I’m Sick of “Experts”

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Conference after conference, meeting after meeting, people walk around and call themselves experts or sometimes you’re on the receiving end of it. I’m not a fan. No one is an expert, guru or even a maven (that means you).

I’m not trying to deflate your ego. The truth – it doesn’t really matter. I know, we live in a world where titles delineate the good from the not so great. Do you ever see guru or expert on a business card? When you do, do you believe them? I don’t, but maybe I’m a little bit of a pessimist. I want to know what someone has done, what they’ve accomplished and what they’re looking to do next. Not what they claim to be.

As for the rest of us, no, we’re not gurus. We are passionate social media practitioners and our journey and learning never ends. My main reason for getting into the world of social media and digital strategy wasn’t because I wanted to become an expert or that I wanted to spend my days on Facebook. I knew that this path would allow me to continue growing and learning from people like you. Our world is challenging each and every day, but that’s why we’re here. At least, I hope that’s the reason why we’re all here.

Social media, like PR and marketing, is rooted in learning and listening, then doing something incredibly well to make an impact in the market and in the best cases, impact a life. Today, we have a chance to really listen and understand our audiences. Our tactics should be smarter and driven around them – the customers, not the sale. Knowing, listening and continual growth doesn’t make us experts. It makes us smarter professionals. An expert’s journey ends when he/she took on the title. In our ever-changing climate, we don’t have the option to stop growing.

So, friends, the next time you say “guru” and I flinch, you’ll know why. Please refrain and delete that word from your vocabulary, unless you’re referring to the Justin Timberlake and Mike Myers D-rated movie. In that case, delete that memory as well.

What are your thoughts on the “expert” title? Agree? Disagree?

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Posted on December 10, 2010, in Marketing, Personal, Public Relations, social media, Web/Tech and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 154 Comments.

  1. I’m sick of strategists too!

    • You are a guru of the anti-guru.

      And totally, completely spot on!

      Great post…

      🙂

      • Laura,
        I *ALMOST* agreed with you until you conflated expert and guru into the same thing.

        For me, I LOVE that the original, literal meaning of guru is made up of two distinct and important words: 1.) “gu” meaning “darkness” and 2.) “ru” meaning “lightness”

        So, if the word originally meant that a guru is someone who can take you from darkness to lightness I don’t think we should demean them from helping us with that any more than we should demean a person who can help us turn the light on when our hands are full…

        Thus, though I’ve never claimed to be a guru, I certainly wouldn’t mind being one! 🙂

        Keep STRONG, Laura!
        +Vincent

      • I agree. would rather believe that there are ghosts in the world, do not belive the mouth of the so-called experts

    • Dead on, me too. Loved this post, totally had to make me think, but in some wierd way it was hilarious all the way. Really interesting!

      http://www.sufferingbibliophobia.wordpress.com

    • The connotation of the words “expert” and “guru” are of a finished practice. It seems “student” would be the more apt title of someone who studies a specific field. If we use the term “student”, it implies that we are constantly researching, learning, increasing our knowledge base. I think “expert” and “guru” should only be used in the past tense, for the deceased and retired.

    • When someone has to tell me that s/he is an expert (or guru), this reminds me of someone having to tell me that s/he is famous. If you have to tell me that, well…

    • Kimberly Langille

      I agree whole Heartily ,I am so glad I took the time to read your opinions of gurus ,I have been pondering the idea of voicing the actions of my ” guru” and what has been done and how that person got there .So thank you ,reading this was perfect timing ,it has given me the courage to talk with my “guru” Keep on doing what your doing cause your doing it right.

    • I’m sick of the conman !! who likes to sell their program as quick way to success.
      Had my finger burn one, I’m twice shy with the so called Guru or strategies.

      Regards,
      GaneshMuthiah

    • Words only matter when we do what we say…

  2. Sometimes experts can give you invaluable advice and bring success to whatever you’re doing. But there are so many so called “experts” – much like these “self help gurus” who don’t know what they’re talking about and simply found getting a proper job too hard.

    http://www.twago.com/expert/programmer/CSS-web-design

    • Question: How do you all think the world got along without so called experts in the past? They did just fine. Doctors were caring, teachers taught what people needed to know in life to get by. It was not about the dollar but the pride of doing a good job. What would happen if we all of a sudden had no electricity to power Most of the experts????

      • I agree with you totally. It is much more fun to try out something for yourself though it might not work first time. Thomas Edison failed twelve hundred times before he tried tungsten for his bulb element, and then Bingo, there was light.

  3. Guru always sounds strange to me … I think of characters like the movie you mentioned above, which wasn’t done very well. Anyways, good post, and have a great weekend!

  4. Ummm…excuse me but I am an expert and I take offense to your words. I can’t help it if I was born with the gift of expertism. In fact, it is a gift I have often refused to utilize. People call me an expert because that is what I am, but not what I want to be. I apologize 😦 Ok ok…I agree with you. I am not an expert, although I would like to be when I grow up 🙂 great blog and I agree with you 100%

    http://www.runtobefit.wordpress.com

  5. hahaha…laura
    i think one will get to appreciate the ”expert”..
    when one is in the hospital bed enduring some chronic deseases nobody knows…

  6. There are legit experts out there. I think it’s a little facetious to say there are no such things as experts. I think what you’re more upset with is the flippant use of the term “expert”. Nowadays it seems like anyone wants to call themselves one just because it makes them seem more self-important. I’d be hard pressed to say a neurosurgeon isn’t at the top of his or her game – especially if I have to have work done on me. 😉

    Cheers!

