Bullsh*t Qualifications

I had another post lined up for today, but I got angry so I wrote this instead. Fair Warning.

Bullsh*t Qualifications


  • Entry Level position. 3 to 5 years experience required.
  • Bachelor’s/Master’s Degree Required.
  • 30+, has a job & family.


Bullsh*t Qualifications.

They’re everywhere. Boldfaced lies. Every last one of ’em.

  • You have to do things this way.
  • You have to act this way to succeed.
  • You have to fit into our little box of what we want if you ever want to be something.

Bullsh*t. And you know it.

All of ’em. 

The Purpose Of Qualifications

Qualifications create a framework for busy people to filter through junk. It’s their best guess at what they think might work…maybe.

In the midst of the sea of average, qualifications are used to filter for characteristics. And, because it’s hard to filter for characteristics on their own, people create qualifications that are used as a substitute. It’s hard to figure out if people are honest, trustworthy, respectful, knowledgeable, or even nice, from a glance. It’s much easier to look at their qualifications than their characteristics.

So people use qualifications to make generalizations on average. Think of it this way.

On average, with X qualifications, people have Y characteristic.

  • On average, a person with 3-5 years of experience has already been somewhat trained in a certain environment and is self-aware enough not to do anything embarrassing to the company (hopefully).
  • On average, a person with a bachelor’s degree means they have the basic intelligence & commitment to spend 4 years in school and graduate without dying from alcohol poisoning.
  • On average, a person who’s 30+ has a somewhat stable life under their belt, is heading into the middle of their career and starting to settle into a rhythm for their life.

The Problem with Qualifications

Qualifications are great at widespread generalizations. That’s about it (enjoy the irony of that statement).

Qualifications don’t handle exceptions to the rule. Qualifications don’t do well with outliers. Qualifications can’t even tell you situational effectiveness of a person. They can tell you they passed a certain test, or did a certain activity, but they can’t tell you how a person will react in a situation and they don’t know how to deal with remarkable. Most of all: qualifications are never actually required. They’re also pretty damn boring.

[tweet https://twitter.com/joelrunyon/status/157172434141847553 align=’center’]

You never need to be qualified to do something.


The Rules of Qualifications

Rules matter far less than you think and oftentimes, they don’t matter at all. Qualifications are supposed to level the playing field. They make things “fair”. People with the same qualifications are supposed to be rewarded the same, get the same things and act similarly. Those are the rules. That’s how we know it’s fair. One problem.

Life is not fair.

Read that again. Accept it. Then screw qualifications and break the rules.

Not all rules matter. In fact, most don’t. And if you’re not willing to break some of the rules that don’t matter, you simply don’t care enough. I’m not talking about lying, stealing and cheating. Treat people well and treat them with respect. But don’t be a sheep.

Just because something always has been done a certain way, doesn’t mean it has to stay the same. Just because people say that you have to wait five years to get a promotion doesn’t mean you do. Just because people say that the safest plan is to have one job that can lay you off at a moment’s notice, doesn’t mean it is.

Do something you’re not remotely qualified to do. Figure it out. 

A Real Life Parable

Yesterday, a television casting director contacted me. He asked if I knew anyone who was quitting their job, wanted to sell all of their stuff and move to paradise. He was making a TV pilot and was looking to cast people who were looking to do something similar.

Well, I’ve got 350+ people in a community, plus a bunch of people on twitter and facebook who would probably be interested in doing something along those lines, so I told him I’d put out the word and see if we’d peek anyone’s interest. So I did.

[tweet https://twitter.com/joelrunyon/status/157156687294377986 align=’center’]

I got a massive set of replies from people who were interested. They would LOVE to be on TV and do just that, quit their job, sell their stuff and move to paradise. This was their dream.

I was planning on replying to them all, but there were too many, too quick so I followed it up with a link to more information

[tweet https://twitter.com/joelrunyon/status/157170463561359361 align=’center’]

The tweet linked to the casting director’s site with some of the casting info and “qualifications” (it’s still live if you’d like to apply).

