knowledge versus credentials, and links

A few links below got me thinking.  I’ve written about this before, but it’s amazing how much our society – particularly corporate society – values credentials, versus knowledge. I have done enough phone interviews with clients to realize that they are far more interested in my credentials than what I actually know.  They want to know that I worked for a Big 4 firm, or have a master’s degree.  Very seldom am I asked about specific technical knowledge.  I can only recall one call, about five years ago, when a client quizzed me on an accounting standard.

That’s fine, of course:  most companies like to use your work history as “shorthand” for knowledge. A certain body of knowledge can be assumed based on the company.  Or can it?  Credentials can be misleading.  I know CPAs who don’t know thing one about taxes, for example, but many people would assume that having “CPA” tagged after your name means you are up-to-date and knowledgeable about taxes.  And I’ve ridden my master’s degree for years, even though it’s a body of knowledge frozen in time in the early 90s; there have been huge changes in the field of accounting since I got my imitation sheepskin.

But until the day comes when someone with no college degree but an impressive volume of self-taught knowledge can get a good white-collar job – or even get in the door for an interview – having a few “good names” on your resume will make a big difference.

Are there Alternatives to College Careers?: Of course there are. I’m always surprised at how dismissive people can be of careers that don’t require a college degree, especially considering the cost of a degree these days (see The Educated Indentured Servant).  But as I said above, even if I worked my way through thousands of hours of self-taught education (books, online resources and even free TV lectures, etc.) on accounting, I doubt I could get in the door for an interview in a corporate accounting department.

The Incredible Value of the Local Library (A Visual Tour) versus Books. If you read both articles, you’ll notice there is a big gap out there between people who love libraries and frequent them often, and those who simply never go to one because so much free information is available online. My suspicion is that the people who value libraries the most are parents of small children. Before I had kids, I had probably been to a library three times in ten years. Nowadays, though, it’s not out of the question for me to go two to three times a week.