    • Good point. Very good point. We have to be able to trust somebody, like who makes our ice cream, drives our car or buss. You come across real true experts every once in a while. But they never let on. You have to wait till you get your car back, or find you can walk without a limp. Or see the new tooth in the mirror when you smile.

  7. In ancient times, creative types were said to have had “a genius” – a godlike helper that would assist them in their creative process. If you were turning out good work, you must have had a good genius helping you, if you wrote something unpopular….well, it wasn’t really fault – you just had a lame genius. It wasn’t until the modern age that we started saying that human beings simply were “geniuses” in their own right. Since that time, people have struggled with living up to the expectation ‘genius’ carries with it.

    The same could be true with the titles of ‘expert’ or ‘guru.’ Slapping that title on someone really says: “You’ve arrived, you have no more growth left to do.”

    • Richard Feynman would have been horrified to have read your last line. Nothing more to accomplish, what a dreadful thought !

  8. I agree! There really is an arrogance inherent in saying you’re an expert. You never know everything.

    I also take issue with the use of terms like ‘guru’ and ‘pundit’ because they offer a perfect example of how the West appropriates words which have meaningful and sometimes sacred significance in their original cultures. There is quite a difference between a university professor or journalist compared to a monk who has spent decades studying, meditating and teaching, and yet maintains their humility and reverence.

    Not to mention the way in which these terms help to justify social hierarchy and the technocracy – this concept that some people simply know better because they’ve been processed through some acclaimed institution. Case in point: experts offering various solutions to environmental problems when the biggest impact would be made by chaning our lifestyles (which is of course the most difficult of all, so we ignore it).

    Just my 2 cents (or a little bit more)… lol

  9. Hi everyone! Thanks for your great comments! Appreciate all of you reading my blog too! You’re the best – have a great weekend.

    Theolrascal – medical experts are a slightly different thing. If you’re certified and accredited, it’s a little different than a social media expert.

    Mikalee Byerman – thanks for your kind words. Have a great weekend.

    runtobefit – loved your comment! It was fantastic. Thanks for the laugh!

  10. Experts are everywhere, but they dont go about trumpeting in everywhere. It’s a true expert that’s wise enough to stay quiet. Except you are an expert in being stupid…nice post…kudos
    harkheindzel.wordpress.com

    • Harkheindzel – Yes you’re right – real “experts” rarely call themselves experts. Those are the people I admire. Thanks for reading!

    • Exactly.

      Most subject matter experts (or SMEs) don’t want to be called experts or try not to let it get out that they are experts.

      There’s a lot of computer experts – CCIEs and such – but they are too busy working to tout they are experts.

      I’m no expert, but I do consider myself to be a master chess player. The CSA even ranked me as such, so I guess I have proof. lolz

  11. LOL good article. I agree with you to some extent. I believe that there are some experts in certain fields who have proven themselves. They have the knowledge of the specific topic at hand. However, I think that there are some who take the “expert” thing to the extreme. I personally don’t believe an expert is born just because you’ve established a WordPress blog and are reguritating information that you’ve read. I think experts come with experience and knowledge. Even then, there are still some things that may be unknown or unexplored. But hey, at the end of the day, people need to do what’s best for them, and if being called an expert is one of them… then that’s what it is. 🙂

  12. I proudly call myself a guru. I am the Guru of Negativity! The rub, however, is that I know I suck – at it and everything else. I knew I would fail at being a guru long before I even thought of starting. But I still quite daringly use the term.

    The sick reality is that almost all claims are false, even those that claim to be probably not correct in the exact opposite of their truthfulness. Everyone lies and exaggerates about how good they are and how awful everyone else is. This is also known as “sales.”

    A TV commercial yells, “Credit card reward programs suck. So use our credit card reward program.” At face value it sounds ludicrous, doesn’t it? They depend on a public that absorbs everything without thinking, absolutely devoid of critical thought.

    So I salute you for questioning the word “guru” when you see it and not falling for it. It’s nice to see critical thought in action once in a while. You are obviously anadvanced life form.

  13. Gosh, you are spot on! I used to feel intimidated by all those “experts” in my meetings, with 25 years of experience doing God-knows-what. Now are days I listen and see what I can learn. Sometimes I’m disappointed cos the guru was boo-hoo. What a relief! Life is learning and this is what I want to do. Great post, Laura!

    http://mybusinessaddiction.com

  14. I once worked for a marketing research and consulting firm that emphasized a non-guru approach – they instead promoted a proven and disciplined methodology for market monitoring. This created a somewhat free-wheeling culture where any of us could learn anything. Over time, the company decided most clients wanted gurus and hiring became focused on industry knowledge. It was more appealing to a lot of clients, but it was a real step down for all of us non-guru types.

