Communicating Expertise and Brand

Once you've held a position long enough, you'll develop a level of expertise.  Malcolm Gladwell suggests that it takes about 10,000 hours to become an expert, or in his words a "phenom," or someone who delivers beyond typical expertise.

(After many years in a position, if you haven't developed expertise, I'd venture to say that you're in the wrong job)

This leads me to share a story of a recent client who wrote:

Hi Stephanie,

I had some feedback on my LinkedIn summary today that was less than complementary (sic). I was told:

The definition of an out-of-the-box creative, (I would reword this, as it sounds cocky)

Do you think there is another way of putting this?


Now, before I tell you how I responded and how this question played out, you need to know that this client is beyond an expert: he is a phenom. One of those people who is in the right job, using innate talents augmented by educational credentials and hands-on experience who over-exceeds expectations.

His accomplishments are in the remarkable if not legendary category. I wish I could give you details, but because of client confidentiality I cannot. Truly, he is outstanding in his field. And yet ...

He needs help landing a job. I'd say that the main reason he needs help is because he wasn't ready to "own" his awesomeness! He was hiding behind mediocrity to a degree, bringing his work down to a more common denominator.

Here's my response:

My question is - how do you feel about this? If you can stand behind it and feel that that is you, you likely don't need to change it.

I certainly don't mind changing, just want to make sure that you need to change it. One person's opinion is just that, one opinion!

Here are some alternatives;

- "Out of the box" solutions are my forte
- Known for arriving at solutions that escape others,
- Having developed a solid reputation for innovation

Do any of these resonate with you?

Our conversation went on a bit, and I presented the idea that when a company who needs a strong innovator, a company that is truly ready for change, reads his summary, that company will appreciate the language and reach out to him.

On reflection, he said that he is ready to embrace his value, and he doesn't feel that the orginal version overstates his abilities.

Disclaimer: To protect my client's privacy, I changed the actual phrase used in his LinkedIn. The phrase above is not as elegant as the one used in his summary, but it serves the purpose!