I am an Expert Because I Say So
What makes someone an expert in their field? Why should you believe someone when they say, “I am an expert.” Is it the length of time they’ve been in their field? The fact that they say they’re an expert; that they talk about the areas in their field frequently; or is it just that we assume they’re an expert. Whether or not someone is an expert, isn’t really something that can be determined with certainty. But with all the information available on line how do you wade through the information to determine what is valuable from what should be ignored. When I read an article or a blog post by someone, I look for the following to determine if they are an “expert” in what they are writing about and that the information they are providing is worthwhile.
1. Who else in the field recommends that person. Are there other people who recommend that expert and support what the expert has to say. Sometimes support from others who work in the field with that person is a great gauge of expertise. But beware of recommendations that are solicited by the so-called expert or where there appears to be strong ties between the expert and the person giving the recommendation.
2. Use of vague terminology that isn’t properly explained. If an expert can’t explain what something means and break it down for others outside their field to understand that can raise a red flag. I tend to question if the person actually understands the field concepts they are talking about, if the can’t or won’t discuss things in basic terms that the average person can understand.
3. What accomplishments does that person have in the field. Everyone has a LinkedIn account or Facebook page these days. A quick check of a person can show you what that person has been up to recently. Have they published books or papers in the field; do they lecture on the topic they write about.
4. Does the person have a passion for the field. This can be difficult to assess. But it is really about how involved is the person in the field they discuss. Do they volunteer for different groups associated with the field they work in; have they been in the field long; how important is this field to them. Many times you can feel the passion by how they write about the topics they discuss.
5. Where is the person’s focus. Does the person focus on their own accomplishments and have a self centered viewpoint when writing. A “me”-centric writing style when discussing topics leads me to believe that they are more concerned with showing off their own accomplishments then with providing quality information on a topic. Lack of unbiased insight can also limit their ability and/or desire to truly relay expert level information about their field. If they’re focused on themselves, it can limit their insight to see the big picture and the details that are important to their field.
6. True concern for the audience. Does the person show interest in the audience he or she is addressing. Is there an actual desire to communicate with rather than talk down to others.
7. Actual insight. Do you learn something from what they say. Is it useful information or is it fluff. A real expert will give you valuable information you can use. After reading do you feel the expert has treated you like an eager student or dismissed you as not smart enough to understand the topic discussed.
There are many so-called experts out there, but don’t be fooled. Take time to look for true experts when you’re reading up on different topics. A real expert is truly worth the trouble to find.