Don’t Mistake Credentials for Intelligence!

I was the first person in my family to graduate from college. I was the first person in my family to obtain a master’s degree. I continue to have the grammatical skills of a middle schooler!

My parents are “real” people and have “real” conversations. My family has reached high levels of what most people would call successful. My Mom and Dad didn’t go to college, but both I would consider being very intelligent. They “get it” at a very high level, but one of their biggest strengths was never assuming someone was smart or dumb based on a credential.

This fact allowed them, in their careers, to speak to anyone on an equal footing. The guy swinging a hammer, or the woman running the billion-dollar company, both started on the same level in my parent’s eyes. Both the hammer guy and female CEO have great knowledge, although most likely different knowledge, to share and learn from. Depending upon the specific time, each brought high value to the interaction that was being had.

I get told all the time, “oh, you are just like your mother”, and I see why people make that comparison. I also believe I’m very much like my father, in that both of my parents feel very comfortable fitting into almost any situation. Because they don’t measure a person’s value based on their credentials or the size of the bank account, but on the value, that person brings overall to the interaction that they are having in that exact moment.

At the same time, I’m very pro-credential!

I married a woman who has her master’s degree. My oldest son, at 24, already has his master’s degree, my middle son has his bachelor’s and I’m sure eventually something beyond that, and my youngest son will attend university very soon. So, if credentials don’t equate to intelligence, why did I push my own children to obtain said credentials?

Just because a credential doesn’t equate to intelligence, doesn’t mean that most people don’t make this mistake as a first impression! Also, we are still in a society that overvalues a credential for the most part when it comes to getting jobs and promotions. So, you set your kids up the best you can with the hope this will assist them in being successful.

The real challenge is to get them to understand that just because you are educated, doesn’t mean you’re smart! To have that super valuable skill my parents have! That I hope I have some of! To truly value those around you without the credential that many times have so much more to offer you than you have to offer them.

I believe the best leaders in the world have this skill. The ability to look at each individual and know they probably possess all kinds of strengths that I don’t have, regardless of pay grade or formal education, and to treat them accordingly. It seems like an easy concept, but every day I see examples of highly credentialed people looking down on those less credentialed than themselves.

It goes both ways, we all judge…

I also understand that this type of judgment goes both ways. I have many friends and family who are blue-collar and tend to think less of those who are credentialed for the simple fact they view these people as less hardworking. Sure, they might not get dirty and sweat on a daily basis, but it doesn’t mean they don’t work their butts off.

Covey has the classic line, “Seek first to understand”. You swing a hammer, I try to sell the project that allows you to swing a hammer. Without each of us, business does not happen. One is not more important than the other, and both are keenly needed for success. If more of us understand this very simple concept, the world would be a much more civil place to live in.

1 thought on “Don’t Mistake Credentials for Intelligence!

  1. Amen Tim! Have to be careful who and how you say this to others, as I recently learned. I mistakenly told an employee her job didn’t need a degree. She was horribly offended, as she does have a bachelors and is also intelligent. I tried to explain my job doesn’t need one either. Really only a select few professions NEED a degree or certification to perform their job. My job, like hers, both require good-to-high IQ and EQ, detail orientation (lots of spreadsheets and audits), big picture thinking, and ability to work with multiple departments to get the job done. BUT, both of our jobs could be done by someone who has all the qualities and drive, without a higher ed degree. Lesson learned! I agree with you, the hammer person and the sales person both need each other to succeed and I too wish more thought this way. Happy Friday!

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