The Truth About Experts

I have been told by numerous coaches and colleagues that I must brand myself as an ‘expert’ to gain any kind of credibility with my clients, that I must be able to name what it is I am an ‘expert’ at, and that potential clients won’t hire me if I don’t identify myself as an ‘expert’. Until it was brought to my attention that being me wasn’t enough I had been confident that my skills, talents, strengths, credentials, knowledge, and experience would be beneficial to my clients. In fact I had been successful in securing a number of contracts and individual clients based on my education, training, and experience and without ever branding myself as an ‘expert’.

This feedback from people whom I respected and trusted sent me into a bit of tizzy. I respected and trusted these people as ‘experts’ so I concluded that they must be right, that I was nothing without a title that included the word ‘expert’. In an effort to define myself as an ‘expert’ I played around with a few different titles including career expert, job search expert, resume expert, vocational expert, and networking expert. While each was catchy enough none really described ME or the diversity of skills, experience, and knowledge I brought to each of my clients. It didn’t seem realistic to brand myself as a ‘career, employment, job search, resume, interview, networking, self-employment vocational rehabilitation, human resources, career development, etc expert’ and based on the ‘expert’ advice I had received I could only choose one category to be an ‘expert’ in. One was simply not enough – and I really didn’t see myself as an ‘expert’ in any one of them. I saw myself as more a generalist, and I was satisfied with that.

An ‘expert’ to me was someone who had all the answers, was a master, a guru. I thought an ‘expert’ had nothing left to learn and was the go to person in their field. In my mind, in order to be an ‘expert’, I had to be all knowing, a master in my discipline. Merriam-Webster online defines an expert as one with the special skill or knowledge representing mastery of a particular subject. I did not identify myself as a master in a particular subject but a generalist in a variety of subjects. I began to question my ability to work in the field of career development without having a specialty and sought to narrow my scope of practice to focus on one particular area. As I began to seek out ‘experts’ that I could use as examples for my own branding I came to discover that even ‘experts’ in the same field had different skill sets, different areas of specialization, different backgrounds, and different education and credentials. What I recognized was that my knowledge, experiences, values, ideas, and opinions still mattered, even thought I didn’t specifically call myself an ‘expert’. I didn’t have to have all the answers and in fact, it was not beneficial for my clients that I have all the answers. The role of a Career Development Professional, after all, is to “advise, coach, provide information and support people who are planning, seeking and managing their life and work direction” and Career Development “is the lifelong process of managing learning, work, leisure, and transitions in order to move toward a personally determined and evolving preferred future”. As an ‘expert’ all I had to offer, all I could offer, was a process, a new perspective, a set of tools or resources, or some guidance.

While I call myself a Career and Employment Specialist, and have a designation to back up my title, I don’t have all the answers. I can’t guarantee that my systems, processes, resources, and tools will work for everyone, all of the time, and I can’t guarantee that I will be able to address everyone’s unique needs. I can guarantee I will work with my clients to help them develop a plan that works for them and that if I can’t address their needs I will help them to find someone who can. Throughout my career I have had plenty of potential clients ask me to tell them what one job or occupation is best for them, or to write them one resume that will work for every job they may want to apply for, or to prepare them for every interview they will ever attend. In reality this is not possible. No ‘expert’ can deliver on those requests. No ‘expert’ can deliver on those requests.

The truth about being an ‘expert’ is that you don’t have to call yourself an ‘expert’ to be an ‘expert’. You can be exceptional and exquisite at what you do without defining yourself as such but you must demonstrate that you are exceptional and exquisite at what you do. Showcase the finest and best of you. Be true to your values. Share your experience and knowledge. Continue to learn, grow, and develop. Create opportunities to be the ‘expert’ that you already are!

“Excellence is the result of caring more than others think wise, risking more than others think safe, dreaming more than others think practical, and expecting more than others think possible.” ~ Unknown

For a FREE 30 minute ‘expert’ consultation please feel free to contact Paula directly at or 780.589.2245.