15 February 2019 • Martine Seijffert
10 tips for becoming a flexpert
Lonneke Frie, HRM lecturer from the Sustainable Talent Development Research Group, has observed that knowledge goes out of date ever more quickly and that new professions are frequently demanding new skills. This is why she has been exploring the phenomenon of the “flexpert”. Flexperts are people who manage to continually adapt their levels of knowledge and skills to a changing environment and who anticipate new needs with their ideas and expertise. How do they accomplish that? And how can you become a flexpert? Here are her 10 tips.
Surround yourself with people who are not from your specialisation area. This way you learn to look at your work from new perspectives.
Familiarise yourself regularly with a new subject that you have always been curious about. It can also be something that has nothing to do with your specialisation. You can do this by reading extensively about the subject and talking about it with people around you.
Test whether the subject you are immersing yourself in is needed in your environment. You can do this by asking people in your environment what they think about your idea. If they are enthusiastic, that is a sign that you have found a good idea. Use any suggestions they may have to improve your idea.
Don’t be afraid to call yourself an expert, even if you don’t know all the ins and outs of the subject yet. By doing this, people will approach you with ideas about the subject and you will gain new knowledge. This is how you become a true expert.
Ensure that your work environment can adapt to your new ideas and that it allows you space for these. You can do this by engaging colleagues who you can make ambassadors for your new expertise, but also by inspiring your manager. If your manager is not enthusiastic, but you are convinced of your idea, you could consider moving to another team. Alternatively, you could get the ambassadors to persuade your manager by promoting your idea to him or her.
For a certain period of time, decline any requests that are not related to the new subject you are immersing yourself in. You will not get anywhere if you don’t have time and focus.
Flexperts make sure they are visible. Be conscious of the target audience you wish to reach with your idea and make sure that this audience can reach you easily. You can do this by attending seminars, get-togethers and conferences in addition to being present online, for instance on LinkedIn.
Let go of the idea that something is not allowed in your current work area. Many people make this assumption, but instead you should just ask. Get other people to participate with your idea and ask them to contribute suggestions on how your idea can become a reality.
Be prepared to invest money into your idea, or do your best to gain funding for it. You can do this, for instance, through crowdfunding, subsidies or by working for free in exchange for what you need.
Timely take ownership of a new area of expertise. A good time for this is when others help you to further elaborate your idea and to embed it within the organisation.
Bonus tip for lecturers to encourage students to become flexperts: challenge students to link their interest to the profession they are training to enter. For instance, I once encouraged a student on the HRM degree programme who wanted to work in the restaurant and catering industry, to find a connection between the two. Now she is a HRM profession in the catering industry.
Bonus tip for students: start experimenting during your studies with trying out in which field you could become a unique expert. During your studies, try to develop knowledge in a specialisation that you find really interesting, but that has absolutely nothing to do with your current studies. For instance, you could take a minor in Chinese language during your Facility Management studies. Then see how you can combine this with your current studies.
Would you like to know more about Lonneke Frie’s research and education for flexperts on the HRM degree programme? You can contact her by emailing email@example.com. You can read her research in the publication “How flexperts deal with changing expertise demands: A qualitative study into the processes of expertise renewal” in Human Resource Development Quarterly. You can find out more about the research of the Sustainable Talent Development Research Group at https://www.dehaagsehogeschool.nl/onderzoek/lectoraten/details/duurzame-talentontwikkeling#over-het-lectoraat