Tag Archives: Education

The problem with credentials

The problem with credentials

Most of us learned that degrees are good things; that having a degree was the key to a good job, security and a high salary.

Older generations came to believe this because they looked around and noticed that the people above them—the managers, the politicians, and professionals — all had an “education.”

Therefore the path to a better life was through education.  Duuhh.

But credentials, the degrees and experience, may be a poor proxy for what we want to assess—whether a candidate is a good fit and can flourish in a new role.  Here are four reasons why:

1) Everybody and their sister has a degree

Degrees were a rare thing.  Very few could get one and like all rare things, they were worth more in the marketplace because a degree demonstrated intelligence and a capacity to work hard.  For decades the magic formula worked: degree equal good job, good career and higher pay.

But now a university education is available to most, and degrees by themselves no longer signify any exceptional intelligence, diligence or potential in a candidate.  Undergraduate degrees are fast becoming the new high school diploma; you’re expected to have one.

2) People will do anything to get a degree.

Many degree holders weren’t pursuing the education so much as the degree and simply crammed their way through college.  Their degrees don’t tell you that they forgot 90% of what was on their exams within three months after taking them.

But at least they didn’t cheat.  Many others become members of the credentialed class by buying papers and even entire degrees.

There is a huge industry on plagiarism and cheating in North America, and possibly all over the world. Just Google “essay” and see how many services exist to write essays and papers that students hand in as their original work.

And many higher education institutions are happy to co-operate, even participate in the cheating so they can continue to sell their product—degrees.

3) We produce credentialed graduates that can’t do anything

As a consequence, every year we produce thousands of credentialed managers and place them into highly compensated positions to discover they are unable to cope with the expectations of their employers, and employees.

Lucky for them, the corporate structure is already highly dysfunctional (yet strangely profitable), and many keep their jobs by keeping their heads down and by following the rules.  Many hide behind titles, wielding their positions of authority like children with toy clubs doing irreparable damage to the human beings in their employ while holding their organizations back.

In the 20th century, they could do this for their entire careers, but not so much any more.

Fierce competition weeds out most of the credentialed low-contributors, except in those marketplaces shielded from competition like the public service where the credentialed incompetent still thrive.

4) We make life a Groundhog day for the “educated” unemployed

Question: What’s the easiest way for an unemployed person to regain their past income, status and job security?

Answer: By applying for the same type of job, position and salary that they had before.

By focussing us on credentials, our teachers unwittingly set us up for this.

Employers look for experience doing whatever you’re applying for. Resumes highlight what you’ve done, not  what you can do.   Changing jobs and careers is not considered a good thing.

We want long periods doing the same thing, we want predictability; we don’t want movers and shakers.

Not really.

And so our teachers have set us up to live our own version of Groundhog day, reliving the same or slight variations of our past job experiences, either in a different company with different Dilbert characters, or worse, in the same company for our entire working life.

The credentials antidote

The solution to the “credentials” problem is to start looking beyond them, for different and perhaps more subtle credentials.  Look for changing careers, volunteerism, adventurism, and signs of practicing education i.e. frequent updates to their knowledge.

Don’t be too impressed by PhDs, MBAs etc., even if they are from ivy league schools.  Look for signs of willingness; willingness to learn, grow, adapt to change and most of all, look for willingness to help.

Here’s how one smart HR professional is not being fooled by the best credentials.

Hacking your education

Hacking your education

Interesting word ‘hack.’  Being ‘hacked’ usually means someone broke into your computer. Being called a ‘hack’ means you’re a fraud or at least unsophisticated, yet many (computer) ‘hackers’ are respected because they are often just brilliant nerds intent on challenge; not on theft and destruction. Sometimes the word means the use of brute or blunt force whereContinue Reading

A Four Year Degree in One?

Getting a degree is still the primary way of becoming “credentialed” in today’s society and universities have responded by designing not only new credentials i.e. degrees that never existed before, but also fast track programs to get you that credential e.g. the one year MBA. Setting aside the worth of such fast track degrees, aContinue ReadingContinue Reading

Bye Bye Encyclopaedia Britanica

Bye Bye Encyclopaedia Britanica

The New York Times today ran an article about the famous Encyclopaedia Britanica (EB) going out of print after 244 years. The realities of 21st century information production and consumption made the offline multi-volume editions quaint and immediately out of date. Also, Wikipedia, the eleven year old upstart in the encyclopaedia business made it necessaryContinue Reading

Bring on the learning revolution

Bring on the learning revolution

How many people do you know that are truly passionate about what they do? Probably not many. I know I hadn’t met anyone truly passionate about their work until I was an adult, and when I did I remember being completely blown away by the very concept of being passionate about your work. So what’sContinue Reading

Steve Jobs on living, loving and learning

Steve Jobs on living, loving and learning

My sister told me about Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement address where Jobs told three stories about his life that bring powerful perspecitve to education, work and life.  The speech is embedded below and here’s my take on those three stories. 1. Education – don’t be a sheep about it I think most people knowContinue Reading

Learning Good, University Bad

That’s an almost quote from Peter Thiel, the Stanford University educated billionaire who started Paypal and went on to invest in other internet successes like YouTube and Facebook. I jazzed it up a little; the actual quote is “Learning is good, credentialing and debt is very bad.”  (Click here for the actual ABC interview withContinue Reading

Redesigning Education with Oprah in mind

One explanation for Oprah’s success is that she provides a missing fundamental to our basic education; she teaches us how to relate to others and ourselves in ways that have us experience more power, joy and love in our lives. Unnecessary suffering Watching Oprah is like being witness to testimony of ruined lives, pain andContinue Reading

And the young shall lead the old

And the young shall lead the old

It used to be that seniority was the basis for advancement; ostensibly because age is expected to confer experience and wisdom. Unfortunately, an honest and sober reality check will reveal that there’s no guarantee that age and seniority equate to greater competence, knowledge or wisdom. Seniority cannot be the basis for advancement Promotion and advancementContinue Reading

“Can’t you see I’m eating?”

Here’s a reportedly true story that both asserts the state of the work ethic in Trinidad and demonstrates the deft use of a sense of humor in a maddening situation. A woman – let’s call her Rachel – went into a public service office on her lunch hour to take care of a pressing matter.Continue Reading

What’s the proof of your education?

Just listened to Diane Ravitch, the Research Prof. at New York University, talk about the perils of the current focus of test scores as the measure of how well America’s children are being educated. Apart from the apparent shennanigans going on around manipulating test scores to meet Government standards, her assessment that the focus onContinue Reading

Neglect continual education at your peril

I once had a teacher who was fond of sharing how he was constantly amused by the arrogance of people who thought that they could compete with him because they had some big degree from some big University; and (he noted) that degree was two or three decades old.  His point being that in today’sContinue Reading