I have been thinking about this post for quite some time now. I was waiting for something to spark me to write it and for the right words. Thanks to an insightful post from Liz Gross (@lizgross144) yesterday about expertise without experience, I have the motivation to share my thoughts.
In the fall semester, I was approached by the leadership within our Division of Student Affairs asking me to coordinate all social media and communications efforts for our division. This would be an additional job responsibility, a promotion of sorts. While I was honored, I was overwhelmed. I knew what this would mean to my time and energy, but was thrilled for the opportunity. However, I could not help but feel embarrassed. I, by no means, considered myself to be an expert in this area. I had no formal training, aside from the hours I spend researching, reading, and at presentations and conferences. Sure, I had been presenting about Social Media and had been managing several personal and departmental Social Media for years, but there were many others who I considered to be experts and I could not just put myself in that category with them.
One of those experts for me is Ed Cabellon (@edcabellon). Anything you need to know about Social Media in Student Affairs, you can find on his blog. I have used it as a personal resource and as a shared resource at my institution. He is an expert. In a conversation I had with Ed this fall about all of my feelings associated with this new responsibility, he said something to me that has stuck since: “You are the expert on your campus.” Reflecting on that conversation, I now realize how it ignited this new found confidence in me. I may not consider myself to be a Social Media expert at the level of those whom I consider experts, but I have the expertise on my campus. Others can benefit from the knowledge I have acquired over the last few years. This confidence inspired and motivated me to present to groups on campus and to fully embrace my new role.
Liz’s post yesterday about dubbing yourself an expert or guru resonated with me. Expertise is earned, not self-proclaimed. The flip side of this is accepting and embracing the role once it is “given” to you. I receive phone calls, emails and meeting requests daily from students, faculty, staff and departments to consult on the Social Media strategy, tech tips, and useful tools amongst other things. I feel that the job of an expert is to not control the information for personal growth and power, but to share the information and empower others to use it. I always jokingly open my presentations on Social Media with the following: “I have not technical training or coursework in this area and by no means am an expert. I simply like to read, play around and press buttons. In essence, I am an exceptional Google searcher.” I hope this shows folks that what I am teaching them can be self-taught with the right tools, time and dedication.
I have some final thoughts to offer the many, I assume, who are placed in my position of being dubbed an expert on any topic, but feel they don’t live up to such a title:
- If others come to you for your expertise, embrace it.
- Know your limitations. People will expect you to have all the answers. It is OK to say you do not know and to offer some additional resources who might be of help.
- Never stop reading and learning. No area in Student Affairs is static and without growth. Being an “expert” comes with an inherent duty and expectation of being current and up to date with the latest trends, research and best practices.
- Share your information and empower others.
Are you called on for your expertise on your campus? Do you embrace it? If so, how?