Expert, Specialist, Professional Or Hack?
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Feb 17, 2010
Last night I went to a local networking event that turned into a presentation. It was put on by a group called Syracuse First, an organization whose initiative is to get people to buy and spend their money locally to enhance the area. Supposedly, studies have been shown that when you spend your money with local companies, they tend to put 73% of it back into the community, whereas spending money at large places such as Walmart sends money out of your state and into other people’s pockets. It’s a great initiative.
Anyway, the networking event also turned into a presentation on social media, which I wasn’t expecting, but it wasn’t all that bad. One of the presenters, a buddy of mine named Paddy (no, not his real name), who runs a company and blog called ODX Fusion, began his portion by saying he wasn’t an expert, because most of social media was new and there were so many outlets that there was no way one person could actually know them all. He announced that instead he was a professional because he helped his clients figure out how to use certain social media outlets to their advantage.
My wife was there with me and she asked me if I was an expert. I told her I wasn’t an expert, but considered myself as a specialist. However, I realized that on my SEO website I list myself as an internet marketing consultant for small businesses, and that I do a lot of what my friend Paddy does. And yeah, he’s higher than me on Google for the term locally; have to work on that (I’m higher on Yahoo and Bing, though). lol
Overall, I was thinking that, in a way, it doesn’t matter all that much what we call ourselves. There are really two things that matter. One, how proficient are we in the things we do know, so that we can tell our readers and potential customers how to use these things to their advantage. Two, can we live up to whatever perception it is that we decide to allow others to have of us, whether we say we’re this or that or not.
For instance, among my friends I’m the computer / internet / social media expert; there’s not even a question in most of their minds. Yet, I’ve never told anyone I was an expert at anything. Sure, there’s a lot of stuff I can do. I’ve fixed a lot of computers and come up with some ingenious things every once in awhile, but there are things such as never replacing a motherboard or power source that I’ve never done. I don’t consider those as acceptable risks I want to be liable for, even though I’ve pretty much done everything else. Last week my wife’s hard drive just up and quit, and none of the tricks I knew worked, including putting it in the freezer. No information retrieval, and unlike my computer hers had never been backed up; I wasn’t feeling all that much of an expert last week.
Every once in awhile I wonder how I can call myself a social media specialist when there are so many new things out there that I don’t even know about, let alone know how to use. I mean, have you checked out Ching Ya’s blog and seen some of the things she talks about? Wow!
Then I come back to the reality that I know about a lot of them, at least in passing, and made a determination that it wasn’t a direction I personally wanted to go. Kind of like in my post the other day on creatures of our generations, I’ve determined that my own sensibilities just don’t fit certain things. Yet, I do know about them, and if I’m talking to a client or potential client I mention these things, give an unbiased opinion on them unless they ask me if I use them, in which case I tell the truth, and let them make their own decisions about it.
I can build website, but I know nothing about flash. I’ve often wondered if that negates my claim of being able to do all sorts of websites until I realized that the reason I’ve never learned flash is because I’m not a designer. In other words, I can create functional websites and I can suggest colors and maybe a few different layouts. But if someone wanted a fancy splash page, or wanted a cool template, that’s beyond my mental capabilities.
As a kid, I drew two types of pictures all the time. One was my belief of what an idyllic scene would be, with a rolling hill, a sun in the corner, V-birds in the sky with a couple of clouds, a few trees, a pond, maybe a couple of flowers, and a house with one door and one big window in the middle on the second level; that’s what comes from never living in a house. The other was where I’d take my ruler and just draw straight lines, sometimes intersecting, sometimes not, then coloring each box I had left with different colors until every box had a new color. And there was a mathematical progression in it all, such that one day I put 5 of them together and was amazed at how close they all were to each other. Shame. 🙂
In your normal day, no matter what you do or how many things you do, how do you look at yourself? Do you even try to classify yourself? How do you perceive others see you? And finally, what are you ready to try to live up to?