I made a decision recently. Despite counsel to the contrary from smart and successful colleagues, mentors and coaches who I respect very much, I’m going to stop referring to myself as an Expert. Why? Because it just doesn’t feel right. In fact, it feels (forgive me) kind of cheesy, meaningless, and inauthentic.
For starters, it seems everyone is calling themselves an Expert these days. Moreover, Expert feels like a rather haughty term, implying I’ve reached some kind of thrilling pinnacle in my career and that I’ve learned all I’m ever going to need to know on a certain topic.
I can confidently tell you I have not — nor will I ever.
No, I’m far more comfortable calling myself a Teacher, Collaborator, Connector, Communicator, and an Ever-Curious, Ever-Fascinated, Ever-Reaching Lifelong Learner; someone who is always questioning, searching, observing, exploring, pushing the boundaries, and evolving as I work to help my readers, clients and audiences Live, Work & Connect at a Higher Level™.
Okay, I realize all this won’t fit on a business card and has some inherent cheesiness to it as well.
Another reason I don’t like the term Expert: it implies I should be paid more due to the number of hours I’ve put into my training. These days the accepted number of hours is around 10,000. (And who made this calculation? Why not 12,473 or 27,071?)
And I daresay the term Expert is used so often and by so many it makes me wonder if it means anything anymore. And if I did reach the designated number hours (at my age, I’m pretty sure I have), do I just say, “Yep, I’m done. All good! No more learning for me?”
What’s more, I could have all those hours and yet I could be a complete Bozo who is totally inept at absorbing, distilling, and then reaching out and engaging others to share the relevance, application, and value of what I’ve learned. What’s kind of Expert would that be?
Nah. I’ll skip the Expert title for now, gradually taking it off all my marketing materials. It just doesn’t feel like me.
Which begs the question of how our titles communicate about us and how they impact how we communicate and connect with others. What do you think? What do you call yourself that really expresses who you are, what you do, and the value you bring to the world? What are your thoughts on the term Expert? Do you use it when referring to yourself? Why or why not? How do you react when people call themselves an Expert?
I learned something from a business coach that I really love: it is owning (and sharing) our humanity AND expertise. If you are just an expert – you will appear arrogant. If you are just human – everyone will like you, but no one will hire you. I think both are really vulnerable to own, embody and share – which is why most people stay in the middle. Not sharing their humanity and also not sharing their expertise. Not “bragging” and not sharing the truth of their struggles and human disappointments. Minimizing their wins (even to themselves) and not wanting people to see them as imperfect.
Kristen, thanks so much for reading and commenting! Love your perspective about finding the center of our valuable expertise and vulnerable humanity. (In my book I share a description of the definition of humility, which is being no more than, but no less than who we are meant to be.) I was also thinking this morning that I do like the word Specialist, which can be combined with many other descriptive terms. Much to consider here. I just am not very fond of the term Expert anymore.
I’m loving this article and the good words you’ve chosen to identify yourself. It’s a hard thing to do. In answer to your question, I think I’m best described as a writer, teacher and group facilitator. Those words feel real. But wait. What about Re-Story Circle Queen?
BTW, in my expert, I mean humble, opinion, I have never thought of you as cheesy, but the kid in the picture – that’s another story.
Bless you, Patti!!!
Jeanne, thank you for commenting. It is very hard to give ourselves titles and identities that are both accurate – AND comfortable and memorable. Re-Story Circle Queen? I love it! In my experience of your events, you preside regally (but without pretense) and really help people discover so much about themselves.
Wonderful post, Patti. Many thanks for the thought-provoking message. I think one of your most helpful talents is how you well you articulate what is in my head.
Hi Cindy! Thanks for reading and commenting. This topic was certainly going through my head and glad it resonated with you. It was one of those messages I just couldn’t NOT share and a choice I made easily. Not sure what triggered it – it just came to me as a lightning flash! Hope all is well with you!
Here is another wise comment from a reader that is worth consideration: “It sounds “fake” to say you’re an expert. I say I’m a resource. I can provide options for my clients and educate them so that they can make the best decisions for themselves. My clients are the experts, not me.”
Excellent points. I try to use the word “professional” as an image consultant rather than expert. It implies training (on-going as you mention) and what I do for a living rather than as a hobby. Unlike a doctor or attorney, anyone can call themselves a “personal stylist.” For credibility purposes, I found the word professional to be a good solution.
Thanks for the thought-provoking post!
Thanks Thea. Yes, there is that fine line between being a hobbyist (or even a struggling artist) and the haughty, know-it-all. I like your use of “professional”. Good solution!