Experts, Seekers and Imposters

Am I an expert?

This question has gone through my mind so many times as I continue to look for a new job opportunity. Whether I am updating my resume, rebranding myself or writing an elevator speech, I wonder if saying I’m an expert is going a step too far.

Do I say I’m an expert in nonprofit communications? Have I earned the right to say I have “expertise” in email marketing? Should I change my LinkedIn headline from “Senior Marketing Communications Expert” to something less significant? Above all, am I misrepresenting myself by saying I’m an expert at anything?

Being the word nerd that I am, I decided to look at the definition of the word expert. It reads “a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area.” After reading this a few times, I felt much better about calling myself one.

Here’s why:

  1. I don’t say I am THE EXPERT in marketing and communications. I am saying that I am an expert.
  2. The above definition doesn’t insist that a person must know everything on a particular topic. I think that alone is a huge distinction.
  3. I can quantify my expertise because I have had a successful career in communications for over 20 years.
  4. I have invested time and money in professional development classes, workshops and conferences in order to improve my skills and keep learning as the times change.
  5. I’ve been asked on numerous occasions to speak about different topics under this umbrella. More importantly, the feedback about my breadth of knowledge and how much it has helped others with their own work.

Many of us suffer from what they call “imposter syndrome” or the feeling that despite your obvious success you suffer from feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt that take over the actual proof of your competence. Boy, does that sound familiar!

But before I got too caught up in that way of thinking, I looked up the word imposter on its own. An imposter is “a person who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive others, especially for fraudulent gain.”

I think anyone who has studied and made a career in a certain field can read this definition and feel at ease. With these explanations, we should most definitely not consider ourselves imposters.

So, what happens if we don’t see ourselves as experts or imposters? I think there is one final word we can use to describe ourselves and that is seekers. Seekers are people who want to learn more. They may not be experts yet, but they are not imposters. They are defined by their curiosity and by observing and gaining knowledge so they can one day call themselves experts.

What are your thoughts? Are you an expert or a seeker? Do you suffer from imposter syndrome and if so, how do you deal with it?

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