Beating the Drum on Credentials


Beating the Drum

The Illusions of Credentials

By Beverly Blanchard
True North Perspective
Beverly Blanchard is an Ojibway First Nation from Northern Ontario.  She holds a degree in Economics. During the last twenty-two years, she has worked as a consultant to First Nation and Inuit organizations in a variety of disciplines including: homelessness, suicide prevention, violence prevention, childcare, HIV/AIDS, women’s issues, business planning, and economic development. She has also designed and delivered Aboriginal awareness and stress management workshops to Federal government employees. Currently, Ms Blanchard is a life strategy coach, author and energy healer in Ottawa.

It is amazing how much respect we are taught to garner to people who have certificates on the wall and letters beside their name. ‘They have the credentials to the job,’ we say. ‘They know what they are talking about. Just look at all the degree on the wall.’ Do they really?

Our society is replete with individuals who are looked at as experts because they have gotten some degree or accreditation. Yet put them in the real world and all those credentials are meaningless. They have no common sense or street smarts. Everything they know comes from a book, and many can’t deviate or think outside the box.

Case in point is the number of people who have the letters MBA after their name. Those three little letters we were told meant that a person knew how to manage an organization or grow a business. They were the experts in business. So in the 1990s, schools everywhere were offering the designation. Heck you could even get it online in the comfort of your own home. Yet, what they discovered was that most MBA graduates knew the theory, however they couldn’t make a decision even if their life depended on it. The MBA graduate spent most of their time analyzing the situation, and creating lovely but useless mission statements and mandates.  

Over the course of the last ten years, there has been rise in the number educational institutions, associations and organizations who offer courses which will certify you as an expert in a multitude of fields. You can become certified to write proposals, run a focus group, and mentor someone...there is an endless list of certificates you can hang on the wall. All will provide you with a few letters to put after your name so you can inform prospective employers that you are now certified to do the task at hand. Of course, there is a tuition fee charged for all this accreditation and I suspect that most of these organizations and associations are on some form of cost recovery system. 

Years ago experience was seen as an indicator of an individual’s ability to do a job. Now we are lost in a world of accreditation and certificates. Experience is no longer seen as valuable. In some work situations, experience is not even seen as incremental. In today’s world of work, there are some employers who will only look at your last four years of employment. The work experience before those four years is immaterial, and has no relevancy as to whether you can do the job.

Now there will be those who read this article and will immediately think that I am against a higher education. I am not. What I am saying is we are placing too much emphasis on book learning and neglecting how much one learns through experience. In my opinion, wisdom is much more valuable than all the degrees on a wall.

There is a commercial on the radio that pretty well sums how we give away our intelligence to these so-called accredited experts.

In the commercial, the husband has signed a contact with another energy company and the wife is admonishing him for his stupidity.

There seems to be a plethora of commercials and movies that want to bash the intelligence of men but that is a subject for another day.  Anyway the husband’s responds in a whiny voice that is really rather irritating, ‘but he had a clipboard’. Yes, it was a clipboard that made this salesperson accredited.

Unfortunately, the commercial pretty well sums up our world’s infatuation with credentials even if it is a clipboard.

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