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What Makes You the Expert?
By: Tom Roarty
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In pretty much any field, there always seems to be an outcry for “experts.” Coming from a creative background, this also holds true, especially when it comes to designing for emerging technologies. In the past year, however, I have heard the word "expert" used more than any other time before, which leads one to ask, "What constitutes expert stature in the design world?"
 
As basic as the question is, there really does not seem to be anyone who actually knows the answer. Some define expert as someone with “X” amount of years experience, some base it on a portfolio comprising only one discipline, and some define it as a person's knowledge of a specific subject. I guess this is because either employers are just trying to figure out new ways to weed out candidates or there are actually no experts in deciding these things. So when applying for a job requesting an expert in a particular area, how should it be approached?
 
I believe the key is to start with confidence in your abilities. If an advertising position requires you to be an expert in Photoshop, ask yourself if you've been using the program long. Can you do anything that is asked of you? If you have the luxury of seeing the client's work, could you recreate it in a timely fashion? What may be the most important question in deciding on your proficiency level is, "Do you keep up with the latest tips, tricks and updates?" If the answer is yes, then it would probably be safe to call yourself an expert! Once you've established that you are an expert, sell yourself on the fact because if you are not confident in your abilities when selling yourself, potential employers will see it before you even open your portfolio, which could end your run for the next great position before it even starts. However, once you build your confidence up, there is still the small detail of backing up your status with your work.
 
If a job is for something as specific as, let's say, luxury products, be sure to have a portfolio based on strictly luxury if given the opportunity to present to a potential employer. By mixing in non-luxury samples, you are diluting your expert status in the specified field. Give the client exactly what they are asking for in their job posting and nothing more. It does make sense, though, to have additional samples on hand, just in case a reference to a previous employer (not related to their industry) is made.
 
In essence, a good designer should be able to design for anything. There is no one industry that defines the laws of space and color, the two attributes in which creative talents come from, but when faced with the word “expert," for the best results show only what is asked for and talk specifically about your skills in that area. Once you are hired for a new position, there will be plenty of time to show off your other talents, and in today's economy you can be sure they will be utilized!


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