If your inbox and Internet pages are like mine,
they’re flooded with messages from self-proclaimed experts.
A self-proclaimed expert (SPE) is…
- a speaker on a topic for which he or she has little or no education or experience
- a self-published author of a book for which he or she has little or no education or experience
- a coach with little or no education or experience on the topic
- a fill-in-the-blank/you-name-it person — again, with little or no education or experience on the topic
In other words, you can call yourself anything.
And people will believe you.
Granted, there are “degrees of knowledge.” Someone who has been there done that to any degree before you does have something to share… perhaps in a conversation, over coffee. But to stand and speak before a crowd, charge money, and publicize “professional services”…
Um. No. And ugh. And sigh.
(Most early-on-ers, myself included, thought we knew what we knew, but we didn’t really know… you know? It’s the downfall of many — if not all — SPEs.)
I know true professionals and experts, don’t you? True experts worked hard to get where they stand. They didn’t (intentionally or mistakenly) buff up reality and create a belief system proclaiming expertise. They did the work to get where they are.
They’ve put in the down-and-dirty hours of brain-building, learning wisdom from those who’ve successfully gone before and practiced that knowledge within guided education, eventually earning certificates and degrees to show their commitment to their skills and craft. (It’s true, you don’t have to have a degree — but education is condensed experience and, by its nature, takes a person towards wisdom and skill.)
True experts have spent hours and hours in the trenches of doing the work in multiple jobs, communicating with numerous people in all kinds of levels of challenge. They’ve encountered so many experiences on the job that they can spot the issues, fix the problems, and give hard-core, powerful answers that make a difference. And this work isn’t solo; it’s through professionally interacting with many others, being accountable for your work quality and personal, professional growth — to someone else (many others) besides one’s self.
These are the true experts.
These are the people I want to reach out to, engage with, and learn from. These people, I’ll spend money on. I’ll spend time with those who invested and already made the mistakes. I’ll look to their failures and successes as a pattern for my own learning, growing, and becoming.
This is the age of self-proclaim. You can self-publish a blog and a book, create social media accounts that look and feel professional, and hire a marketer. So much is said online, with people nodding heads and believing words that have no base in reality, little significance to help to those who need it, and off-kilter advice that takes dreamers and doers down meandering, even wrong, paths — away from healthy results and learned-it, earned-it satisfaction.
We’re truly being pushed and tossed by a flood of incompetence. And in that flood, the SPEs wave arms and reel in unsuspecting clients — when they should be taking their time to grow expertise, through education and experience: coming alongside the true experts to be mentored, sitting at their feet (as it were), soaking in their understandings. Putting in the hours learning. Earning the title, earning the trust. And becoming, so that at the right time, they can wear the badge, with honor and truth.
The good news is this: Like the single boy with his finger in the dam, it only takes one true expert to block the flood and build solid competence in our personal and professional lives.
Let’s go for the experts.
Erin M. Brown, MA/MFA (aka author Erin Brown Conroy/EB Conroy), is a professional writer/author/editor with a terminal degree in writing and over 20 years of experience, including as the author of eight books; thousands of articles and professional materials; marketing and web writing; multiple curricula on writing, reading, leadership, and communication; and over 50 online courses created and used across the world. A former professor of writing, research, leadership and management, and interpersonal communications at two different universities, Erin writes, coaches, and speaks internationally.