One line in particular read:

The ideal candidate is 30+, has a job and a family that will be impacted by a decision of this magnitude, and has a destination in mind. For the pilot episode, we’re focusing on dream locations in North America and the Caribbean.

Immediately people started dropping like flies. I got a flurry of emails and tweets from people who already opted out,  saying they didn’t qualify because of different “qualifications” on the page.

  • I’m not 30.
  • I don’t have a family.
  • I’m not sure where I want to go.
  • Etc, etc, etc
Bullsh*t. All of it.

The Sin of Pre-disqualification

I’m not really mad at the people that wrote me saying those things. Really, I probably sound pretty angry, and I am, but not at them. The thing that pisses me off about this is that the fatalistic attitude is everywhere. There’s no chance of success, so why even try? I didn’t know a word for this idea, so I made one up (at least I’m pretty sure it doesn’t exist yet).

Pre-disqualification – Rejecting yourself before you even try.

Rejecting yourself because it hurts less than attempting something, anything and potentially getting rejected from someone else (even if there’s a good chance of success).

No one sent in a video and actually got rejected. No one contacted Michael to ask if those requirements were set in stone. They didn’t dig a little deeper to get more information. They just gave up at the first hurdle they could find and threw in the towel as fast as they could.

When that happens, there’s only one question to ask:

Are You Really Going To Let That Stop You?

The thing that pisses me off is that for the longest time I did the exact same thing. I believed the lies. I believed that I could only do something if I was qualified to do it. I believed you had to follow rules that didn’t matter. I believed that I had to fit into a box of what people expected from me, mind my own business and never try to change anything and everything would just be okay, because eventually I’d have qualifications and someone would want to pick me. Someday…maybe…right?

As a result, I pre-disqualified myself from so many things, without even giving it a shot. After all, if no one will pick me, why even try?

  • I’m not a great writer, so why bother writing anything?
  • I’m not very fast, so why would I even attempt Track & Field?
  • I’m nowhere near smart enough for my dream job, so why not take the safe job?
  • I’m not in her league, so why ask her out?
  • I’m from the midwest, so why try to move to the coasts?
  • I’m too skinny, so why try football?
  • I’ve never been a runner, so why start now?
  • I didn’t go to a prestigious enough school, so why try for anything better?
  • I could never run my own business, so why not just work for 40 years for someone else?

You name the qualification. I didn’t have it. So I passed on doing what I wanted without even trying.

I played by the rules that everyone else did and I ended up where everyone else was.

The only thing qualifications are good for are making general statements about large groups of people without identifying individual use cases that lie outside the norm (go ahead, enjoy the irony in this statement).

  • This is why resumes are worthless. They sit in a pile, waiting to get picked. Create an anti-resume instead.
  • This is why a bunch of people are occupying parks around the country hoping to be be picked for jobs in this economy. Instead of a park,  occupy yourself instead.
  • This is why I finally got all the qualifications they said I should get and then sat around waiting to get picked and nothing ever happened.

If you’re waiting to be picked, you’re doing it wrong. 


If you do, you begin to find out what Michael told me in one of our email exchanges – that qualifications don’t really matter (emphasis mine):

 The ideal candidate is still at their current job, yes — but I won’t turn anyone away based on any of the criteria. At this stage of pilot development, the “ideal candidate” changes every ten minutes. =)

You Get Exactly One Life

This image by Colin Wright has been kicking my butt for the last 6 weeks.

You have exactly one life in which to do everything you’ll ever do. Act accordingly. – Colin WrightExile Lifestyle

One Life


You do not get a second chance at this life thing. This isn’t a video game. You do not get to replay for another quarter. You do not get a mulligan. You do not pass GO. You do not collect $200, etc.

Life is too short to let other people make up qualifications based on their life experiences that decide what you can or cannot do with yours.

