What is an expert?

During our working lives, almost by default, we look at the long tenured staff members in our organisations with reverence. We see them as professionals to look up to, fountains of knowledge and information, given the years of service. Quite rightly so. In that time, they must have learned a fair amount about the industry in which they operate. But surely having 10, 15, 20 years of experience in an industry doesn’t constitute immediate ‘expert status’?

In my opinion, it’s the breadth of experience you have in your chosen skill-set that will differentiate you. Let’s take the recruitment industry for example. Recruitment isn’t the type of industry that has one clear cut way to do things that’s considered “correct” and does not follow a specific formula or set of rules. Success in recruitment will come from tackling a range of recruitment challenges in your career and the way in which you handle them, along with the experience you gain from them. The length of time in an industry can of course ensure a certain depth of knowledge in one or a number of things and in my opinion, I would put a higher value in less depth of knowledge of 10 recruitment challenges learned over 20 years, than 20 years of experience facing one recruitment challenge.

It’s the age old “1 year of experience 10 ways, or 10 years of experience 1 way” adage. I believe the most successful recruiters who can legitimately call themselves experts fall into the “1 year of experience 10 ways” group. We operate in an industry where our skill-set is not an exact science. It will be our adaptability and ability to be agile in our approach when grasping the intricacies of any given talent acquisition problem, (whether it’s internal or agency, large enterprise or SME, volume or not etc.) and offering expertise on efficient and effective ways to manage it based on previous experience, that will genuinely ensure the worthiness of the reverence you will receive.

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