Our professional world has experienced a proliferation of acronyms to distinguish an individual’s qualifications. It used to be there were only a few: MBA, MD, PhD, Esq., CPA. Those were the really relevant ones.
Now, every time I get an email I’m introduced to a whole new kind of alphabet soup. CIPP, CFP, CCC, IDFK, MSU, LIE. There are so many that even Google can’t keep up with it. Folks can get credentialed for anything these days.
News flash: I don’t care. I really don’t. The letters don’t mean anything at all to me. They don’t impress. And to be clear – you shouldn’t give a crap about my degrees or certifications. These “certifications” aren’t helpful in and of themselves. They don’t clarify. All they do is annoy the pixels on my screen that have to light up to display the letters. On the flip side, there are things I find much more important.
As usual, let me tell you a story. One time, in band camp… wait… focus.
A headhunter called me about a sweet role at a technology company. Great company. Great role. I shot him a copy of my resume.
“Hey Mike, I got your resume but you must have sent a working draft accidentally.”
“Oh. Sorry. What’s wrong?”
“It’s missing some of your educational background. Your MBA isn’t listed on here.”
“Yeah. Probably because I don’t have one.”
“I don’t have my MBA. I hope Snarky Software, Inc. will be more interested in my accomplishments and what I’ve delivered moreso than a piece of paper I received by attending class and doing homework.”
Apparently they weren’t. The headhunter called back a few days later and recounted a story of how bitterly divided the company was about bringing me in. Some folks strongly supported interviewing me despite my “deficient” educational background (the headhunter actually used that word verbatim – he didn’t have his CTH degree – Certified Tactful Headhunter). Others at the company demanded only to see candidates with an MBA. In the end, they declined my candidacy.
“No problem.” I told the headhunter. “If a company places that much value on a piece of paper on a wall and can’t see past that to evaluate real world impact and accomplishments, I probably wouldn’t be happy working there.” (Footnote – said company later ended up conducting mass layoffs and almost imploded).
After that near-interview, I went on to have a great time and learn a ton at several world-class organizations. I worked with some amazing teams and we delivered a lot of bottom-line impact. I have no regrets whatsoever that that interview didn’t work out.
I learned a lot from that experience. The most important lesson for me was that it doesn’t matter what pieces of paper are on a person’s wall. The letters following their name mean they attended classes and seminars somewhere. And sure, that took a lot of effort to earn those pieces of paper and letters. The really important thing is WHAT HAVE THEY DONE WITH WHAT THEY’VE LEARNED?
If the answer to the above question is “not much” then I don’t want them on my team nor do I want to be a member of theirs. Business isn’t about letters and papers and prestige – it’s about IMPACT.
Me? I’m hiring for impact. I could care less if they have a degree or certification as long as they can get the job done and do so in an ethical and distinctive manner. If they can do that, that’s all that matters. They might be called “Doctor” but I’m more interested in if it’s Dr. Doolittle or Dr. Einstein. Having the letters without the substance is the business equivalent of being Milli Vanilli.
Look past the letters and see the person. See their capabilities for what they are before you judge them for what is or isn’t hanging on their wall. Correspondingly, if you’re out there hanging your hat on the letters after your name, ask yourself how those letters have helped you contribute to the improvement of your organization. Once you can articulate “I have XYZ degree and by using it I delivered A, B, and C improvements” you’ll be in a much better position to land that job you’re interested in.
As a post-script: If you’re really interested in building your own skills and truly having impact in your organization, I encourage you to attend our upcoming free webinar on Universal Business Skills. It will be well worth your time.
– Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC