One is particular caught my attention today, and prompted these thoughts. The owner of the CV, who for the purposes of anonymity and discretion we will call “X” (even though his real name is Gordon Lightfoot of 23 Hancock Mews, London EC3), described himself as an expert no less than 13 times within a 2 page summary of what, on the evidence provided, has indeed been an excellent career so far to date.
This made me ponder.
At what point is someone classed as an “expert”?
Many years ago in a time before social media dominated the digits of the business classes, an expert was once defined to me thus. “ An Ex is a has been, while a spurt is a drip under pressure, ergo why would you wish to be classified as an expert?” A fair point even if it does rely somewhat on phonetics to achieve its chuckle factor.
Applicant X may indeed be an expert in one or more of the areas in which he has spent his working life, rapidly climbing assorted corporate ladders after securing an admirable MBA from an equally admirable educational establishment which we should not name (even though it was Cranfield).
The question remains. When does one cease to be “good” at something, or even excellent, and become an expert? On what scale is expertise measured and is it relative, akin to a half cousin who one meets and nods greetings to only at family weddings, funerals or other sombre occasions?
If it is relative, then relative to what? Let me provide those of you still reading with an example.
I have a good friend (when does a friend become a good friend? Not to be addressed here you will be glad to know) who is a corporate lawyer, working day to day on international corporate acquisitions. He is exceedingly knowledgeable, diligent and an excellent dinner companion. A triumvirate of attributes rarely found in any one person. But is he an expert? He certainly knows more about his field than I do, admittedly not setting the bar (please note deliberate legal connotation) too high. However his peers consult with him, now the standard is on the up. But then comes another of these damn buts, he in turn on certain intricacies consults other lawyers for their opinion.
Therefore is the definition of “an expert” someone who is the Oracle, the pinnacle of a veritable pyramid of increasingly niche or more narrowly defined fields of activity, or are there degrees of expertise along the way which allow a person to lay claim to the adjective and include it on their resume? If so the number of experts listed within a global database of experts could be the subject of some exceedingly clever equation the like of which Stephen Hawking would be needed to determine.
Personally I don’t know. I’m not an expert in these matters.
Before anything that was ever written and published had to be politically correct or sanitized to the point of blandness someone is alleged to have said “In the kingdom of the blind the one-eyed man is king”. Now this is in no way a slight to anyone visually impaired. One of my long standing friends (not a good friend) has a condition that has sadly rendered him near blind over these last 10 years, and though he has coped far better than I expect I would in similar circumstances, his quality of life has suffered along the journey. My empathic credentials affirmed, I will continue.
So is the assessment of expertise determined by those that seek out said expert, or self-determined by those wise folk dispensing their expertise? Be it at preposterously expensive charge out rates (yes, you know who you are) or pro-bono to those in need?
In the words of the song “there are more questions than answers”. Then isn’t that why we write snippets such as this? Perhaps there is an expert out there who can tell us. I do hope so.