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Proof is in the paper?

Credentials, Degrees and Certifications.

In certain circles they can seem like everything. They are meant to be identifiers. They are meant to separate those who have done “the work” from those who haven’t. A college degree certifies you paid [likely] a lot of money to receive a higher education; whether or not that education is relevant to your life or career is not indicated. A certified plumber or accountant indicates that you knew the “required” knowledge at the time of the certification and you continue to satisfy standards to keep your certificate active. Then, at least with people I know, certificates became the thing at work. They helped you show you were pursuing growth outside of your “day job.” They attempted to prove you had some level of skill, to put some oomph behind your claim so-to-speak.


Oh, how I drank/drink that koolaid. I got the bachelor’s degree, the master’s and my CPA. I pursued a certificate in Data Analytics. When I left corporate, I enrolled in coaches training program to earn that certificate and earned my personal trainer certificate. I like pilates, so I’m also pursuing a certificate in that. (Truth be told, that last one is a bit different; I saw the course as a way to deepen my practice in something I enjoy.)


There is probably a certification for whatever you want to learn. LinkedIn learning offers certificates for a variety of skills. Companies like Coursera and Udemy specialize in offering certificates in a whole host of industries and skills. You can earn a certificate in Microsoft Office, ultra running, copy writing, public speaking, thinking strategically, cooking eclairs, etc. On the one hand, I think it’s amazing that people with so much knowledge are able to profit from sharing their wealth of information. You can literally learn anything from someone! Even if you don’t like to read or don’t learn by reading!


Have you ever said to yourself or someone else that they need X degree/credential/certificate before doing something? If you work in marketing and want to work in finance, have/would you tell yourself you should get some sort of certificate/education before switching? If you find that you are a great public speaker and want to start teaching people, do you think you would pursue some sort of formal learning before officially teaching it? (I’m ignoring those particular specialties where NOT have a credential/certificate could be life threatening: CPR, driving, anything health related, etc.)

I know I have. I want people to trust that I know what I’m doing before they’ve experienced it, so I can definitely get seduced by the pieces of paper. Does my team think I’m a good leader? That can’t possibly be enough, I must prove I’ve been to leadership trainings and earned certificates to back it up. Have I been working out and running for most of my life? That’s not enough for me to offer friendly advice, I must have a certificate so I feel better about dispersing it.

I also generally want to know a fair amount about what I’m doing. I’ll never forget when I joined the roaming team at work. I had no idea the way a cell phone or the networks worked. I had people explain as much as possible to me and I read as many books as I could on mobile networks and cell phones to understand how it all worked together. I did not earn a certificate though…Of course I looked, but there didn’t seem to be one for what I was trying to learn or prove I’d learned.


What are we most interested in when we interview candidates or review resumes? Do we give more value to credentials/degrees/certificates? I know when I interviewed candidates or reviewed resumes, I wasn’t super impressed by certificates or credentials or degrees. Of course, they could be an indicator of knowledge and they may indicate the person was worth a conversation. I was most interested in their actual work responsibilities, capabilities, and potential. Has this person had to learn different things? Is there an indication this person is flexible, creative and adaptable? Can this person operate in the gray? Is this a person interested in finding the most efficient and effective ways to do things? Will this person work well with our team and business partners?


Is the proof in the paper? Should it be? When it comes to yourself, where is the line between accumulated knowledge and official paper? Are you pursuing that official paper for yourself, for your own knowledge, to prove to yourself you can measure up to others? Are you holding yourself back from pursuing something until you have that piece of paper? Is that necessary? Are you holding others back until they have an official piece of paper? If you are looking for some official paper, what are you REALLY looking for? Is that the best way to find it?

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