I remember the first time someone called me an “expert.” It was a little strange to hear it. After all, wasn’t I just some average middle-management guy with a bad salary who worked too many hours? In the context of the group I was being introduced-to, though, I was the expert on what I was about to present. And that’s when it struck me that, no matter what you do, we’re all experts in something. Even if it’s what we do as a hobby… or as something that is a secondary part of our jobs. We are all experts at something, however small or seemingly insignificant that something is.

So what makes you an expert?

You do something that not everyone else can do You sometimes get asked for advice by others on a topic you happen to know a lot of stuff about You’ve been introduced to someone by your name and “what you do.” You do something that not everyone else can do

I’ve always been fascinated by life coaches, personal shoppers and “professional organisers.”These are people that have made themselves, often through little or no study or qualification, in to experts in fields that you’d think that we adults would all be across by now. You know, like being an adult. Shopping for clothing. And keeping a wardrobe tidy. But the simple fact that there are industries of people around these mundane tasks shows that we don’t have it all together. And that is why there are experts in just about everything… including tidying up your underwear drawer.
Perhaps you are a mid-level administrative assistant in a nondescript cubicle in an office in amongst hundeds of other people who do a similar job to you. I bet that there is one thing you do that people ask you for help for. Whether that’s an introduction to the IT guys so someone can get their mouse replaced sooner, or the fact that you are a MS Excel Queen and can whip up macros in no time. You are an expert in something. That calculation formula on a spreadsheet that everyone wants to know how to write. That ability to get people to do things for you. The fact that you just know where all the best coffee spots in town are for visitors. You may have thought that knowing this stuff was just “part of the job.” But you’ll be hard-pressed to find that special knowledge or skill written in to your employment contract.

You get asked for advice about a certain topic

I am always getting asked for advice about technology. From whether to choose an iPhone or Android handset, to Windows vs Mac and Chrome vs Internet Explorer, I am the go-to guy amongst my family and friends on these things. Family members won’t buy a new laptop computer until I’ve approved it. Friends won’t take on a web developer until I’ve vetted her work. It’s any wonder that I am now building my own consultancy on all things tech.
My friend Matt works in a cafe. Has worked in them for years as a barista. He knows his coffee to the point of being a real coffee snob. Whilst I can’t really tell the difference between a McCafe Flat White and a Zarraffas Caffe Latte, he talks in terms of “single origin”, regions, blends, aromas and roasting times. No matter where I visit in northern NSW or South East Queensland, I ask him for advice on where to get a coffee. And so far, there have only been, perhaps three times when he’s not know of anywhere in a town. But he has led me down a rabbit hole of cupping sessions where you get to taste-test different blends and roasts, and some amazing little secret coffee houses in Brisbane and beyond that I had no idea existed. Matt is an expert at coffee and where to find the good stuff.
My friend Rose is an expert at networking. She just seems to know someone in any field whom she can refer you to. Need a plumber? She knows one. Need a hairdresser? She knows one. Need someone to help you with advertising your business? She knows someone in every form of media. She has been networking like crazy for the last 20 years and seems to love connecting people with others. And it’s not even something she has to try and do. She just does it. It’s quite effortless. If I wanted to learn how to network, I’d ask her, because she’s an expert at it – even though it’s not what she gets paid to do. When I was starting my new business, Rose was the first person I turned to for advice.

You get introduced by name and what you do most of the time
If people automatically associate you with a thobbyask, job or profession, they’ll introduce you as “My mate Dave. He’s in landscaping.” Or “This is Jenny. She’s the blogger I’ve been telling you about.”In recent decades the idea that people associate you with what you do, rather than “who you are” has been criticised for reducing us all to “human resources” rather than real, living, breathing, emotional people. But honestly, at a Sunday barbeque, I don’t know if I want to be introduced as “Dante who is going through his mid-life crisis right now.”

I used to be one of those people who said, “I just want people to know me for who I am, not what I do.” However, as life has progressed, do I really want someone’s opinion of me to be clouded by my latest relationship breakdown or my current existential crisis? And who would I prefer that my friends referred business leads to me as? “My mate Dante who is a bit of an expert at all that social media stuff?” Or “My mate Dante… he’s a little fragile right now as his partner left him a few weeks ago?”Being introduced alongside what you do for work is an honour. It means that the person who introduced you is proud to associate you with what you do, They not only KNOW what you do. They reckon you’re pretty bloody good at it as well. And what if you get introduced by name and what you do, not for a job, but something that they think you’re an expert in that you DON’T get paid for? Then you’re being positioned as a true expert. Not just someone who has a job. You’re a highly-regarded authority in that area.

So when I was recently introduced as “our gourmet burger expert” I puffed my chest out with pride. It was great to be positioned at a social event as someone who not only has an interest, but a damn interesting interest at that! And, an expert in that area of interest, no less. It led me to a series of conversations all afternoon with strangers interested in what a good burger was to me, where my favourites were, and my theories on why we can’t seem to recreate them at home. It gave me an “in” with people I didn’t know, an instant point of reference for people to remember me by, and that particular barbeque allowed me to gently introduce what I do for a job to those people. Which led to five new leads, of which two become new clients.
What are you an expert at?What interests do you have that you could talk about for hours?How do you think you could use that as a way to start a conversation with complete strangers?