  15. Re expert advice, there is a law of physics that says for every expert there is an equal and opposite expert hee hee.
    More seriously, I prefer the word do-er. The girl who can fix your car because she knows about engines, the guy who can get that software to run properly because he wrote the code etc..there are too many managers in the world and not enough do-ers

  16. Experts share information about their experience of what worked for them. They can’t possibly offer a one-size-fits- all formula that will work for everyone. I’ve learned to check in with myself as to what might be of possible use to me. As a unique individual, a lot of what applies effectively to others simply doesn’t work for me–I’ve learned this the hard way. As for calling themselves experts or gurus, that just seems to be the current way of marketing now, I don’t believe it and it makes me kind of cringe.

  17. am also having same opinion i agree with u…..nice post

    http://www.gsuryalss.wordpress.com

  18. I know what you mean about experts there are real bona fide experts in their fields, ie doctors, psychologists, geologist, archeologists, etc. But the word has started to be thrown around a little to freely in other fields. I’d like to know their pedigree. Is it just because they’ve now been on Oprah, helping stars, and the media blitz of gurus is unbelievable. So, I concur most wholeheartedly! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    evelyngarone.com

  19. I like your your approach to the topic.
    The line where you said “An expert’s journey ends when he/she took on the title” is spot on. In my life I’ve run across several people who refer to them selves as experts, and really there are few things you could ever be an expert at, on account of the fact that people get smarter and learn new ways every day.
    Great post!

  20. I agree. There are no gurus or experts. Only people who are gullible enough to believe that they are. And if by chance someone really IS an expert, or more knowledgable than most in their field, they aren’t going to go around advertising it.

  21. So true, what makes anyone an expert? Just because you know a little more then I do doesn’t qualify you to be an “Expert”. I find half of them don’t know what they are doing and in turn make your life difficult. Just keep yourself updated and help everyone based on your level of knowledge to the best of your ability.

  22. Fabulous post. I am clearly not an expert on social media–though I do have a decent blog about Haiti–I think. Congrats on being freshly pressed–happened to me earlier in the week–great fun!

  23. It is unfortunate that some lesser lights keep telling the rest of us that they are “experts” and it is repeated so often that some of the population begin to accept it as a given.
    Usually, they are experts only in theri own minds, unfortunately.

  24. I will take an “expert” over a “guru”, but it would serve us all to be a little bit more humble with each other.

  25. I occasionally get introduced at work as “the guru” of a particular subject, and I cringe Every Single Time. I have a lot of experience in this topic, and I try to stay on top of the subject, but I am “guru” of nothing at all, thankyouverymuch!

    Great blog!

    • Totally agree! It doesn’t really set the tone for me well either, and then I’m thinking about not screwing up and how incorrect the term is the entire conference call.

      Thanks for reading – really appreciate it!

  26. I think, no matter what your profession, that you are always learning…it never stops. The moment you claim to know it all is the day learning stops, and you close yourself off to so many new educational possibilities. Great post…congrats on FP!

    • Yup. I agree. I do believe that we all are always learning. Let’s say, I’m currently studying in the ICT world, well all my lecturers also have to improve their knowledge, not only the students, because as we all know… technology is like a hungry monster who never stops eating and keep growing every minute. 😉

      http://passiverecord.wordpress.com

  27. I agree, both expert and guru are terms that have been abused so often that they have picked up new, mostly negative, meanings. If you ask me, the semantics and terminology of marketing and social media leave a lot of room for improvement. I admit, I also use words like strategy or tactics, but they contradict the very essence of what so called social media should be all about. There are alternatives, like practice or approach, but sometimes the ‘bad’ words are hard to avoid. That said, there is no excuse for a business card that describes anyone as a guru!

  28. Most of the experts I have met in my life were self appointed. Years ago my father told me”those that can do, other teach and those that can’t do either one become experts” I think that most experts give opinions not truth.

    signelect.com

  29. The Et Al. Enthusiast

    I do see your point, but I feel like there are actual experts in the world and with everyone calling themselves “experts”, you can’t really tell who is the true expert.

    And “Guru”? I didn’t like that word to begin with. Sounds like it would be a fruit, if you ask me.

  30. I am an expert…with an expert skill-set intentionally deployed for distinct purposes. I specifically, deliberately use the “title” in language use as a way to distinguish capability, or “quality” unprovided by most competently incapable to use the term…such as when I am an ‘expert Intuitive Business Advisor’ using my expert skill (by-product of expertise) to “translate unseen information into actionable knowledge utilization to meet CEO priorities”…not because my ego needs a stroke, or because I tout that I know more than most, but because I can comparatively raise the ethics bar for myself enough to use the term in business dealings and be able to back it up. Why are ‘experts’ required?…Because although my neighbor Tom can take an ‘expert’ guess as to why the Fortune 1000 company is losing contracts and morale is low-with deductive reasoning or by hunch or statistical research…he does not have the 20 years of intuitive analysis skill, metaphysical training, nor tacilt ability to interpret a plethora of simultaneous multi-dimensional information contained in the silent language of energy, and articulate it for explicit use to impact the bottom line. That’s a job for the ‘expert’.

    • I take your point; as a journalist and author who relies on others’ expertise.

