Growing up, I was a huge fan of Bruce Lee, the martial arts superstar. I spent a lot of time at the movies or in front of the television, watching him kick butt and take names. When I wasn’t doing that, my friends and I were running around the neighborhood, showing off all of the moves we learned from watching him onscreen.
While the film quality of some of his movies seems cheesy now, at the time they kept me and my friends focused on the screen. Even at such a young age, I could sense that Bruce Lee was the real deal. He wasn’t an actor that also happened to be a good martial artist, he was a great martial artist that made films. He had a certain charisma about him that was hard to ignore. As the saying goes, women wanted him and men wanted to be him. And I really wanted to, until a couple of head injuries involving nunchakus convinced me otherwise.
EXPERTISE IS SEXY
People who are deeply knowledgeable in a particular subject area are attractive, though not always in the physical sense. Part of the reason for their success is based on the perception that they really know what they’re talking about. If someone appears to have the right answer then people tend to approach them with questions.
It’s also inherent in how they share their knowledge with others. Take my next example: Neil DeGrasse Tyson:
Whenever you give a cross-street, a building floor, and a meeting time, you’re handing someone a 4D coordinate in space-time.
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) July 5, 2013
Neil is an astrophysicist, born and raised in New York City. He’s also the Director of the Hayden Planetarium, which is part of the American Museum of Natural History. AMNH is one of the premier cultural institutions in the world, averaging close to five million visitors a year. It also houses an immense collection of artifacts (roughly 32 million) from across space and time.
This is a man who’s really smart when it comes to his particular area of expertise. He’s also spends time sharing with others regarding his scientific knowledge, oftentimes in the public arena. He’s appeared on television (from science focused venues such as Nova to more unusual outlets such as The Colbert Report) written books, and engages with his audience through social media. And it shows in his popularity–he currently has over a million followers on Twitter.
I readily admit that Neal’s success isn’t just due to his abilities as a scientist. It’s the result of great marketing as well. The fact remains that he wouldn’t remain so popular if he didn’t possess the deep skills that he does and didn’t display his expertise consistently to his audience.
DISPLAYING YOUR EXPERTISE
Possessing and displaying your expertise is important from an employment perspective for a few reasons:
- Confidence. Knowing your skill set can be a big lift, especially when interviewing. Confidence reflects in your outlook, your approach to seeking employment, and also in how you carry yourself physically. Think of Bruce Lee’s swagger; he has an innate confidence in his abilities and it shows in the way he approaches and tackles a challenge.
- Focus. Few people are really good at several things. Being good in a particular area means (for the sake of your job search at least) means honing in one those industries, companies, or roles that best suits them. Your expertise serves as a way to focus your energies in the areas where they could potentially benefit employers.
- Marketing. Going back to Neil DeGrasse Tyson, he’s clearly an able scientist.who utilizes a variety of platforms to display his passion for science. Through these platforms, he’s able to generate interest and support for his work on behalf of AMNH, as well as his own personal endeavours.
Having subject matter expertise isn’t just about the skills you possess, but also about how you utilize it to engage an audience. Confidence, focus, marketing–this is part of what HR job seekers should look to do, which is to signal to employers that they possess and can leverage their knowledge, skills, and abilities–their expertise–in order to have a positive impact on the organization.
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