• Learn How to Build a Powerful Personal Brand That Will Differentiate You and Allow You To Compete in the Global Marketplace.
  • Brand Yourself as an Expert to Survive the Future

    Last week, I wrote a blog post called “6 Reasons You Shouldn’t Brand Yourself as a Social Media Expert” and it quickly became the most popular post I’ve ever written on this blog (since October, 2006), with over 400 retweets and almost 60 comments. There were a few people who disagreed with my statements and those that gave me credit for my observations. I wrote the post because I’m perceived as a social media expert at my day job and I believe that title will evolve over the coming years, as we are all pulled into this brave new world and our positions become ubiquitous.

    I received a few emails, that will remain anonymous, of individuals who frown at the term “expert.” I, on the other hand, think that it’s one of the most important aspects of personal branding. In fact, if you aren’t an expert, your perceived value diminishes, you won’t get as many opportunities and it will be hard to position yourself for success.

    Your biggest challenge

    The title of this post may sound scary, especially to those who don’t feel they are experts in their fields quite yet.

    Your biggest challenge in life: Finding your passion and connecting it to your expertise, while establishing a support system (something I’ll cover in a forthcoming post).

    The problem is that most people have no idea what they want to do with their lives, so they can’t establish a plan to get from where they are to where they want to be. You might fit this bill and if you do, it’s time to start thinking really hard about what your strengths are and what you enjoy.

    Please take a minute right now and ask yourself “what am I an expert in”? Then ask yourself “how many other people in my industry can claim this same expertise”? Finally, I want you to ask yourself “what specific part of that expertise can I focus on (what niche)”? By going through this exercise, you can have a better understanding of how you want to be positioned in the marketplace.

    Don’t brand yourself as an expert if you aren’t one

    An expert is someone who has achieved measurable results by performing a service or an act.

    Just because you’re talented, doesn’t mean your an expert. Just because you can do a somersault, doesn’t mean that you’re a gymnast. When I first started out, I branded myself as a Gen-Y spokesman for personal branding, until I became my own success story and transitioned my personal branding statement to include “expert” instead of “spokesman.” When third parties consider you an expert by giving you an endorsement, you can claim that expertise. For instance, the New York Times considers me to be a “personal branding guru.”

    When you’re first starting out you can use cool buzzwords such as “enthusiast,” “evangelist,” “spokesperson,” “strategist,” etc, without coming off as unauthentic. If you brand yourself as an expert and can’t deliver on that promise, your brand will be devalued and people will be turned off.

    Scott Bradley, one of my good friends, will be going over this more tomorrow in a guest post.

    5 benefits that experts receive

    One goal you should have in the next few years is to become an expert in your desired field. If you don’t, I think your future will be in danger because the world admires experts, companies hire experts and experts get more attention and compensation (leadership is important too). If you brand yourself as an expert, authentically, and people endorse you, then Google will recognize you as the top expert in your field. In the below picture of the Google search results for “personal branding expert,” you’ll notice BusinessWeek’s endorsement of my work, followed by my blog. I also have the next four results as well. This is a powerful branding idea for all of you!

    • Media: The media uses Google to locate “expert sources.” Not only do they type in keywords that reflect the story they are trying to develop, but they will also search for an expert that they can quote, making their story more complete and credible. If you position yourself relative to your expertise, and word hard, then you will rank high and get attention.
    • Customers/clients: People all over the world are using Google to locate someone to solve their personal or professional needs. They are typing in terms, such as “expert” and “consultant” in order to find people just like you.
    • Job offers: Hiring managers and recruiters, who are paid by companies to find skilled individuals, are using search engines and keywords in order to discover talent. The term “expert” is one of the keywords they use to help make filtering easy.
    • Authority: By ranking #1 for a specific field of expertise, it shows authority. Since perception is reality, the world will view you as the top expert and go-to-person.
    • Confidence: When you’re an expert, you start feeling better about yourself. If you were to present to a group, you wouldn’t be as nervous and you certainly wouldn’t back down from people challenging you.

    Why you need to be an expert to survive the future

    I recently read a report in USA Today that states “26% of people are free agents.” I, on the other hand, believe that we are all free agents, yet by working for a company, we feel that we aren’t. Have you ever signed an employment contract for life? No, I didn’t think so. In this new world of work, you’re only as good as your reputation, which is your previous behavior and performance that you’re judged upon. It’s a project driven world and the biggest projects are given to the best experts, followed by the most compensation. In the future, the workplace will be so dispersed and reconfigured, that it will force you to be an expert, in order for your services to be valuable to the company. It’s also great career protection to be called upon for your expertise.