      But a few issues: 1) the U.S. is an elbows-out business culture, even more so in a recession so people will use whatever they think will differentiate themselves from their many ferocious competitors — the person who says they’re expert may project the winning confidence that the more modest competitor does not…
      2) if you hope to (as I have) sell non-fiction books to a large commercial audience, publishers demand expertise in the form of your “platform” so you have to create one
      3) if you actually have acquired significant knowledge, when and where do you tell people — modestly (is that possible?) — that you have it?

      I’m considered an expert on gun use and women (the subject of my first book) and get called by NPR, BBC, etc. to comment. I hesitate to call myself that, even after interviewing 100+ people around the country, training and reading dozens of books on the subject. “Expert” may be in the eye of the beholder.

      I do agree with your annoyance at its casual, inflated use.

  31. I am sick of people boasting about work experience. I hate it. Try being good at what you are. The only person listening to you when you are boasting is yourself.

  32. Ha! Experts, if only we could buy them for what their worth and sell them for what they think their worth we could pay off the national debt.

  33. Interesting take. While I feel that certain peoples’ claims have validity, “titles” like guru and expert seem to just be overused buzzwords.

  34. you hit the nail on the head! Keep on the good work and congrats on being “Freshly Pressed!”

  35. Being an expert depends on the area of knowledge a person is claiming expertise in.

    If you have years of study and/or experience in a subject – say volcanoes – then you are in fact an expert in that subject.

    The problem we face now is not a problem with actual experts, but the anti-intellectual anti-academics who think that an uneducated but loudly spoken layperson’s opinion is on par with a person who has studied and worked for years to gain expertise. An educated opinion is more credible than anyone’s uneducated opinion.

    For example, it matters not that 3000 “scientists” disagree with climate change vs all the Climatologist do agree climate change is real, and globally so.

    Because the word “scientist” is vague and includes many areas of science – and all the fringe folks claim that title too.

    In the corporate world, there’s the vague “subject matter expert” which needs to be removed from the language, because it is a meaningless term to make people feel that their clerical jobs are not clerical jobs.

    sort of like when garbage men became sanitation engineers.

    • Uh, this is where caveat emptor comes in. 3,000 scientists that disagree with the AGW propaganda points, DO include great numbers of climatologists, geologists, ecologists, and in fact the loudest dissidents are precisely climatologists.

      It’s an especially funny comment in view of the fact that it is ceond-generation politician and lawyer Al Gore has been the most visible champion of dictating central economic planning and cutting down the economy based on the Media-Blessed “experts”.

      Caveat emptor. Always be the skeptic when they say “Consensus says…” or “The debate is over…”

      So Laura’s contribution to enlightenment has a MUCH wider scope than she thought….

  36. Relative to today’s marketplace it seems that “an expert” is anyone in the same field/job for more than 5 years!

  37. I’m fully agree with your argument that we all in continuous learning to improve our proficiency. Therefore, expert is irrelevant for a title.
    However, people seems to think that using it as a title is a good marketing strategy 🙂 There is a hidden truth in it, and that hidden truth is :”Many people like to be intimidated by such title, without realizing that everyone can learn and be an expert”.

  38. I empathize with your irritation, and I wrote about it too:
    http://invisiblemikey.wordpress.com/2010/01/17/im-not-an-expert/
    I enjoyed your post on the subject!

  39. ‘Experts’, the ‘experts’ in the field of education tell me I should be able to get all my struggling students to read at grade level by the end of the year. This includes the ones who currently ready 2-3 years below grade level. I would like nothing more than to have one of those ‘experts’ come into my classroom to show me how it’s done. No, wait, I need a miracle worker not an expert

  40. I naturally and immediately assume any person who tells me they are an expert is actually hustling me.

  41. I’m with you. I hate that so many people are so-called “experts”, “gurus”, “geniuses”, etc., these days. This year I had someone say to me, “Wow, you’re a gardening expert.” I might have gotten a job from this person, but I could not accept that word and said, “No, not really. I know more than the average person about plants in this area, but there’s so much to know about plants that I’ll never be an expert. There’s always more information to learn.” I never want to be called an expert when I’m not, not even if someone mistakes it for lack of confidence. It’s really just speaking the truth and not exaggerating your skills.

    Thanks for writing about this. These words are overused and as a result, real expertise and genius is diluted in people’s minds because they are mixed about about what true expertise and genius reallly is.

    • Wait, you kept yourself from getting a job over a word? There are actually ways that you could have said that without contradicting that person, such as thanking them for noticing your skill and then remarking that you know more than the average person but don’t nearly know everything. We get too fussy about words in America–if someone calls you an expert and you contradict them, you’re basically saying that they don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s rude.

  42. I don’t consider social media my area of expertise. It is merely a tool or platform to assist me for me in personal passions and for my paid job…which is information management. I am a formally trained librarian..meaning with a library science degree from a university and working for several decades with different technology tools for wrestling down the information glut. 🙂 So we folks absolutely need to stay on top on latest trends on content management and taxonomy…since we steered this in the past 2 centuries. Social media is just another tool for us in our arsenal of managing e-information and helping people find it.

    So our world is ruled absolutely by content and knowing sources, its forms and techniques on how to dig around in the right places..not social media.

  43. Love your article. It certainly reflects today’s society via offline and online. IMHO Sometimes some people place ‘guru’ and ‘expert’ mainly ‘guru’ for self satisfaction and want to be acknowledge that way, some just call on behalf of respect.’ thanks, really intriguing article. Cheers.

