Wednesday 2 August 2017

Don’t be an Expert, be a Skilled Professional

Don’t be an Expert, be a Skilled Professional

An irk released into the wild by Casey Douglass

Picture used freely from the excellent Gratisography site.

We live in a time where the meaning of certain words has been watered down, like a beer we might buy from some dodgy bar. Remember when broadband was advertised as “Unlimited”, but it turned out that it really wasn’t? Now we have to suffer extra words to be added like “Totally Unlimited”, just to get us back to within spitting distance of the original meaning.

Expert is another word that I personally throw into the devalued category. Apparently everyone is an expert now. I’m shooting at the subject more from the angle of how people present themselves online, but it still probably applies more broadly. Articles that talk about “finding your niche” and “becoming an expert” are usually only a few clicks away when trying to find advice about how to be more visible/successful/sexy online. Okay, not that last one, I’m just seeing if you’re still awake.

The problem lies in the way that so many people brand themselves an expert when they seem to be anything but. It’s the same kind of resume padding bollocks that you often see on someone's C.V, the kind of artistic license that would see a chronic nose picker describing themselves as skilled at deep mining excavation, because you’ve obviously got to spin it people. I know things are competitive out there but come on, fudging your way along in the way some people seem to is just silly.

On the flip side, even if you are an expert, the term can bring connotations of closed-mindedness and pig-headedness. How many times have you seen experts say something wouldn’t happen and then it does, yet they still get to walk around with their golden halo and appearance fee in tact? There is a lot to be said for the Zen notion of bringing “beginners mind” to all things, the state of mind where you are open to your present experience or task without closing down possibilities because you “know enough that that can’t happen!” I don't doubt that there some some truly amazing experts out there that fart rainbows and are every bit as amazing as the label might suggest, but as you can guess, this piece isn't really about those people.

I don’t recall ever describing myself as an expert in anything, and I don’t intend to start any time soon. I’d rather approach things as a skilled professional, a label that at least implies a willingness to learn and grow, and that doesn’t set up strange expectations. If you are in a position to hire someone and you are scoffing over your morning coffee, you are free to your opinion of course. I’m sure you’ll have no problem hiring some amazing person to fill your job opening, the world is full of experts for you to choose from after all.