Browse through your LinkedIn network and you’ll see no shortage of people calling themselves experts. While it’s tempting to position yourself as such (see: guru, authority, connoisseur, aficionado) it almost always backfires during the job search. Read on to learn why.
It shows you probably lack self-awareness.
Being an expert means you’ve seen almost everything in your field. In your 20’s, it’s probably safe to assume you haven’t – and this time, you can’t fake it until you make it. Plus, once you start tossing around words like expert, an interviewer will expect you to prove it and you’ll quickly discredit yourself if you don’t know the answer to a question. That’s why, while it’s good to highlight your skills and experiences, you should position yourself as a learner, not a master. After all, it’s hard to train a know-it-all.
So, who is an expert?
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just knowing more than your neighbors. True expertise takes years of research, trial and error, and experience in the field, and employers know it. Here’s a few foolproof signs you truly are an expert:
- Experience. You’ve heard of the 10,000 hours theory, right? If you’ve been there, done that and have the knowledge to back it up, it’s probably safe to position yourself as an expert.
- Recognition. If other people refer to you as an expert, it’s likely that you are one. Another tell is when other industry experts start referring questions or customers to you.
- Credentials. Once you can add M.D. to your name, it’s hard for anyone to argue you aren’t an expert.
Lately, it seems everything is microwaveable, including instant expertise. Keep in mind that reading a book on a subject won’t qualify you as an expert, but it’s a great place to start.
It’s better to demonstrate, rather than tell.
Instead of talking about your skills, bring in your portfolio to demonstrate them. Consider the mission of the company and how your experiences can add value. If you’re a writer, you can provide samples of past work. If you’re in marketing, you can explain your involvement on a project and how you contributed to its success. Rather than using self-proclaimed titles, showcase your achievements with action verbs like “launched”, “resolved” and “guided”. Focus on telling your story and relating to the interviewer, and worry less about appearing informed.
It’s dangerous to call yourself an expert at any age, let alone when you’re new to the job market. When in doubt, remember the word expert is best used to describe other people, not yourself.