Expert, Specialist, Professional Or Hack?

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.

Rolling Hills
Rolling Hills

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?

18 thoughts on “Expert, Specialist, Professional Or Hack?”

  1. I honestly don’t know where I fall here, I’m just doing my thing, definately no expert I’ve made a stack of mistakes but it’s really starting to take off for me now so it must being doing something right.

    Possibly specialist in that I’m motivating but know how to drive traffic, not sure really!
    .-= TheInfoPreneur´s last blog ..I Rank Higher Than ProBloggers, But Make No Money =-.

    1. I think specialist fits for you, James. Course, if you’re getting paid for it, that’s when you move into the professional realm, and it sounds like you’re being paid here and there at least.

  2. This is one post I felt compelled to respond to. In terms of the “technical” side of social media–I am clueless but smart enough to have people around me who know what they’re doing and how to help me in a crisis. When it comes to just being “social”, I won’t say I corner the market but I do have a knack for being engaging. I love interaction. I know how to drive conversations and stimulate interest in the written word. It’s what I’ve done all of my adult life as a journalist. So maybe that makes me a professional specialist 🙂
    .-= Beverly Mahone´s last blog ..Baby Boomers Don’t Read Blogs =-.

    1. Nothing wrong with being a professional specialist, Bev. You’re certainly no hack, and as someone who’s written 3 books, you definitely border on expert, if not already crossed the line into it.

  3. Great post Mitch. It got me thinking.

    Right now, I’m an editor by trade. But I don’t really see myself as my job. It’s just how I’m earning a living at this stage of my life. If things change, I’m also fine with being a cashier at the supermarket. I’ll still be me.

    I love the work that I do now though. But at the end of the day, it’s still quite separate from my identity. Not sure if that makes me sound like a slacker but then again my moniker is lazygirl 🙂

    But I’m always happy to help when one of my friends asks me to look over something they wrote though – that always makes me feel good.
    .-= lazygirl´s last blog ..Child’s Play – a movie review 20 years later =-.

    1. Sounds like you border on the specialist part of things, LG, since editing is definitely more of a specialty than anything else. I like how you say it doesn’t define you, though I’m betting your blog defines you better. And here I am trying to figure out who “wormtongue” is supposed to be. lol

      1. I saw the Lord of the Rings movies, and didn’t remember that character. I just went to read about it and they said they cut his character out of the movies, but put him back into the DVD version. When I saw the picture I remember him, but they didn’t call him Wormtongue in the movie either. I guess that’s one time when I should have read the books. lol

  4. Self-proclaimed experts/guru’s, whatever, always end up smelling bad eventually; and from certain cases I’ve seen around the ‘net, it’s difficult if not impossible to climb back out of that hole.

    I’ve always thought it best to let other classify you; like your friends have. As I’ve said before, you’re not an expert unless someone else says you are…and Mom don’t count. 😉

    In the beginning I spent a LOT of time on forums, giving and receiving advice. Many people over time called me caoch/mentor, whatever…one lovely woman even sent me a giant pillow with “The mentor” written on it. LOL!

    My usual response was, aww thank you! very sweet; but I just like to help when I can.

    About a month or so ago a young newbie ASKED me if I would coach her; I was floored and of course joked a bit.

    She said, no seriously, can we make it OFFICIAL. Holy Cow.

    She was so tired of being blown off by the “guru’s” and was amazed that someone actually took the time to help her a couple times.

    Do I consider myself a coach? I guess so. I just wanna help.
    .-= Dennis Edell´s last blog ..WANTED – Keyword Research Expert(s) =-.

    1. That’s good stuff, Dennis. I forgot to talk about coaching people, but that’s quite a valid response as well.

      1. I figured it fit. Most of the self-proclaimed claim to be coaching you…you know, with their $97 manuals.
        .-= Dennis Edell´s last blog ..WANTED – Keyword Research Expert(s) =-.

      2. It seems like they do, and they’re all crap. lol
        .-= Dennis Edell´s last blog ..I am Unsubscribing From Your Blog – Again =-.

  5. You’re winning on Yahoo! and Bing? Looks like I need to step it up a bit 🙂

    I like the term professional or specialist and I agree with @Dennis – your best bet is to let others classify you, especially within New Media.

    There will be many that classify us as experts, but also many that deem we simply know a just bit more about a certain topic than our customers. I think there is a hppy medium in there.

    Sure, we use social media A LOT! But what gets lost in the mix is all the research, testing, strategies, metrics, etc… that comes with being a “professional”.

    Our goal, IMO, is to remain a professional/specialist by sharing our “expertise” which you do very well. Thanks Mitch – great post.

    1. Thanks Paddy, I needed those warm & fuzzies. 😉
      .-= Dennis Edell´s last blog ..WANTED – Keyword Research Expert(s) =-.

    2. Thanks Paddy. I like Dennis’ use of the term “coach”, although I think consultant also works well. There’s just so much of this social media stuff that at some point you can’t know it all; I certainly don’t. But the stuff I do know I know pretty well.

      1. Oh hell no, lol. “Consultant” is way to corp for me and definitely for my niche…scared/struggling newbies. 🙂
        .-= Dennis Edell´s last blog ..I am Unsubscribing From Your Blog – Again =-.

Comments are closed.