If you work in a print finishing job, your first question might be, “Why would I want to become a print finishing expert?” One reason is that if you’re not perceived as an expert, colleagues and customers simply don’t care what you think. As an expert, people trust you and are eager to believe you. This makes it easier for you to do your job effectively. For instance, it’s more likely that when you suggest a change in the production schedule it will be accepted if you are looked at as knowledgeable.
No one cared what I thought when I was the inexperienced newcomer in the bindery of a commercial printing company. Heck, I didn’t even know what to think. I just did what was set in front of me, however long it took. A couple years later after I established that I was fast and accurate at cutting and folding, they started to ask my opinion about scheduling and delivery times. It made my life easier as I became more of an “expert”.
Becoming an expert is about making yourself more valuable and more helpful to others. If in doing so you go unappreciated, it doesn’t matter. It makes your life better and if you can love what you’re doing by becoming an expert, then you’ve succeeded in one of the most important ways possible. A better job, better customers, more money, these things will follow when you continuously improve yourself.
Your second question might be, “How do we define 'expert'?” Various dictionaries define it as “having special and authoritative knowledge or experience in a particular area.”
Corbett Barr, writing on zenhabits.net says,
In this sense we don’t need to be the best in the world at something to be an expert. We just need to start on the road to becoming as good as we can be so that others begin to turn to us because of our print finishing experience. With that in mind, here are eight things you can do, starting today, to start becoming an expert in your own corner of the post-press world.
Do an exceptional job. It doesn’t matter whether you like your current job or not. When you encounter problems, look at them as learning opportunities. Put in the extra effort to do things right. Practice on one small thing at a time until you get it right. Then move on to another. Bite-size pieces each day will add up to expertise in the long haul.
Talk to all your vendors, technicians, and mechanics. Most of these folks are experts in their own right. You’ll probably learn far more from them than you will anywhere else.
Talk to co-workers. Discuss problems. Talk about their prior experiences, good and bad. You never know what you might learn. Be sure to talk to people outside your department too. An outside viewpoint is often the key to solving a problem.
Read everything about the products you use. Read the manuals and spec sheets supplied by vendors for all the products and bindery equipment you use, not just some of them. If you use shrink wrap film, stitcher wire, cutter knives, drill bits, stretch wrap film, padding glue, etc., you should know as much as possible about all of them.
Keep a notebook. Use it to record ideas, comments, problems, solutions, and experiences. This way you don’t forget small things. Items that seem unrelated sometimes come together to solve a future problem.
Educate your customers and co-workers. If you have contact with your customers, do everything you can to help them. Teaching is a great way to learn and become proficient in your subject matter. When you educate your customers and make their lives easier, you become their expert, their trusted advisor. If you are in a support or operations position, figure out ways to do your job better so that it benefits the customer. They are your ultimate boss.
Teaching your co-workers a new skill also improves your bindery skills. We talk about that in more detail here in related article.
Take courses. You might not have any bindery or print finishing courses available locally but there are some online, such as those offered by the Printing Industries of America Integrated Learning Center.
Or you can use your local college to build general skills. Learn more about software programs you use in your job or about ones you would like to use. Take an electronics course to help with equipment troubleshooting. If you’re a supervisor or manager, take business skills courses.
Be resourceful. Experts don’t always have the answers but they are always willing to research or to locate someone who has the answer.
There is no app or software that will make you an expert. It requires effort. The good news is it only requires small efforts. Most people with more than a couple of years of experience already have a wealth of knowledge and experience to build on. After all, we accumulate thousands of hours of experience per year in our jobs. With a little thoughtful effort, you can take your valuable experience to the next level. Soon, people will begin to turn to you for your expert print finishing advice.