You can actually. There are three key ingredients that you must have: Willing to put the effort, passion for a subject, and expertise in that.
Expert means you have experience. So experience is a must. But I believe if the first two elements are there; passion and willingness to put the effort, experience will soon come after.
One of the lessons I learned about this was from a colleague I had at University of Michigan. We will call him Sully. He was desperately seeking a job as a computer lab admin at the University. He did not have the experience, but he was willing to put the effort and he was passionate for the subject. At the interview, they told him they need to see his Mac abilities. It was a Macintosh computers lab. He asked them to give him until tomorrow. That night, Sully stayed up and went after everybody he knows with Mac computer expertise. He kept them up too, asking them to teach him how to do the lab assistant job. He kept a few of his friends up that night helping him. The next day he went in. He did not do great, but he barely passed, and they gave him a chance. Maybe they saw how much eager he is to learn.
Sully had no experience, but he did not let that matter; he used the first two factors to get him past the experience hurdle.
I want to contrast Sully with some friends I have who have a diploma in a specialty, and do not apply for open jobs in that field, because they believe they still need to build expertise before they apply. How will you build expertise if you do not apply somewhere? was always my question to them.
For some, they always feel something is missing for them to make a move. What they have is never sufficient.
I understand and actually respect how careful my reluctant specialist friends are, and how much they want to do a perfect job, that they are not willing to try something when unprepared. But nothing in this world is perfect. There is no time when you will be 100% ready. There will always be something you still need. But you must start somewhere.
So how to build experience in anything? Here are my seven tips:
- Get online. Google, YouTube, Twitter, and others are a good source of info. Be careful to always include in your searched the words “The best,” or the “Top Ten,” or “Best expert in…,” etc. Try to find doers from the field; people with real experience, not theoretical experience. Theory is important, but only in the context of it serving a real value adding purpose.
- Get certified. Certification is not what people think. It is not a guarantee of your abilities. But it shows people that you had enough commitment to study and pass a certification exam. that gives you a step up form those who did not get certified.
- Apply what you learned around you; on your own project, helping friends, at your workplace. Volunteer to help people with what you have learned.
- Apply “Anding.” I learned this from a successful entrepreneur I know. He said every “and” you add to your specialty, it makes you the more specialized. I have another friend who is a Doctor specialized in children cardiovascular surgery. That is three “andings” medicine AND children AND Cardiovascular. See if you can have “and’s” next to your specialty from your past experience. So, for example, you might be learning data analytics AND have construction background. Now you can become an expert in data analytics for construction companies.
- Get testimonials from people you successfully helped. Add them to your portfolio.
- Write and share your experience applying what you are learning. Remember, there is nothing like real life experience. When you write, you do not have to claim to be the expert, but instead you can talk about your own experience. This is what people care about, more than your accumulated theoretical knowledge.
- Work with experts. Offer your services to experts who might need help with their work. Offer to help. This will give you a chance to be around them and learn.