Ask Anthony: How Do you Become an Expert in a Specific Civil Engineering Niche?

June 15, 2017
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I previously covered the benefits of becoming a jack-of-all-trades, and more recently, focusing on a specific niche as a civil engineer. In this post, I want to dig deeper into specialization as a civil engineer.

If you decide that you want to go the route of becoming an expert in a narrow field, here are seven things you can do to establish that expertise.

1. Learn all you can about the area of expertise by working on that area

For example, if you decide to specialize in stormwater design, you should do as many drainage analyses as possible, until you have a really good handle on the technical side of stormwater design. This sounds obvious, but I want to reinforce it.

2. Be aware of industry rules and regulations at all times

To remain an expert in a field, you must always know what’s going on in that field with regard to regulations. Read trade journals and online news outlets to stay up to date with changing regulations. Doing this will allow you to keep your clients updated on these items, which will cement you as an expert in their minds.

3. Author a white paper or other publication on the topic

One of the quickest ways to boost your credibility around a topic is to write about it. When someone is published in a certain arena, they immediately garner an expert reputation.

There are most likely several trade journals or online outlets that would welcome good content on your topic of expertise. (Note: I am hopefully garnering expert status around career coaching for civil engineers by authoring this column and hosting the Civil Engineering Podcast.)

4. Turn your written content into a 45- to 60-minute presentation

Take the information in one or a few of your publications and convert it into a presentation that provides value to your existing and prospective clients.

5. Present in front of the right people

Just like writing, presenting a topic in front of people screams “expert.” The key, though, is to present in front of the correct crowd. I would focus on presenting in front of existing and prospective clients. You can do this by contacting event planners for events that attract those types of audiences.

For example, when I was practicing as a civil engineer in land development, I would try to present in front of realtors or real estate developers. It’s not that hard to find out where these types of people come together.

6. Share your written articles and presentations on social media

You can write or present for the audiences that you have direct access to, but you can then use that content to reach many more people through social media. I recommend focusing on LinkedIn, as this is the best social networking site for professional networking. Social media sites will help you to further establish yourself as an expert in a field and build your brand.

7. Do all of the above consistently

I have learned that the only way to become an expert in a field, and quite frankly to do anything successfully, is to do it over and over consistently. Not just once a month, or every once in a while – you must practice your craft consistently.

Anthony Fasano, P.E., M.ASCE, is the founder of the Engineering Career Coach website, which has helped thousands of engineers develop their business and leadership skills. He hosts the Civil Engineering Podcast, and is the author of a bestselling book for engineers, Engineer Your Own Success. You can download a free video series on his website that will give you the tools needed to immediately improve your networking and communication skills by clicking here.

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