Mentoring Expertise: What Does it Take to be an Expert in Your Field?
Becoming an expert in any given field takes commitment, determination and more importantly – time. Research shows that it will take the average person between ten and seventeen years of dedication, practice and experience to become considered an expert in one’s field. Very few professional accomplishments happen overnight. A person cannot simply step into a profession and immediately be considered an expert.
Career management expert Caela Farren (author of Who’s Running Your Career?) describes the steps toward mastery and what employees should be capable of accomplishing at each level and what is needed to help them master the expertise of their profession:
Apprentice – An apprentice is someone who is just starting his or her career or learning a trade. The apprentice requires a great deal of time and dedication to building his or her knowledge base and will benefit from frequent coaching and feedback on complex tasks and projects. The supervisor can provide guidance until enough experience and knowledge has been passed along thus allowing the apprentice to advance to the next skill level.
Contributor – Contributors are capable of tackling sophisticated issues within their field and can offer the appropriate solutions to complex problems and should be determining what skills or competencies are necessary to progress in their organization. They should also be taking on stretch assignments outside their comfort zone such as participating in higher level projects that will give them an opportunity to showcase a skill or ability.
Mentor – Mentors are relied upon to set the example and guide contributors and apprentices within the organization. They are sought after by all within the organization to solve complex problems beyond the limited capability of the contributors or apprentices. They also can provide new insight and knowledge for the less experienced professional.
Leader – Leaders are completely self-sufficient and are the driving force of innovation and the development of the next generation of leaders. They are known organizationally and industry wide for their expertise, character and competence. They are strategic thinkers and have a clear vision and specific plans for carrying out the organization’s mission.
Understanding the degrees of development for each step toward mastery (set forth above) is critical to building the next generation of leaders. While experience and time are vital, how you use that time and impart that experience will make the difference and maybe even accelerate the process!
ASK A MENTOR
Oftentimes, your goal as mentoree is to become a master within a field, industry or organization that you care about. Understanding the degrees of development for each stage of your career will help you to shape your mentoring plans and activities. . Depending on which stage you are at in your career, consider the following questions to ask your mentor at your next mentoring meeting:
- What specific skills do I need to be focusing on for me to be given extra responsibility?
- What is the best way to get feedback from my supervisor?
- What are the unwritten rules of the organization?
- What are some ways that I could increase my professionalism?
- Who are the people that I should include in my network?
- How can I make those introductions?
- How can I take my current competencies to the next level?
- Should I be looking into an advanced degree or certification program?
- What types of projects would enhance my current skills and increase visibility?
- Who are the managers/leaders I should be meeting?
- What types of opportunities are there in my professional organization to showcase my talents and provide me with name recognition?
- How am I perceived currently in the organization?
- What specialized knowledge should I position myself with to set me apart?
- Are there any additional skills that I should be developing?
- Who are the key stakeholders I should be connecting with?
- What are some ways that I can position myself to make those connections?
- What are some ways I can make myself available for the younger generation of professionals to offer my guidance and insights?
- How do I get name recognition in our industry?
- What types of projects should I get involved in that will give me high level visibility?
- How can I improve my connections with the younger generation of professionals within the organization?
- What are some ways I can solicit feedback on their experiences or concerns?
- What are the major organizational/industry trends on the horizon?
- What are some ways I can keep current with these trends?