Sounding like you are smart, does not mean that you are.

I think this is an underrated problem for many people.

Something that came to mind, yet again, while reading a Seth Godin post

If You Talk the Talk, Ensure You Can Walk the Walk

In Seth’s opinion,

People who know what they’re talking about…

Almost always talk like they know what they’re talking about. That’s why it pays to invest more time than you might imagine on the vocabulary, history and concepts of your industry.

Very good advice. Especially to those applying or interviewing for new jobs.

Although Seth does not explicitly state, he probably takes a relative view of this. The head of a large bank has different expectations in the knowledge level between a new university graduate and a vice-president with 20 years experience in the industry.

Learn as much as you can. But no one expects too much more than what you should know at a specific level in life.

How To Learn Without Life Experience?

Through continued education, work experience, observing what is going on in the world, talking with colleagues, etc., over time your knowledge level should increase.

But how does one build a knowledge base at a relatively young age or when trying to radically change career paths?

Be a Sponge

I know many individuals who achieved career success primarily because they were human sponges.

They sought out colleagues, friends, relatives, etc., who were knowledgeable in areas of interest. Then they constantly asked questions and bounced ideas off these experts.

The spongers were not concerned with trying to impress the expert with their own knowledge. In fact, usually spongers intentionally downplayed their own level of expertise.

Excellent sponges want to learn as much as possible. That is it. Not impress others.

The interesting thing is that dealing with someone that clearly wants to learn and asks intelligent questions actually impresses business people. Listening to people who try to impress by using technical terminology – but do not know of what they speak – never impresses smart business people.

Complement Your Education

While in school, take courses that will positively impact your future career path. Or if already in the work force, enrol in continuing education to develop new technical knowledge.

In Western Canada, natural resources are key for many businesses. Even if you plan on becoming an accountant, lawyer, banker, investment advisor, human resources person, marketer, public relations staffer, etc., over time you will need to understand the various sectors.

Why not take a geology, gemology, or engineering course, to complement your other skills? If I ran a diamond mining company, I would much rather hire an accountant who knew a bit about the industry over someone that did not.

This same logic applies to any industry.

And it is not simply developing industry specific knowledge. If you are an engineer, geologist, lawyer, doctor, etc., learn basic business skills. This will allow you to speak more intelligently (and understand what is going on) when dealing with finance, accounting, tax, and so on.

Extracurricular Activities

Another area to gain new knowledge is through extracurricular activities.

Service organizations (Rotary, Kiwanis, etc.) may have members that come from one predominant industry or field. If that is an area you want to enter, join the local chapter. You will meet and network with people who are knowledgeable in your area of interest.

Discussing the industry with these people will enhance your own knowledge level. Plus make valuable contacts for career networking.

Learn to Get Ahead

If you want to get ahead in your career, learn as much as you can about it. The more you learn, the more you can intelligently contribute to your organization.

Be a sponge. Ask questions and learn directly from people who already have the experience and expertise.

Continually educate yourself and network with people who can increase your knowledge level.

And do not try to impress people be pretending to know more than you really do. It is much better to be seen as lacking knowledge but wanting to learn than in acting the expert. Smart business people quickly identify bull-crap artists and hate dealing with them.

We will look at why this is the case next time.

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