Qualifications are bullsh*t.

You will never, ever, ever, ever be “qualified” for anything worth doing. Do it anyways.

[tweet https://twitter.com/joelrunyon/status/157172434141847553 align=’center’]


What do you want to do?



[your answer goes here]



Now go do that.

Not qualified? Do it anyways. Seems Impossible? Find a way. Because while it’s easy to blame others and third parties such as standards and qualifications that you might not live up to, the only person who ever truly disqualifies you to do something is yourself.

Never, ever forget that.

Chris Guillebeau wrote about the same topic much more elegantly than I ever could. Read his qualifications then please stop pre-disqualifying yourself from things before you even start. They’re bullsh*t and you know it.

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  1. says

    Awesome stuff, Joel – couldn’t have said it better myself.

    When people turn their nose up when I tell them I never went to university I feel pity for them. Without a degree i’ve published two books, setup a profitable business, jumped out of planes, lived my dream, and am about to spend 10 months travelling the world working from a laptop (a dream of mine for over 2 years). I’m not ‘qualified’ to do any of that, but fuck it – i’m creating my own rules and loving every moment :)

    Really enjoying your blog lately – only heard of it a few weeks ago and it’s spot on for what i’m doing at the moment.

  2. says

    YES! I have a degree, for all the good it’s ever done me. I’ve spent all my time since I graduated alternately working in bars and travelling. A couple of times I tried to pursue more education, before stopping in my tracks and realising that I had no idea what I would use it for anyway. Would anyone hire me with more qualifications? Christ knows. Do I even want to be hired? Er, no, not really. I have a good degree, I could’ve gotten a ‘proper’ job if I’d wanted to. It’s taken me a few years of agonising and trying new things to finally realise that this career path everyone’s trying to lead me down is just not for me. Time to start doing things on my own terms, starting with training for a half-marathon and cutting down my work hours to three days a week. I will probably quit my job in April (after the half-marathon) and try to start making money my own way.

  3. says

    This might just be my favorite impossible blog post ever. Great stuff, Joel.

    I struggled early in my career due to these “qualifications”. I spent far too much time in the wrong position, at the wrong company, with the wrong career goals because I simply didn’t think that I could overcome them.

    Then I, too, called bullshit and found my way out. I realized somewhere along the way that “qualifications” had no link to what really qualified me to kick ass and take names.

    Cheers to doing it anyway!

  4. says

    Joel, you know I’m a big fan of your work, but this is especially on point. I like when you right from your heart like that.

    I see that in people all the time. Hell, I’ve done it myself. Why not go for it, if it’s something you want. What’s the worst that will happen? You’ll get told no? And? Maybe you’ll surprise yourself. Maybe you’ll surprise them. Wow them with who you are and where your dreams might take you. You never know.

  5. Santiago Rial says

    Wow Joel, really well put. I think it all goes back to the comfort zone dilemma. In the Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way”, she explains this moment where an individual is unhappy but KNOWS what’s around him. He’s miserable and bitter but can identify perfectly all the things that causes those feelings. But, in order to feel better, our individual needs to make a shift, change something and take the proverbial leap of faith into the wild unknown. And this can be a very scary thing to do.

    She says that the one true slight chance of real happiness is far more scary than the worst of prisons, just because of that. When you’re miserable, at least your causes have a name and a face. But to be really free and happy, you have to jump without knowing what you’ll find.

    Then again, I believe as she does that that’s kinda the point, isn’t it? Defying ourselves and our boundaries and taking that leap of faith, climbing the hill and finding what’s on the other side. I can’t think of a most epic or breath-taking moment than the one when you’ve challenged yourself and won in more ways than you can imagine.

    Thanks for the post and sorry for the long comment! I do that 😛

  6. yo says

    I’d like to subscribe to your blog on my google reader.

    Unfortunately, i don’t think you qualify.

