The 17 Step Expert

Originally To A Friend Struggling With Career:

I was chatting with an old friend a few days ago who is struggling with career direction and what she wants to do. Here is my advice, compiled from a variety of “expert” sources and personal experience. Keep in mind these pertain to expertise in a knowledge-based industry.

  1. Decide what you want to do. I am not a fan of 1 year, 2 year, 5 year, 10 year, and 20 year plans. Basically think big–end of lifetime goals, the stuff you would write on your gravestone. Then make short-term plans that get you there. Otherwise, the economy and your current circumstances change too much to predict where you will be in 5 years, or 10 years.
  2. Choose the area you want to be an expert. Choose a subject that is sufficiently narrow. “Expert in Information Technology” or “teaching” is too broad. However, “Expert in Agile software methods” is probably right.
  3. It takes one hour per day for 3 years to be an expert on a subject. This represents approximately 1,000 hours of effort.
  4. It takes one hour per day for 5 years will make you a nationally recognized expert. This represents approximately 1,800 hours of effort.
  5. It takes one hour per day for 7 years will make you an internationally recognized expert. This represents approximately 2,5000 hours of effort. (Among performers, for example professional musicians or athletes, the general rule of thumb is 10,000 hours of practice. Malcom Gladwell in Outliers also estimated that Bill Gates spent 10,000 programming computers before he started Microsoft. Please note that we have defined a field of study that is more narrowly defined, relative to Bill Gates. In addition we are avoiding areas that involve significant practice eye-hand coordination and muscular development.)
  6. Motivation will be an issue. Staying at something daily for this long is a challenge. Try to find ways to reward yourself along the way. If you achieve a certain milestone, then reward yourself with a vacation. This is personal, so take some time to think about this. On the other hand, some aspects of this are self-rewarding.
  7. Buy and read all the books on that subject. Summarize. Condense. Publish book reviews on Amazon or on a Blog about each book. If you are able to read and repeat the contents of three books on the subject, you are probably qualified to present at college-level seminars on the subject.
  8. Present at seminars and conferences.
  9. Find all the academic articles you can. Outline them. Summarize the arguments. Compare and contrast the findings. If possible, write and publish your own academic paper.
  10. Connect with the experts in the field: email, LinkedIn, FaceBook, Twitter, etc. The world of social networks has made it easier than ever to identify and connect with the world’s experts.
  11. Start a weblog. Try to write something twice a week. You won’t make money on a weblog, but that isn’t the point. It is about publishing your thoughts and expertise. Respond to comments. Engage with readers. There are methods to improving the readership and popularity of your weblog. I am not an expert in them, but they are there and you should research them.
  12. Cross-post your Blog posts on the social networks.
  13. Find online chat groups. Participate: ask questions, answer questions.
  14. Identify the conferences on the subject. Attend them if possible.
  15. Even better, present at the conference.
  16. If you entrepreneurial, start your own company doing just that. If not it helps to be working in or near that field, even if for someone else.
  17. Invent your own theories and methods. Publish them. Try them out in the real world.

Everyone struggles with money, but try not to worry about that in the short-term. After you have achieved expertise and recognition, the money will follow. But you need to focus every day, at least an hour. And try to do all of the above every week. It is difficult, but don’t let one aspect slip for too long.