Perhaps you have tried it a time or two—passing yourself off as an expert and then rushing to become one. Maybe you padded your resume or job application by slightly overstating your technical expertise or your presentation skills. When your boss asked you to fix a problem or fill in for a speaking engagement, you had to work fast to become as proficient as you had led her to believe you were. In the worst case scenario, you had no choice to but to admit your limitations and face the consequences.
There are many self-proclaimed experts in the business world, but they abound in other areas as well. There are life coaches, personal trainers, yoga instructors, financial advisers, event planners, tutors, and others who are self-taught and who lack any formal training or certifications. Some of these individuals may be talented and knowledgeable, but some will not be. Taking their advice may lead to more problems than progress.
With social media, it is easy to present a troubling situation to your circle of friends and ask for their input. It is then tempting to take the consensus opinion and act on that. The problem is that most of your friends may be no more expert in that topic area than you are. No matter how many opinions you gather, opinion does not equate to expertise.
If you are having a serious problem—a problem with your finances, your health or your mental health—seek a qualified professional for advice. These individuals should be licensed and credentialed. Check their background online. Check state licensing boards and consumer groups to see if they have any lawsuits or formal complaints pending against them. Check to see which institutions they are affiliated with, and who else is in the medical practice or financial group. This is simply due diligence. It is a prudent and careful way to move forward in finding needed assistance for a serious problem.
We often ask friends and colleagues to weigh in when we are trying to make a decision. Asking your office mate how they like a certain car, or checking with a coworker about a vacation experience or venue makes sense. Asking them if they think a mole looks suspicious or if a stock purchase is risky makes no sense at all.
The next time a friend asks you for advice, take a moment to decide if you actually have any expertise in the subject area. If you don’t, say so. You shouldn’t pad your opinion anymore than you should pad your resume.