    Hey, it’s a joke, ok!

  7. says

    This post really makes me mad Joel… at myself! I couldn’t agree more, but I have to admit I’m often not stepping up and putting my actions where my beliefs are – YET!

    I’m just launched a webinar on achievement that I’m very passionate about. It’s been a battle to convince myself I’m ‘qualified’ to teach this stuff. This will get me moving in the right direction!

  8. Jess says

    Great post! It reminds me of a family story I’ve always kept in mind for motivation when faced with the seemingly-impossible. When my uncle was in his 20s (~50 years ago) he wanted to go to Harvard Business School for an MBA. He got the application and saw that it was so complex and involved, he couldn’t imagine how he’d find time to fill it out. Especially considering how competitive it was, and the probability that his application time would be a wasted effort. He pre-disqualified himself.

    His wife suggested they make it their Saturday night date to fill it out together every week until it was done. She said it was too important not to try. When he was accepted, at orientation they were told that the application package was deliberately difficult so that people Harvard wouldn’t want would pre-disqualify themselves. Of those who followed through to apply, Harvard wanted something like 95% of them. That degree led to my uncle having a career he loved for 40 years.

  9. says

    I think you made one really clear point above when you mentioned qualifications. Every person who was qualified was “average.” I think I’ll pass on that. I always say I never meant to live an ordinary life.

  10. says

    I honestly don’t know how companies recruit their employees anymore.

    If you’re still studying, you don’t have time, the drive or the knowledge.

    If you do graduate, you don’t have the experience.

    If you actually manage to get hired and get some on the field experience, then you don’t have the third party certifications which would turn you into a ‘great’ employee.

    By the time you get certified, your CV looks funny since you graduated, got certified and you don’t have any great prior positions in your past jobs, so either they hire you for peanuts or thank you for applying.

    By the time you already did all the qualifications crap and keep applying to jobs and are over 30, then you’re too old and you can’t have a manager position since your CV sucks.

    It’s really all bullshit, I can relate to this PERFECTLY and it just doesn’t makes any sense.

    So again, how the heck do these companies recruit their employees today?


    • says

      Most people recruiting like that want cogs. Something you can swap out and not lose a beat.

      If you want to be just a cog, that’s fine – but I’ve got better things to do with my time than be replaceable.

  11. says

    YES! This is hands down my favorite of all your posts. I loved it so much, I read it two times, right in a row. I’m struggling to give myself permission to live the dream,One step forward…two steps back, and am using my lack of qualifications as just one of many excuses. BREATHE. Ok. Thanks for the kick the pants.

  12. Nicki says

    Seriously redundant but this might be my very favorite post EVER EVER EVER! I am printing out the whole thing and hanging it up everywhere in the house. It totally rocks. I’d hate for you to be in a permanent state of irritation, but this time, it made you give birth to something extra awesome. Nice work! And thank you! YOU RULE!

  13. says

    Awesome post Joel. Given this context I fully agree with your statement.

    There are qualifications that matter. You have to be certified to say you know CPR. You need extensive training to practice as a doctor. I don’t want someone unqualified working on the particle collider.

    But yes, the entry qualifications to apply for something – a contest, a job, responding to a personals ad – are bullshit. Disregard them and apply as you see fit.

    Thanks for a great response my friend.

  14. says

    Qualifications are all about fitting in into a game that has been established by someone else, which makes it impossible to “win” it.

    You have create your own rules 😉

  15. says

    Man, this post is a powerful one. Really nice job, Joel!

    I think you hit the nail on the head with this one:

    “You will never, ever, ever, ever be “qualified” for anything worth doing. Do it anyways.”

    I used to put things off because they scared me or I felt like I didn’t have enough experience or I wasn’t good enough. Now I use fear as a sign that I’m onto something that’s worth doing.

    The most important things you’ll do in life are those that scare the s**t out of you.

    Do them.

    Word, man. Word.

  16. says

    Great reminder, Joel! I know this yet keep falling back into the “qualifications trap.” A friend just gave me all kinds of sh*t recently for letting someone else’s qualifications get in my way. I haven’t let that stop me in the past and not sure why it keeps coming up now when I’m making such incredible changes in the rest of my life. It’s total bullsh*t and I’m going to stop getting in my own way.

    Thanks again! You’re awesome! :)

  17. says


    I like the artwork done by Colin. The qualifications you’ve listed smell blatant favoritism for the employer’s insiders. Or they don’t know how to filter candidates properly.


  18. says

    I really love this post and the comments people have made. Did you ever shake the BS outta us????? Thank YOU! I’m in my 50’s and looking back…I remember a day when I moved from PA (after growing up on a small farm) to CO to go to art school. Then moving to MA and now MI. They were all times in my life when I was not AFRAID…and I didn’t pre-disqualify myself. Last year I decided to switch careers and go from graphic design into raw foods/chef/kitchen prep. While I’m not making the “dough” (pun intended) I need to be making…I am happy and I’ve never been more in tune with myself then I am now. I don’t know what each day will bring but I trust, I accept and I let go, knowing that everything will work out for me. And I say that to myself all the time. Thanks for some dear folks who shared that affirmation and the kind of friends I need in my life. I’m actually at a pivotal point in my life and this post was just what I needed to keep on, keepin’ on. Nobody ever said it was going to be easy…and if it were, it wouldn’t be the most amazing journey on earth.

  19. says

    HELL to the YEAH! Rant on, brother. I think this is my favorite post of anyone’s in some time.

    The depression that lead me to change things for myself came from living a life I thought I was “qualified” for. I hadn’t developed the right portfolio in college to enter the field I wanted to, so I settled into a regular office 9-5, bought a house, ran up my debt, and was completely and utterly miserable. After enough time passed, I figured my dream of becoming a writer had become utterly impossible.

    Guess what I’ve done since deciding to change things?

    1. Started a blog on a whim and a prayer, and one year later find myself with a growing following and a growing network that continues to amaze and humble me. Got picked up by Brazen Careerist. Been chosen for a number of mastermind and forum groups.

    2. Worked my way up in my day job from office clerk to executive secretary to paralegal with no legal training whatsoever, simply by taking on whatever I could, making myself a linchpin, and literally CREATING a position for myself and the leverage to negotiate certain accommodations that have made me happier and more able to pursue my “side hustle.”

    3. Started a freelance “business” by posting a Hire Me page on my blog, also on a whim and a prayer. Secured my biggest client within couple days, with literally no freelancing experience but a decent blog and guest posts as my “resume.”

    4. Earned enough from said client to start the break from my day job by working one less day a week.

    All with no “experience” or “qualifications.” All with no publications to my name or fancy internships to recommend me or doctoral degrees to prove my competency. All because I was at a point where I had nothing to lose, thought “what the hell,” and gave it everything I got.

    And, fancy that…it paid off.

    I think people would be surprised how often it does, if they just went for it, whatever their “it” is…

  20. Tenar says

    I think I might love you! Or at least your blog. I am going to print this post and use it as my manifesto.

    Thank you

  21. says

    Couldn’t agree more Joel. I’m working at a job right now that on a paper resume (what is that anyways? –> http://slidesha.re/rG5kR8 & ) I’m nowhere near qualified. Come to think of it, I wasn’t qualified for the last one.

    The comments on this post have said most of what I want to say already. Thanks for the reminder and the extra boost of reality.


  22. says

    So the elephant I keep brushing past again and again on inspiration blogs, even yours (and you’re my friend) is the racial one. You’re White. Male. and Middle Class. That’s not a cop-out or bringing up old historical wounds, that’s just the truth about different chips you’re given (To all inspirational bloggers + readers: let’s not lie about systems. Talk to more than 10 Black, Latino, recent Asian immigrant, or Queer person, inquire sincerely about their experiences, or listen to five minutes of any Cornel West youtube video. There -are- barriers opportunity. People just have to traverse them differently).

    but even after ALL of that being said:

    I don’t have to wait to be picked by it (System)! It doesn’t mean I can’t stand up for my own life! Or believing what society constantly tells me about being a black female. (shrugs) So there are racial and ethnic injustices. True. Following dreams can be really tough for anyone. True. There are people out there who are considered “qualified”. True. And None of these things mean that I should count myself out before I have even begun.

    Thanks for the reminder.

    • says

      Just because there are barriers, doesn’t mean you have to let them stop you.

      Everyone has some barriers, mental, racial, institutional, etc. Some have more than others, but everyone gets to choose whether you let the barriers that other people erect, keep you from doing what you want.

      “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it” – Charles Swindoll

      Love your viewpoints Roe :). Thanks for keeping me honest.

  23. says

    Refreshingly blunt and down to earth! As a career counsellor, I tend to me more restrained in my response when clients insist they can’t apply for jobs they’d love, I think I’ll forward this to some of them!

    Too many people shoot themselves in the foot, and opt out without trying. Some honestly think it’s necessary to have EVERY selection criteria ticked before applying. Some use it as an excuse – the boringly, unhappy familiar drudgery can be used as a buffer from facing the hard work of change.

  24. Tobias Mullinax says

    I read somewhere a while ago that a business degree is just a $150,000 automatic interview. I immediately quit college.

    • says

      Don’t they? I learned a great deal about compassion from getting my philosophy degree. Self-awareness came from the concentrated course work I did in Ethnic Studies that forced me to confront who I truly am and how much bias and privilege I bring with me. Some of the most inspiring moments I’ve had were in those classes.

      I was already pretty big on thinking outside the box, but I notice the art program and most of the liberal arts programs at the schools I attended fostered that kind of thinking.

  25. says

    Thanks for the inspiration and motivation this Sunday evening.
    Cant agree. The only thing stopping one to achieve something is them selves and no one else. If you relay want to achieve something go do it.

  26. says

    Yes! :) We were so created to live outside the box and push the limits, at least I was. Awesome article on being limited by bullshit qualifications, oh how we can miss out.

    Very inspiring and encouraging.


  27. says

    Dude, awesome post! I’ve been thinking the same exact thoughts since graduating college, whenever I’m doing the job search, all these qualifications are, as you put it: “bulls*it!”. Love it.

    This reminds me of how instead of looking for job postings, to “hack” the postings, and network/connect with people instead & build relationships to get towards the dream job … and of course, doing it.

    Thanks for your angry post. Great read. Cheers!

  28. Sophia Grace says

    Thank you for making “risky” decisions seem simple, and for helping me find the courage to do what I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time.

  29. Samantha says

    Haha funnily enough I read through this article AFTER I put on my Impossible List ‘Get a job I’m not qualified for or don’t meet the requirements for’.

    My parents have always encouraged me to try for things anyway, especially my mum. And considering my mum is working in ground breaking research in a world famous hospital, I think I’d rather listen to her than some drone who gets paid to write ads on a job website.

  30. Nicki says

    HI! I just wanted to say hi and tell you that I love this post so much that I’ve printed it out 3 times now, I come back to read it every few months and it’s still CRAZYPANTS AWESOME. Thank you for being pissed and writing it that one day. :) You’re the best!


  1. […] I’ve spent the last two years of my life in professional development purgatory.  You know those kids crying to the local newspaper about how they can’t find a job because of this “Great Recession?”  Yeah, that was me…but not to the extent you are thinking.  See, I had a job, just not in the field I wanted to be in.  Every job that I wanted required 3-5 years of experience and/or a Master’s degree.  To them, I was unqualified.  (More on bullshit qualifications from one of my blogging heroes, Joel Runyon, here.) […]

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