Everyone’s an expert these days

Have you noticed how popular the word “expert” is becoming on social media profiles? My quick search of LinkedIn has just yielded a result of 885,170 results for people using the word expert in their profiles. Many of them fail to explain exactly what their expertise is. For example, among the top 20 people who appeared in my search, six use the format “Expert at (company name)” as their profile headline. Four use the format “(very broad topic) expert”, for example, “digital expert”. This haphazard use of the term is rendering the label expert meaningless and that poses a problem. If you are genuinely an expert in your field, wanting to showcase your technical or professional mastery, you need to overcome this problem. I recommend that you begin to behave like an expert, rather than simply relying on labelling yourself as one.


So, what is an expert and how does an expert behave differently to the rest of us? An expert is someone who has mastery of a specific field or topic. Experts are highly skilled and have knowledge and experience which enable them to perform at an advanced level in their field. Often, experts are the people we consult when we need the best advice or practical assistance in solving a problem. The difference between a professional and an expert is that the expert has a deeper level of knowledge or skill, which is then used to enrich their decision making and behaviour choices.  

So how can you tell that someone is an expert? This is an important question. After all, the criteria people use to decide whether someone is an expert are precisely the criteria you need to satisfy in building your personal brand. Here are five behaviours experts engage in. These behaviours tend to be perceived by others as signs of expertise. You need to start using them. 

Behaviour 1. Exploring and expanding the theory or practice of their professional field. Experts don’t just apply professional models or toolkits. They invent them. Their passion for their field is reflected in the desire to contribute at this level. 

Behaviour 2: Challenging current paradigms and mental models. This is a typical behaviour of a thought leader. It’s the result of triple-loop learning, which is a style of thinking in which a practitioner reflects on the thinking patterns they are applying when they take action. It results in critical reflection upon the assumptions that are being brought to your professional practice. 

Behaviour 3. Delighting in tackling unsolvable problems and taking on difficult projects. Experts are like the child who responds to a challenging maths problem by saying, “Yes! I wanted something interesting to do.” Not only do experts generate ways of overcoming obstacles and sorting out problems; they document the lessons they’ve learned in the process. They publish their ideas in order to expand professional knowledge. 

Behaviour 4. Distilling the most complex task into a simple and easy-to-understand model. In other words, experts teach and inform novices in their field. This is the reason experts are sought out when advice or recommendations are needed. 

Behaviour 5. Having a public track record. Experts present their ideas in public forums and publish regularly. Their resumes and LinkedIn profiles are impressive because of the productivity they showcase.  

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About the author of these tips

Eleanor is a trainer and coach. She consults to a range of sectors – including higher education, health, finance and local government – in the development of social and emotional intelligence at work. Eleanor has been running training and coaching sessions for people in high intellect professions since 1994. She is qualified in Social Anthropology, Applied Psychology, Adult Education and Neuro Linguistic Programming.