  44. Take a look at Jeff Atwood’s take on experts: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2009/02/are-you-an-expert.html

    Diluted: Experts do not exist to give out knowledge, but to have the ability to ask the right questions and then decide on a plan.

  45. I’m the same way! I don’t believe in experts, for example; when my internet provider comes to fix my modem, I feel that I could have done it better than him if he gave me the modem password…. and then I wonder why he calls himself an expert. I guess he got lucky to get the job, and has the title because he’s hiding behind his big internet company…

  46. Expert defined: x is unknown and spert (spurt) is a drip under pressure

  47. I couldn’t agree more. I’m honestly sick of attending conference after conference, and workshop after workshop, just to listen to a bunch of “experts” rant about how they’re awesome, and the world would be a much better place if there were more people like them.

    Of course there are a few that are truly inspiring. But from all the workshops and all the conferences, I can only name 10 people max. 10 people isn’t much considering how many “experts” are out there 🙂

  48. I just read your post. I totally agree with you!
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂

  49. I’d agree with everything you’ve written. Sadly enough, though, I feel that enough people desire to feel the insurance and comfort of following someone who’s an expert, even a self-proclaimed one, that there’s a huge market for defining oneself as such. Whenever I hear the titles of “expert” or “guru” or “master” tossed about, I immediately raise my bunny ears in suspicion. Pessimism? Perhaps. But it sounds like you’re coming from the opposite perspective. Our journey ends when we accept the title of expert, like you said, and I think it’s quite the optimistic thing to believe that we should always concentrate on growth, instead of settling for a moment of regal status. Nice post!

  50. You’re so right! A label doesn’t make the person. I know several people who recently started their own businesses as consultants in the social media arena; went to one seminar where Chris Brogan was speaking and they come back a social media expert. Huhhh??? How in the heck did that happen? Osmosis? According to research, it takes at least 10,000 hours to get from wannabe to expert.

  51. I really appreciate your point that people must continue to grow and develop in this ever-changing culture. I think that the term “expert” might be too much of an end goal instead of via point on a journey. There is something to be said for having studied a particular area for quite a bit of time as long as one is interested in continuous, further study. These individuals do deserve some recognition for the sheer volume of knowledge they have accumulated on a subject, though that knowledge will become obsolete unless they continue to change and grow with the culture.

  52. This post is so great – I love it! Who exactly is the authority determining the gurus and experts, anyway? 🙂

  53. I have to admit that I find the sheer number of experts, on everything, extremely annoying. I once read an explanation of the term that said that if you have studied a subject for at least an hour a day for five years then you are an expert in that subject…if this is true then I am an expert in any number of subjects which I honestly know relatively little about and have no practical experience with. However since I do a lot of reading of a very broad variety I am now declaring myself the one and only expert in absolutely everything… 😉
    Yeah…not so much, experts are generally overrated.

    https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/

  54. “we don’t have the option to stop growing” -couldn’t agree more! good post. for me, “expert” would be another word for “professional”, but “guru” is a very much higher-level title. i believe those people who call themselves “guru” don’t really know what it means.

  55. Good post. Now that the human side has been revealed for prying eyes, we can now begin the concept of working together.

  56. Very cheap and easy post and could have been written by a clever teenager (you seems to be older than that). You’re not saying anything interesting or new: of course you’re interested in what people do, not in what they claim. But my doing very often the same thing or many things in a same domain, you become a specialist of your domain. Let’s call it an expert.

  57. I’m pretty sure, no matter how i write it, whatever i say is pretty much going to be one of about 6,256,364,834 ways to say i agree. Although it’s fun to read all of those variations I would rather cut to the chase…
    Great post and I totally agree =)

    Don’t stop howling…
    Ohkami’s Voice

    ohkamisvoice.com

  58. Couldn’t agree with you more.

  59. Great post – and I always think it’s okay to call someone an expert…not to call yourself one. If you are that great, others will see it.

    Congrats on being freshly pressed!

    http://workingtechmom.wordpress.com

  60. It’s refreshing to see a professional — any profession, any age — speaking up about false labels.

    I suggest that we (general) make a conscious distinction between the label of expert and the demonstration of expertise. I am an expert. I used to be an expert in portions of tax law and employment law. I don’t call myself one any more because I left that career. I am an expert in computer systems, of a certain type, in a certain configuration. I’ve demonstrated my expertise, I’ve received recognition of it, so yes, I have expertise and I am an expert.

    The problem we all have is in first meeting a person. Can we trust that the person actually deserves to use the label? I don’t have an answer, but I do have a rule of thumb: If the person starts the topic of conversation with “I am an expert”, I become suspicious. If the person leads me to ask, or just happens to slip in the label by way of explaining why he or she is so sure of a statement, then I tend to trust the person’s claim.

  61. I think it’s obnoxious that people over-inflate themselves, but at the same time, it’s stupid not to give yourself a good title for your resume. Especially now, when competition for a position is ruthless due to high unemployment.

    There are experts, actually–the word expert isn’t some made-up silly term, or misappropriated term like “guru.” Expert: a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field; specialist; authority: a language expert. There are people who are experts–actually, there are also people who are gurus, but they’re usually living in Asia in a temple and not handling a company’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.

