Just recently, my personal odometer clicked over one-half million hours. I wrote about it on another blog. Considering the standard view is that 10,000 hours of practice makes you really great at something, then I concluded that I have sleeping and eating down cold, but the diversity of all the other things kept me from the 10,000 hour mark. I’ve spent about 75,000 hours at work, and so I have a few things I would consider as genuine areas of expertise, but not many.
I spend a lot of time looking at resumes and LinkedIn profiles lately, and I think its interesting that people use the following words to describe the level of their capabilities: Experience, exposure, capability, competency, strength, and my current favorite, expertise.
I’m a go-to person for a couple of topics. An internal expert. I have expertise. But when I look at some profiles of people who have worked less than I have who claim expertise in easily a dozen topics, I have to wonder what they really know. I look for expertise when it’s needed, and for me, expertise is found in someone who has dedicated a good portion of their career to that topic. It doesn’t have to be 20 years worth, but how about 4-5 where that was the primary area of work?
I think its important to put your best foot forward, to sell yourself. You have to let people, a potential employer in particular, know what you can do. More importantly to let them know what you feel strongly about and have developed more than a passing knowledge of. An expertise. Something in which you are an expert.
Here’s three examples where I might claim expertise, but I would be wrong.
- I’ve painted a lot of rooms, and I now have a good proficiency in interior painting. Not an expert though, and certainly not quick. But I can do it.
- I used to change the oil on my cars, change the points and rotor (no one does that anymore), and have even done a brake job. But I am not an automotive expert.
- I’ve raised three kids, but I’m not an expert in raising children. Just those three (and they might not agree).
So think about the core of what you are an expert in. What are the 2-3 things that you know you could hold your own on, even if another expert entered the room? Then go change your LinkedIn profile to reflect it. I think you’ll find it will earn you more respect.
Disclaimer: I’m not a recruiter or a search expert, and I know there is a lot of emphasis on search terms and branding. There is a lot of good advice on how to maximize your appearance in searches, and what I am suggesting is probably contrary. This is a good example of where I am NOT an expert. I’m just saying that when the list of topics of expertise gets longer, my interest wanes, not piques.