help direct the conversation to a more relevant answer because you understand the audience well. An expert listener with decent subject knowledge can lead and manage powerful conversations.
Write and Share Your Knowledge as Much as Possible
Becoming a subject-matter expert in any field goes beyond having deep knowledge of that particular industry. While having deep knowledge is a crucial foundation, you still need to demonstrate your expertise so that you can build trust and authority in the marketplace.
The best way to do this is to write and share your expertise as much as possible. And you don’t even have to write a New York Times best-selling book. You can start off by writing a blog each week and sharing it with people on social media. Try to post something on social media regularly regarding your field and engage with users by answering questions in the comments.
Finally, if you get opportunities to speak at virtual events, conferences, and other gatherings, take advantage and present original and authentic works.
Commit to Teaching Someone Else
Becoming a subject matter expert requires dedication and hard work, and one of the most effective ways to do this is to commit to teaching others. This will necessitate discipline in order to learn more about the subject and deepen your knowledge and understanding.
You’ll need to stay focused on the task of educating yourself – reading, researching, and practicing – and passing that information on to others. When engaging with your students or colleagues, you will be driven to explore new ideas while validating what you already know – confirming your expertise in the process.
This is a great way to commit to learning while at the same time providing an invaluable service to society. Choosing to instruct can be an extremely satisfying journey that encourages self-development in addition to assisting others as they learn and understand the subject.
Stick to Expectations
One of the ways to become a subject-matter expert is to have basic expectations. If having a decent command over your subject is your main priority, then make this your commitment. Be clear with all your communication and collaboration efforts regarding the same.
Whatever negotiations you need to take part in, make sure the ground rules are to your benefit. It can be easier to get swayed by plenty of responsibilities or lack of resources, but stick to the schedule.
Apart from taking part in conferences and your research efforts, you need to commit to a schedule and keep up your expectations. You could use technology to your benefit. Have a document where you add everything you find out about your subject and keep it updated. This can help you improve a lot.
Say Yes to Public Speaking Requests
Being a guest on a podcast, speaking on a panel at a conference, or hosting your own virtual event quickly provides gravitas to your professional brand. Highlight your public speaking experience on LinkedIn and your resume. It won’t be long before additional speaking requests flood your inbox.
Calculate the Sme Training Involvement
To become an SME for a certain issue, I believe you might need to complete some additional training. For instance, get certified to demonstrate your knowledge and reduce compliance risks for your clients. In some circumstances, you may choose training merely to increase your knowledge and gain access to new markets.
For this reason, before selecting your expertise, you should learn how much training is required. I don’t think you want to start constructing your consulting business from scratch only to find out that you still have a month of training to go.
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