The internet has had many impacts on society, but “skimming culture” is one of the largest. Due to great headlines, clearly numbered lists, and bullet points, we feel like we can get the gist of something in seconds rather than poring over it for hours.
However, as you begin to work toward expertise, you’ll find that it takes more to stand out from the skimming crowd than just a few minutes of search engine research. Instead, there are serious benefits to being the one person in the room who read all the instructions carefully, dug for more credible resources, or actually followed the directions. Here are some of the ways doing this important work will help you get ahead.
1. If the Tool is Popular, Digging Deeper Makes You Unique
With many popular internet tools, including advertising platforms and social media, there are many people who have done the cursory research necessary to get going on a given project. However, there is now such a saturation of people who claim to have “proficiency in content marketing” or some other popular concept that saying this in a conversation with a potential client may not be enough to move forward together. Instead, dig for the more esoteric components of the tool, read them carefully or watch all of the tutorial videos. When you go into a sales conversation, come armed with information that will be new to this client about a tool they readily understand — this is much more impressive than being part of the majority who have mastered the program or tool.
2. Well-Trained Individuals Solve The Same Problems, But Much Faster
One tempting feature of the internet is the fact that it is with you everywhere; if you need to look something up, it is just there in your phone. However, taking the full training, completing a course, or reading the book cover to cover does help you: rather than having to take time to teach yourself in the moment, you get the freedom to solve small problems quickly and actually get to the root of larger problems. You can immediately tell the difference between a technician who has seen almost everything and is trying all of his or her tried-and-true methods and a person who is brand-new and has to look up every step online.
3. Actual Certifications Increase Your Credibility With New Clients
With more options for credible certification online than ever before, it’s wise to find the most well-respected credentials in your business and make it your business to acquire them. Credentials exist for a reason: having them gives you the chance to stand head-and-shoulders above those who claim to have learned this task “on their own” but who cannot give concrete explanations of their expertise. Certifications take time, but they also purport to offer a well-rounded overview, and don’t skip the supplemental readings!
4. Becoming the Go-To Consultant on a Topic Can Be Lucrative
If you develop a reputation as someone who knows everything about (insert tool name here), the word-of-mouth advertising can be great. Yes, it’s lovely to be known as a valuable consultant across a variety of contexts, but if your clients begin recommending you as their person for a particular task, you pop to mind every time someone is complaining about not finding good talent for that task.
5. Be Able to Back-up the Ubiquitous Claim of Being an Expert
Once again, “expert” is a term too easy to throw around and too hard to actually substantiate. Start thinking about ways you can demonstrate what you’ve learned by reading carefully and deeply: can you write up a useful guide to the texts you’ve studied to publish on your website? Can you create a portfolio of projects you’ve created because of your expertise? Knowing as much as possible about a topic means that you have an edge on proving your worth to a potential customer, but you still have to make it easy for them to see your value.
6. Deep Knowledge is Fulfilling in and of Itself!
While this may not be the reason you choose to wade into a sea of technical writing, recognize that most of us are less than totally satisfied with our “skimming society.” There is something deeply satisfying about understanding the ins and outs of a situation, the full context such that we can form informed opinions on a variety of related topics. If you truly know your stuff, conversations at trade shows and conventions become truly pleasurable, rather than a pressurized situation where you must worry about sounding unintelligent. Your deep knowledge is part of what makes life fulfilling, so start drilling deeper to get to it.
7. Ultimately, You’ll Market Yourself More Effectively
This deep knowledge also comes with a purely profit-driven benefit: people who really understand the context of the learning they are focused on acquiring will also understand its utility to others more. When marketing your services or products, it can sometimes be challenging to really understand who needs to hear from you and who will be willing to pay for that information. However, the deeper you go in your reading and study, the more information you’ll garner about who could benefit from your help. You’ll get helpful language for how to frame what you can offer; people who barely understand their own projects sometimes fumble for words to offer about them, after all. Think of deep reading and study as a way to refine your elevator speech over and over, adding more specialized and more accessible language in turn as you figure out exactly who you need to reach.
Yes, the slower road to success may be paved with a few piles of books and tech manuals that you might prefer to skim. However, the knowledge at your fingertips is precious, and knowing it well does serve you in a society that is full of shallow efforts. Be the one with the deeper understanding who can solve the hardest problem and stand out from the crowd.