  62. Somewhere far away in the jungles of Afrika, two fierce eyes watch through tall grass. With stealth, sudden speed and power it closes in on its prey at 75 kms per hour. Beautiful in design and strength, the Cheetah doesn’t know that it’s a world famous cat where cameras from all over click its images to take back home. Brands have been named after it. The Cheetah hardly calls itself an expert.

    I suppose like you’ve said, we have been designed to learn, work, achieve and plan our next move. We should leave the titles to the world. The masters are sought after. They have no names for themselves.

    Your post has opened my eyes. I hate the word EXPERT and Guru. Banished from my dictionary. Thanks.

  63. Hahaha. true. there is no such thing as ‘expert’. there is always more to know. it sucks that people use such a silly term as an actual designation in work spheres.

  64. An interesting take on the “expert” can be found in Orson Welles’ film essay F for Fake. The film questions the validity of art experts, contrasting the art expert with the art forger. The film’s primary protagonist Elmyr de Hory is a world famous art forger. Many of his fraudulent Matisse’s and Picasso’s hang in renowned art galleries around the world. The experts’ legitimacy is questioned – how legitimate is an expert when they believe a de Hory forgery is authentic – by Welles and he masterfully presents this in the film.

    I agree with Welles’ critique, believing experts hold institutions hostage. Because of their title they lock out anybody without an “expert” title and keep a stranglehold on information and growth.

  65. I agree! Social media is an avenue – and experts are those who do it well, not who try to teach others to use social media well.

    If you saw someone with the word “Author” on their business card, would you hire her to teach you HOW to write?

    Nope, you’d assume that’s someone who writes well. And there you are.

  66. This is a cool post! And so many of them end up with TV shows…****Ducks****!

  67. I totally agree with you! Congrats on Freshly Pressed! 🙂

    -Tia

    http://www.tiallarising.wordpress.com

  68. Yes, you are right, very right at the point real experts don’t announce, and they are mostly very silent because they don’t want disturbance on their following research or project or whatever, they believe there’s always a lot to learn, and education and learning have no end. Its a good article and you’re a good writer, I’m new to wordpress and this was the first article I read, you made me get more interested now, thanks.

  69. ha… too funny.. I hate that.. I was in marketing for over 12 years.. and then these mlm people call themselves marketing experts.. I hate it.. they know nothing about the world of marketing… Thanks for this post… I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks people give themselves these titles and are clue-less

  70. Hi Laura,

    I completely agree with your post. “Guru/Expert” is a term that has been used, abused and over populated on the Internet for a long time now and I’m also getting very tired of its over misrepresentation/misapplication/misconception. The day I stop learning is the day I stop living. Thank you for your honesty.

  71. “Social media, like PR and marketing, is rooted in learning and listening, then doing something incredibly well to make an impact in the market and in the best cases, impact a life.” this is so true about everything… all things rooted in learning and listening have good roots. Great post.

  72. great post!

  73. Well said. Just because I saw I’m a pink pony doesn’t mean I can gallop. The world of business is full of pretenders who muddy the waters for people who have an open mind and something to share.

  74. I agree with you. Most of experts is very far away from practical side of the stuff they’re experts on.

  75. I’m no expert blog judge, but that was a well written blog. Nice job and congrats on being Freshly Pressed.

    Blessongs,

    Ava
    xox

  76. Expert
    Ex meaning a has been
    spert meaning a drip under pressure.

  77. Like you, I’ve attended a few seminars, conferences and PD events in my time. Rarely have they really been inspiring. Some events are used more as a marketing tool for the business of the presenter so really all I learnt was to use them if I wanted X skill provided. Others I’ve known without a shadow of a doubt I was more skilled than they were, yet still far from an expert in the field.

    The worst are when you attend expecting to hear about topic A, yet the presentation is about topic B with perhaps a throwaway line or two about topic A.

    Perhaps we should all say something along the lines of, “I am willing to share my experiences on this topic and hope you may find this useful”.

  78. You speak like a real expert!

    Just kidding! 😉

    I think we all need to think different:
    http://mytreetv.wordpress.com/2010/11/21/think-different/

    and we all need to hug more trees!
    http://mytreetv.wordpress.com/treehugger/

    Some RESPECT for the TREES! Please!

    Stefan
    http://www.MyTree.TV

  79. In the field of social media I don’t think there will ever be a single expert and, if the people working in this field understand their profession properly, no one will wish to call themselves an expert. The experts come in areas within the whole so, for example, you could have an expert on one aspect of social communication, another within social platforms, another in social disorder, each one being a larger field with many smaller, not necessarily exclusive, areas.

    To me, as soon as a person claims to be an expert they’ve not come to the end of their growth, they come to the end of their ability to learn and the next person can take their place. Social media changes from hour to hour, which prevents anyone, no matter how good they are, from being an expert in any aspect for more than a day.

    Viki.

  80. Loved this post I wrote about it too

  81. Loved this post we have to be able to trust somebody

  82. adrianluismoloney

    I agree 100% with you. As well as many others!!
    Nice blog too!! I´m new in all this and finding it all quite interesting

  83. adrianluismoloney

    I agree 100% with you. “Expert” is an auto proclaimed name that many use with an excuse of earning a few more cents!

