What are You Expert At?

by Trudy on June 21, 2013

I have been noticing something more frequently lately. The rise of “expertise”. Specifically, people who take the time to “add a new skill or expertise” to their profiles on various social media tools.

It got me thinking; what exactly is expertise? And when can we rightfully make the claim of expertise?

I mean, I once knew someone who, with a single observation felt trained enough to label himself an expert! That drove me crazy.

So, I decided to poke around and found out that some clever brothers named Stuart and Hubert Dreyfus proposed that there is actually a series of steps in acquiring a skill:

  • Novice
  • Beginner
  • Competence
  • Proficiency
  • Mastery or expert

Five steps to claim to be an expert? That is going to take a great deal of time I would think.

In fact, Malcolm Gladwell, fueled by research from Anders Ericsson, quantifies the time needed. He suggests that we need to invest 10,000 hours to reach that expert level. That would mean working full time on nothing else for 5-6 years to reach expert by that measure.

And for those of you who think you are smarter than the rest of us, and pick things up quickly, I have something else to consider. Other research indicates that in-born talent is NOT the determinant for expertise; rather experts became expert through motivation, commitment, learning and practicing.

I have a friend who plays for the NHL and he said to me, “There were plenty of guys out there that were naturally more talented to me. But I worked harder than them.” FYI, he just completed his 20th year in the NHL, that’s a lot of hours. He can indisputably label himself an expert.

Funny enough, it is my experience that some of the most learned are the ones who often feel least like an expert (even if an academic spends years studying fruit flies, she does not know it all so she feels she can’t be an expert!)

The bottom line for me, is don’t rush to claims like expertise, even if it is as easy as clicking a button on an app. Save the label for when you really have committed the time, practiced it, learned it, and make it a reward of honour. And a lesson to all of us to question more carefully exactly how someone earned his or her expertise.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: