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November 11, 2009

On being an expert: A tricky but important identity

(photo courtesy of Merle Pace)

Earlier this week, I participated with 14 other women entrepreneurs in an incredibly valuable workshop called 'Write to Change the World' put on by The OpEd Project and facilitated by Katie Orenstein and Marci Alboher.

The program aims to "to expand public debate, with an immediate emphasis on enlarging the pool of women experts who are accessing (and accessible to) our nation's key print and online forums—which are a gateway into public debate, feed all other media, and are a hub of thought leadership."

The first interactive exercise, designed by the founder of the organization, Katie Orenstein sounded easy...at first.

Katie simply asked us each to state the following in less than a minute:

Hi, I'm (name)
I'm an expert in _________________
Because _______________________

Most of the women in the room struggled with the exercise. In part, because there was a feeling of discomfort in owning the "expert" title.

Many of us brought a sense of humbleness to the exercise and watered down our answer - not wanting to feel like a braggart - not wanting to project a false image. Many of us were not even sure we had the right to define ourselves as an expert.

This led us to a great discussion about what defines an expert. Academic credentials? Personal experience? Professional work experience? Number of clients? Brand name? Third party endorsements? Media accolades and appearances? All of the above?

It was striking to me was that this conversation was occurring as I was sitting around the table with experienced business owners who are not only talented but also clearly experts in their field, and well sought after ones at that.

The exercise helped each of articulate our expertise and understanding how valuable it was to ourselves and our businesses to own the expert identity.

Because, Katie asked us to both spread the word and share our experience, I strongly encourage you to try this exercise!

See if you can craft your response in a manner that is big and genuine and comfortable. For the purposes of this exercise, clear your head of your finely-tuned 15 second pitch (that is a useful, but different tool). Stick to the guidelines. Then own it, and most importantly use it!

-posted by Amy Abrams

1 comment:

Darcey Howard said...

This is a great post! In what I do I ask my clients (mostly women) to identify with their "Inner Amazing" - those strength and personality traits that they want present in their personal style/wardrobe. This question never fails to stump 90% of the women i work with. Why? Why aren't we able to own what makes us amazing? I also think that passion plays a role in being and expert. Your credentials may be in order but are you passionate beyond imaginable about something?