Guest Post contributed by Stephanie C. Harper
A recent hot topic in the Launch While Working group on Facebook has been the subject of “being an expert!” With the rise of social media, the ease of self-publishing and the convenience of WordPress blogs, people have seemingly become overnight “experts” by simply deciding to call themselves one. The truth is there are many professionals, but not everyone is an expert.
In my book, Why Should I Hire You?, I shared how hiring managers use years of experience to determine levels of promotability:
- 5-7 years Junior Executive: Acquiring skill, learning political ropes, rapid and lateral promotions.
- 7-10 years Middle Management: Implementing and sharpening management skills.
- 10 plus years Upper Management: Executive mastery of all levels of business and the ability to make effective, strategic decisions.
This is key for job seekers to understand because putting the word “professional” on a resume without the relevant experience to qualify them as such, often does more harm than good. The same is true for self proclaimed “experts” who lack relevant experience but claim expert status. It’s damaging your professional reputation!
What’s the difference between an expert and a professional?
According to Wikipedia:
- an expert, also called cognoscente is someone widely recognized as a reliable source of technique or skill whose faculty for judging or deciding rightly, justly, or wisely is accorded authority and status by his or her peers or public in a specific well-distinguished domain, and
- A professional is a person who is paid to undertake a specialized set of tasks and to complete them for a fee.
These definitions alone should be enough for some people to remove the word “expert” from their titles, but I digress. For the sake of this editorial, here are some key words that we must review – “widely recognized” and “distinguished”.
- Being widely recognized means that people who are outside of your immediate circle are aware of your efforts and contributions and find them to be reliable and creditable.
- Distinguished means that you are marked by eminence or excellence.
Becoming an expert in any field requires more than just waking up one day and deciding, “Today, I’ll call myself an expert”. True experts have a prolonged or intense experience through practice and education in a particular field (while they will have knowledge of many things, they will have a focal point of expertise). Many professionals will have years of experience yet never become experts.
To clarify the difference even further, here are a few things every “expert” should have on their checklist:
- Credibility: Google is your friend, an expert is widely known both in and outside of their circle. This doesn’t mean every expert has to be a household name, but you should be able to find more information about an expert’s expertise than things they have posted about themselves on the internet. If the only place you can find the word “expert” attached to them is on their social media profile – that should be a red flag.
- Knowledge and Experience: Not just enough to talk you through a question, but immense working knowledge of the subject matter. An expert will have enough real word experience to solve problems without pre-existing solutions (if all they do is look it up, they are just good at research).
- Commitment: One key factor in determining a level of expertise is how long a person has done something – but not just doing it, but doing it in a distinguished fashion and producing results. Experts do not constantly reinvent themselves as the wind blows.
- Clarity: Every industry has its own jargon, but a real expert can tell you what you need to do, how to do it effectively, and the tools to use to track your progress. An expert also has an area of specialty, recognizing they cannot be all things to all people.
- Genuineness: A real expert doesn’t rely on scams or gimmicks to sell their services. When people are genuine, it shines through in how they do business because every other word is not “my fee for that is.” They offer real value, for an investment befitting an expert. While sales and special offers can be good, be wary of experts that play the bait and switch, offering “free” webinars that are nothing more than disguised desperate sales pitches.
Don’t Believe the Hype: Writing a Book Just Makes You a Writer
Finally, I cannot end this editorial, without addressing a HUGE myth that far too many people are buying into: “writing a book will make you an expert!” HOGWASH! People write and publish a variety of books across different genres including, self-help, DIY, poetry, urban literature, memoirs, inspiration, etc. No matter what genre or topic, writing a book alone cannot position anyone as a “subject matter expert”. Written books are just an expression of the author (or the ghost writer…should I go there? Nahhh). Writing a book, makes you a writer. Publishing the book, makes you an author, but neither automatically make anyone an expert!
When your expertise speaks for itself, you won’t have to interrupt to
sell tell people who you are! The reality is everyone can’t be an expert, a guru, an authority or world –renowned. And it is perfectly okay (and profitable) to be a professional.
Guest Bio: Stephanie C. Harper, PHR, CCP, CRHM is human resources professional by trade. With more than 20 years experience in the human resources and career development industry, she is also an author, career expert, speaker, radio host and Publisher of CAREER Magazine.
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