Becoming known in your field can take a while, but it’s not always about endurance or length of time. Finding the right moments and addressing critical gaps in research methods or societal problems can serve as opportunities to shed light and become noticed in your field.
For example, Dr. Anthony Fauci has been one of the nation's top doctors for a long time, but he wasn’t really brought back into the public spotlight until he started taking the stage during White House press briefings about two months ago. He positioned himself as an expert during a critical moment when citizens needed one for knowing how to handle and go about managing Covid-19. And for the most part, his pragmatism confirmed his expertise when it comes to viruses and flattening the COVID curve.
While there doesn’t always need to be a grandiose occasion to emerge as an expert on a topic, there does need to be some gap that needs filling. Those who are timely and understand the opportunity of addressing such gaps can be regarded as leading experts in their field of study.
Still, one needs to go about this in the right way and with the right angle in mind. Here are three ways to do so:
1. Make meaningful posts or comments about pressing issues
Because there is inherently some risk when stepping out of one’s comfort zone to address pressing questions in different subject matters, experts need to make sure they are commenting on pressing issues, and not just reiterating what others have already said. In the digital era, using technology skillfully is a definite advantage, and there’s a tremendous opportunity for this as so many people are equipped with smartphones and mobile Internet everywhere they go. As such, it’s really never been easier to comment or create meaningful content, but this new window of opportunity also means more viewers, new audience members, and more judgment being passed as what the best expert advice is.
Creating a meaningful post on LinkedIn is one way to position yourself as an expert, and so is having an academic profile on sites like Impactio to back up your track record— where publication analytics and citation metrics are widely available for others to see. Being able to create meaningful content and reach a large audience is difficult, but doable, and having a clean background and prestigious profile only makes one more consistent in terms of being an expert. One has to accept the inherent risk that others will their posts in a new light as well.
2. Answering difficult questions
Similar to the re-iterating point, an expert emerges when he/she/they can come up with an answer to something that nobody has even thought of before. This means being able to make associations, from a research methods perspective, of two things that others in the same field haven’t been able to connect. This requires some risk of putting yourself out there with unconventional thoughts and perhaps opinions, but that is also how entire fields of research advance.
For example, when the field of micro-lending was just taking off, few economists understood and doubted that money being lent to those who worked in the informal sector and had subsistence lifestyles would be able to pay back loans. The association was thought of as irrelevant or invalid. This turned out to be completely false, however, and some of the first interventions that trusted such borrowers saw ROIs of up to 95 percent within one annual period.
The medium for answering difficult questions can also come in the form of journalism or opinion editorials. Journalists who are able to understand a narrative and make unique points throughout an article will in turn answer difficult questions through anecdotal evidence.
3. Staying Objective and being highly conscientious
Conscientiousness is one of the big five personality traits, and in terms of becoming established in a career setting—it’s a big one. Conscientious people are able to control and regulate their impulses. Individuals with a high level of conscientiousness on a career track are good at formulating long-range goals, organizing and planning routes to these goals, and working consistently to achieve them. Their consistency also means that they are the ones always present in the room when an expert is needed, and therefore the probability of someone emerging as an expert is much higher than someone who scores less on the conscientiousness scale because their inconsistency relative to a highly conscientious person is much lower.
Highly conscientious people also tend to be more objective when making statements or even posting about subject matters. It is their ability to stay level-headed and pragmatic for a long period of time that leads to others trusting them on subject matters of interest.