When I’m helping clients with resumes and preparing them for interviews, I often get into a debate about using the word “expert.” Clients are concerned about overstating their skill and experience, coming off as immodest or arrogant, and turning off the hiring manager. But there is a difference between being the expert and being an expert. I contend that anyone with three or more years of experience in a profession is probably an expert.
Dictionary.com defines an expert as “a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field; specialist; authority.” This is differentiated from a novice, who is “new to any science or field of study or activity or social cause and is undergoing training to meet normal requirements of being regarded a mature and equal participant.”
Marie-Line Germain, assistant professor of human resources and leadership at Western Carolina University, developed a measure of perception of employee expertise called the Generalized Expertise Measure (GEM). Ask yourself whether you meet the following criteria for being an expert. Borrowing a line from a well-known comedian, you might be an expert if:
* You have knowledge specific to a field of work.
* You have the education necessary to be an expert in the field.
* You have the qualifications (certifications, licensure) required to be an expert in the field.
* You have been trained in the area of expertise.
* You are ambitious about your work.
* You can assess whether a work-related situation is important.
* You are capable of improving yourself.
* You can deduce things easily from work-related situations.
* You are intuitive in the job.
* You have the drive to become what you are capable of becoming in your field.
* You are self-assured.
* You are self-confident about your profession.
Using these criteria, the term “expert” can be applied to any job. A janitor can be an expert at janitorial services, just as a lawyer can be an expert at criminal law. If you qualify as an expert in your field, include that in your self-image and your brand and communicate your expert status to the world and your interviewer.