Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Come on....Letters After Your Name. Are You Serious?

I am fairly certain that little Johnny's parents didn't proudly announce to the world that here is our new baby boy John Smith Esq.. Nor do I think that Amy Wright's grandmother tells the ladies at bridge that their sons absolutely need to meet her granddaughter Amy Wright PhD.. But this trend of putting impressive indicators of one's higher education or professional certification seems to be running rampant. It leaves me wondering if our society has become so myopic that we wouldn't want to meet, connect or even hear someone speak without some level of indication that they are better than us somehow. The letters or string of certification indicators after a name seems to bark ego and I for one don't get it.

I recently received an invitation to a local business function where the speaker was simply advertised as George Jefferson, PhD.. It was advertised with such emphasis on this man being a PhD that what he was speaking about was actually lost in translation. It left me feeling as if I should be so lucky to see the incredible George Jefferson PhD what with me being just a mere mortal and all. Needless to say I didn't plop down my thirty-five bucks to see the PhD and I am certain it was my loss.

I know my comments may offend some of you and that is not my intention. I am quite certain if I achieved a level of certification or educational importance I would be quite proud of it myself. I just wonder however, how many people one might be intimidating with the very in your face public display of professional or academic achievement.

Case and point, I have a good friend that for a while has somewhat been fascinated with a particular person in my local business community. He believes this person would be able to accelerate his learning curve a great deal for his job given this individual's professional standing in their industry. Recently over coffee I suggested my friend just pick up the phone and honor this individual by saying he would like to meet him because he is someone my friend really respects and he would like to learn from him. My friend shrunk back in his seat and said he couldn't do it...the guy was too important and, this is no lie, sited the letters after his name as some indication of their social class difference.

Hogwash! I am quite certain this particular individual is not a God in his profession and that he very well could learn something from my friend who is brilliant in so many ways. But I've seen this man's card and he has more letters after his name then Starbucks has combinations for their drinks. I could see at first why my friend would possibly be intimidated. Then the more I thought about it the more I wondered what the letters might mean to the man carrying them in terms of lost opportunities for himself. Opportunities he doesn't even realize he is missing out on because he is intimidating people which his self-promoted importance.

I don't believe the letters define you and perhaps in certain circles those letters mean a great a deal and have practical application. But if you are business coach trying to drum up business at your local chamber of commerce, no one gives a rat's you know what if you are a CSP, CES, ICP, CPC or whatever...they just want to know you as George or Jane. The impressive title or long string of letters following your name is not what defines who you are and what you might bring to my personal or professional life; you do. But we may never get the chance to explore that if you shove a card in my face that makes me, a mere uncertified, unsanctioned, unannointed mere mortal feel intimidated. Just go with the card that says, Shelia Waters, Executive Coach.

I don't do business with my attorney because he is John Tarbox Esq.. In fact I have no idea if he is an Esq. or not and I don't care. I do business with John because he is John and that's how I met him and how I got to know him. But bet your bottom dollar I wouldn't refer him if he pontificated that he was an Esq. because my peeps don't role with that.

But hey....this is only an opinion and I hope no one minds me sharing my rant too much. It's just something that bugs me and if I can't share it with you then who can I share it with? And to be completely fair I give medical doctors a pass on this rant. It's always good to know who might stop the bleeding and fix you up after you do something stupid!

On second thought, perhaps maybe I should start going around calling myself Steve Harper, P.R.C.E. (Professional Ripple Connector Extraordinaire). Nah.....just call me Steve....or maybe Ripple Man!!!

Ripple On!!!


Lorie said...

Hi Steve, well, as with anything in life, it's all about intention. Is someone putting those letters after their name because they are insecure or they feel the need to belittle others? Or are they doing it because it's an important fact about where they stand in their industry? I just got some letters. I am a "CPO," Certified Professional Organizer. It is kind of a big deal, since only about 5% of people in my industry have earned this... and to even qualify to take the exam was hard. So, it is truly a big differentiator and something that I think people should know if they are considering working with me. The difference is that I am not putting CPO next to my name when I am signing a guest book at a wedding or signing my checks, etc. There is a time & place for this and I do think it's appropriate. Anyway, good topic!

- Lorie Marrero

PRINCE RAHMAN, msole said...

I just got a little zinged by this one!

But in a good way.

You make a damn good point my friend. You're pointing out the thread of exclusivity that runs through our culture... many times to the point of being detrimental.

Lorie has good points, too. Particularly in regards to a target audience needing to know the qualifications of a service provider.

In my case, I'm still reeling in joy that I went from being someone who believed he could never accomplish a particular endeavor to becoming someone who exceeded his own expectations. So there's that reason for having a four letters at the end of my name in some spots.

The bigger reason is the fact that I love and treasure St. Edward's University and am forever grateful for the experiences I had there. Most importantly, I am very proud of the program (and its staff) in which I learned and grew so very much. It is an amazing program and I want it to receive the recognition it so richly deserves.

To sum up, I have "MSOLE" on my business card, brochure, etc to get people to ask questions and learn more about an outstanding program that exists here in Austin.

Chris said...

Steve, there are a few other angles to explore here.

1...would you use an accountant who is a CPA or not a CPA? Would you want to make sure that your lawyer is a JD or would that matter? You give the MDs an out so I'm going to assume you're not completely anti-title. Whether we like it or not, those letters do mean something when it comes to communicating our expertise. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater just because Dr. Jefferson is a slightly pompous windbag.

2...and probably more to the point of your post...and similar to the other work your tail off for a MS, Ph.D., MSOLE, CPO, etc. and there's a certain pride that does come into play. How you express that says a lot about who you are. Perhaps Mr Jefferson was full of himself before he assumed the title of Dr.

Steve Harper said...

Lorie, Prince and Chris all great comments. I love it! I completely agree that there is a time and place for the distinction.

Congrats Lorie for the CPO certification! Prince I know you are proud of what you have accomplished and know you don't wear MSOL as a badge of ego. Chris no babies were thrown out with this post and I totally get what you are saying.

Thanks again everyone for their contribution to this ongoing discussion.

Ripple On!!!


Tom Magness said...

Ripple Dude -

Interesting discussion. I put my letters before my name (COL...or Colonel). Ha!

For the military, it is an important indicator of where we are in our respective industry! We wouldn't get much done without it! Hooah!

Thomas Magness IV
(my credentials after my name come from my Dad...Ha!)

Steve Harper said...


You got me on that one. As always you give me good things to think about.

Thanks for all that you do Colonel Magness IV!

Ripple On!!!


Martin Lindsey. said...

Ripple Man! That belongs on a t-shirt with a sales button on your site. O.K. Steve, that's the only money maker I'm giving you for free. All future brain storms are fee based. You owe me one back in the meantime...LOL!.

I'll reiterate some of the pro-positions. Most of those prefixes and suffixes are industry specific and are important to peers and superiors. Others are indications of expertise that potential customers might come to look for as indications of the best -of-the-best. In that way the letters are good for perception.

Other than those points my mother always said anyone who worked for their letters deserved the respect to be addressed by them if that was the custom. So that's how I see it.


Future MS and maybe PhD down the road after I've made some nice dough with the MS for a few years (cheese).