  84. Oh, I am SO in agreement with you! If you read my “Thoughts on Blogging” I’m with you all the way on this!

    I use “guru” only when it’s someone who just happens to know alot about something or is passionate and I use it for fun, not because they’re an expert. You could call me a “sailing guru” because I love sailing, know quite a bit about it, love to talk it, but I’m NO expert. Yes, I can keep the boat from tipping over, get it go fast, but there is ALWAYS something I can learn from it.
    So called “experts” aren’t experts. They’re knowledgeable in their field, but still don’t know it all. To call yourself an expert is arrogant. When I hear “expert” I think, wow, this guy/gal thinks he/she’s perfect in their field. Humans are not perfect, therefore, they cannot be experts. Ok, climbing off my soap box. Great post!

  85. I was once taught: an X is an unknown quantity and a spert is a drip from a faucet so an expert becomes an “unknown drip”

  86. I totally agree with you on this one.

  87. So, what is the fundamental difference between an expert that is a “guru” and an expert that has a title?

    May I also remind you that some of the internet’s biggest companies today were founded by people that had no titles and little experience with conducting business?

    Evil
    http://www.evilcyber.com/

    • Hi Evil – An expert with a title is traditionally self-appointed or a company’s desire to delineate specific divisions within a company, for client-facing purposes. I think a few folks have posted about their companies in previous comments.

      I would say that many of the people who were at the root of our digital innovation weren’t really experts but innovators – people who took risks, learned along the way and kept seeking to improve. The key, for my anyways, is to step aside from our titles that seek to delineate us, and look at our work. That’s more important at the end of the day, right? Not the business card. At least, I hope so.

      Thanks for reading!

  88. I had a chance to hear Sir Richard Branson speak at a conference and one of the reason for Virgin’s success that he listed was the fact that they never listened to any consultants or “business gurus”.

  89. First time i viewed your post and you are joining my bookmarks!

    I work in a world saturated with “experts” and the funniest thing is the majority of the have the smallest or close to no common sense whatsoever. They can talk about their suspected field of expertise and absolutely nothing else!

    I could think of a couple of other words for them but i don’t think they are appropriate for the internet!!!

    Have a nice day!

  90. Very good article.. I agree withs ome points

  91. Nice post Laura. On the title, I have no problem with gurus or experts but I do have a problem them having to rub it in my face ‘I am a guru in this field’ Er…who asked you? Just show me how to work this thing gaadaaamit! 😀

  92. Even though there may be a few gurus lurking around in our horizon, I do feel it is widely misused and over-used… if you get yourself on television, it does not make you a guru- same thing for having written a book… I think it is just a title the PR people have invented to get the press machine going…

  93. I really enjoyed reading that post. It got me thinking, who decides when you can be classified as an “expert”? Usually the person who claims the title, and if you self appoint the title expert you’re just complimenting yourself.

  94. I have mixed feelings about this. At first I agree that calling yourself an expert is pompous. However, some people are justified in calling themselves experts if they really know their field. Does that mean that they think they know everything? From an aspiring expert who also very much feels like a student.

    http://wordenvie.com

  95. I’m a college student so I have yet to hear the word “guru” in the work place. If I do, I probably will have to try to not smile or laugh. The word Guru reminds me of something that belongs in a movie and not a professional environment.

    The only time I have heard expert is when talking about a scientist who has been working on a topic or project for a decent amount of time (10 plus years or more). I wouldn’t know what else to call these people but experts in their field.

    Sometimes the ‘experts’ don’t agree but that’s because they are working on different items, so it makes sense they are coming to slightly different conclusions. An expert in lab scale biodiesel might not see the same thing as an expert in plant scale biodiesel, but they both are above most in their respected areas. I agree with you though, that expertise in a single item often causes us to try to overlap it with everything else or keep it when it no longer really applies.

    “Experts” should keep growing as well, if they don’t they will be surpassed and become “an expert of their time”. Well at least that’s what we call them in the lab I work at when someone’s Expert opinion and theory is outdated…

  96. Cheers to you, Laura! Awesome post and a real “thought provoker.” Enjoyed the comments as well!

  97. Expert is not something you call yourself.
    Expertise is something you demonstrate by your actions and utterances. It is a situation when others ask you to help them because they value your knowledge.
    If someone calls themselves an expert then they are not, so there is no way the word expert should ever appear on a business card.
    Real experts never believe their press stories and they never stop trying to improve. Real experts are humble because a real expert has some idea of where their knowledge is lacking. The ignorant are certain of their certainty, experts know they don’t know it all and are never certain.
    Experts say things like, “it is more likely that X is the case rather than Y, because 1,2,3.” or “according to the research it appears that the probability of X causing Y is very high.”
    Be careful when you say you’re sick of experts, maybe it is pretentious pseudo-experts you are sick of, that I can support you for.

  98. Seems like we have a lot of experts on experts here, expertly speaking.

  99. So true and overly narcissistic. So many people are calling themselves social media gurus these days, it’s actually rather amusing!

