Credentialing vs. Competence

Do credentials necessarily connote competence?

How do you know?

Our culture has a complicated relationship with credentials and the institutions that grant them. On some level, we need them: nobody wants a self-qualified surgeon or airline pilot. On another level, we resent them: why should some self-important elites tell us what to do? And, on so many levels, we sell them: if you want to get ahead, you need to do what we did to get where we are.

If you’re in the business of granting credentials — and especially if you can hear the hoofbeats of price competition, digital learning, and changing customer preferences (both among credential-seekers and those seeking the credentialed) — it’s worth thinking hard and creatively about what competencies you’re instilling, how you’re doing that, and how you’re demonstrating that.

And if you’re currently seeking a credential (or soon might be), it’s worth thinking as creatively as you can about what competencies you’re building, and how, and how you’re going to talk about them.

If you’re assuming that holding the same credential your role models got 30 years ago will work the same way now, you’re probably accepting a lot of risk. Taking a few years to level up isn’t necessarily a bad idea — the trick is ensuring it means what you want it to mean.