    Advice: Work as hard as you can to become the expert you want the world to see you as.

    What are you an expert in?


    Dan Schawbel is the Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm. He is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin’s Press) and the #1 international bestselling book, Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future (Kaplan Publishing), which combined have been translated into 15 languages.

    Posted in Brand Yourself As, Career Development, Futures, Personal Branding, Positioning
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    11 comments on “Brand Yourself as an Expert to Survive the Future
    1. avatar
      yinka olaito says:

      There are lots of reasons in this piece Dan. Many set up themselves for attack by the choice of words used to describe their abilities. Starting with such words you mentioned is not bad.

    2. avatar
      yinka olaito says:

      The only addition to your definition of who an expert is i sthat an ‘expert has above average knowledge in a matter and has dedicated a considerable time to the study of the subject that others”

    3. avatar
      Sarah Newton says:

      Great article Dan.

      I love what Malcolm Gladwell says about this in Outliers. Experts and success does not just happen it take hard work and time and I think the magic number he uses is £10,000 hours.

      So part of becoming an “expert” is about I believe clocking up hours…time in the field so to speak. So the best advice is to clock up time in your specialised subject…which let’s face it we all can do.

      Credibility is certainly an important part and the media play a huge part in this and this scares some people too.

      I think authenticity is also huge some people think once you add the word “expert” you become well less of a person which I have to say has always confused me. Long gone are the time when expert meant suit.

      In this modern day , clocking up hours, getting yourself out there and been real and authentic go a long way.

      Thanks for your wisdom 🙂


    4. avatar
      Mike says:

      Great post Dan. Love your work and advice on personal branding, as well as your transparency – please keep it up! I agree with you you that selling yourself is important, but also to be realisitic and honest about your abilities. It’s a fine balance!

    5. avatar
      David Tra says:

      You made a lot of good points, Dan. One question I have is whether it would be worthwhile to become an expert at more than one thing. Do you think that it would be a waste or your time and resources to spread yourself so thin? Or would it make you that much more unique and desirable?

      • avatar
        Dan Schawbel says:

        David, you might already be an expert at a few different things. You should see how they relate and if there is overlap. Focus on what your an expert in, especially if you’re passionate about it.

    6. avatar
      Trace Cohen says:

      Great follow up post, you really incorporated the comments and feedback from your last one (most popular? congratz!) I think the strongest statement you made was your not an expert unless “people endorse you” which gives you credibility.

      @David I agree with Dan that you can be an expert in a few different things and if they do overlap I would maybe try and coin a new term, people love that stuff!

    7. avatar
      Mary H Ruth says:

      Excellent post, and I agree with one caveat. It’s necessary to mature into an expert, and to be the best you can be, but I contend that there’s too much focus on being the TOP expert. It’s ok to aspire to excellence without having to beat everyone else out. The more experts we have, the better, and not everyone can be on top. Mastering the knowledge is what counts: mastering your fame is best left to the gods.

    8. avatar
      Quique Coach says:

      Keyword: EXPERT.
      @Dan: as you defined, one can be called expert if you achieve measurable results , but how good they sould be to be considered an expert? How do we define Good? …..should we wait until someone else gives us the title? Is it pretentious to be called EXPERT if we love it and have more knowledge and time than the average as Yinka says?
      There are too many people who get all the credit just because they have good contacts and have managed to write books and appear in management press. I think, the equilibrium among content/authenticity + networking/PR is the key to make things from the heart and have the boldness to call ourselves EXPERTS.
      Thnks for the post. Thanks for the comments.

    9. avatar

      It takes confidence to call yourself an expert. most of us are deferential to others when they gives that title and play down references to our “expertise” The important thing is to find that thing that we are passionate about and then go for it. I think that I must be an “Evangelist” because I have a religious zeal and get the spirit when I am about what I want to be an Expert in – Internet marketing. We must all find that niche and make it ours. Own it.
      Thanks for another great post. I look forward to the subsequent ones.

    10. avatar

      Dan, this post is spot on. There is so much online chatter about how to become a social media expert. You hit the nail on the head: become an expert regardless of the venue, which can change at any time. Expertise is an enduring, historical aspect of character, training, commitment , core values and passion. You become one and the same with your Expertise : how you live it, breathe it, implement it, advocate for it, and bring moral, ethical and spritual aspects to your Expertise. Expertise is earned, not an artifact of the Internet. Congratulations on these two (6 reasons… and Brand Yourself) provocative posts.

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