  100. Great post!!!! Here I leave a blog you can visist about ecology made by txo boys who are not expertes but yes compromised with the environement, take a look http://txiriflautero-surf.blogspot.com/

  101. I love the term “Thought Leadership” its like the Naughties version of the Nineties “White Paper”. Love the post.

  102. What I’d like to know is where they get the really obscure experts. Like there’s some sort of sheep catastrophe on the news and then they cut away to the “sheep expert” and he’s like “well you see the sheep here are dying because of blah blah blah.”

    Where the hell do they find that guy?

    Also, yea I agree with this article. I think it’s a sign of maturity when you to know enough to know you don’t really know anything.

  103. I think terms like “expert” or “guru” are a badge of honour which is given to you by people wo are impressed by your knowledge. Nothing else…

  104. Nice article… definitely worth the read.

  105. You’re right. The reason why the media are always talking about experts is because they want their audience to believe that the source of information is quite reliable. It’s like saying “the person who gave me the link is behond any kind of suspicious and you must not put it into question. you must accept what I’m saying.”
    On the other hand when someone mentions the so-called “experts” he does not need to give no more information. And it’s funny, but experts are always in plural: expertS say… expertS think…expertS consider…, etc.
    That is “the’re not only smarter than you are, they are also plenty of them.
    Conclusion: do’nt ask and above all, don’t you dare to doubt!!

    You say “My main reason for getting into the world of social media and digital strategy wasn’t because I wanted to become an expert” humnmmm…. I don’t think so… I think you’d like to be considered an Expert yourself…. (sometimes when some one denies something it’s because in the very bottom of his soul he actually agrees with it… I know it sounds strange but let me tell you that it happens very often)
    sorry for my english, I’m not fluent

  106. Many years ago as a serving member of the R.A.F. an instructor said to me “There no such people as experts, there are only specialiist” Sound advice.

  107. I enjoyed your post. Still, I must say that if I need heart surgery I want an “expert.” This means someone who meets objective criteria of expertise in a field and is required to maintain some certification of that expertise . . . not a guru.

    Joel

  108. ” Don’t tell me how to live my life ” 😀

    congrats on freshly pressed!

  109. Actually there is no expert. bullshit. If you’re good the world will come. If you have the brains you’ll know what’s practical and true. Period. Expert is a name given by non-experts. Anyone who discusses this topic IS NOT AN EXPERT Then why’re you here? You can’t be great to be here. AFTER MY COMMENT THERE WILL BE ANOTHER 100 MEDIOCRE COMMENTS LIKE experts. None of us are EXPERTS. We wouldn’t write a blog like this and comment like this.

    Let the next medicre comment follow. It will.

  110. I usually distrust experts because mostly they seem to think up ideas which are impractical.I have worked with so called experts in their late twenties who are only recently graduated from university.To my way of thinking an expert should be someone who has had had a lot of experience in the subject.It was highly paid experts who created the globsl financial crisis.Many so called experts end up in the media and often become personalities.Sometimes their real expertise is in self promotion rather than the subject they claim expertise in.I prefer people with practical experience.

  111. Can we make an exception for “expert witnesses” in court? (Admittedly, even then whether you believe in the credibility of the witness is determined by which side of the case you are on.)
    I enjoyed reading your post; clearly you are enthusiastic about your career and willing to keep learning and improving. I’ll take that over someone so convinced in their own “expert” opinion that they refuse to learn and adapt.
    -Jen
    http://sasfiction.wordpress.com

  112. I was reading a Travel “Expert’s” feature just this morning and I thought the same thing… what makes her an “expert” anyway? I am a professional proofreader and copy editor but I do not consider myself an expert nor do I boast about my talent or call out my friends when they’re wrong. I think that calling yourself an expert is pompous. Of course, I can also see how it’s sometimes helpful to market yourself as such–especially when a job is asking to hire an expert. I have an open mind so I guess what it all comes down to is that people can do whatever they want. But title or no title, they need to remember that we can all learn something new every day–even if we think we already know all there is to know about a topic.

  113. athens agent of coven

    Makes a lot of sense. some people claim maybe a little too much lol

  114. Strange how someone thousands of miles away can have the same thoughts about a topic.

    In former years I too embraced passionately the work of Wayne Dyer, Chopra, Oprah, Ghandi, Robertson, and the several other so-called gurus of personal growht, etc.

    Alas! after much thought and many experiences I realise that their messages are nothing new. They all repeat the same thing over and over again. What they say is what we know already.

    I believe that all human beings are hot-wired to do the right thing every time. Why we fail is not because we do not know but simply because we refuse to act.

    The guru-supporters will claim that for that very reason the gurus have a place among us, i.e. to help us to act. How true could that be?

    I believe that every human being works within his or her confines as provided by the universe. I also believe that the Universe is ready to provide the necessary impetus for that action to happen – whenever that time is the right time. No-one esle has the Universal insight to convey to me or anyone else when that right time has arrived.

    Message to all therefore is: always do your best! And be honest!

    Again, these are only my thoughts.

    • “I believe that all human beings are hot-wired to do the right thing every time. ” Really? Read my blog and I think you may change your mind.

      Mind you, I do agree these self-help experts all sell the same theme.

      Back to the “right” for a moment. As an accountant, one of the first things we study is the development of ethical behaviour and integrity. These are characteristics that develope in humans over time. SOME never develop integrity. Interesting, is it not?

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