I had another post lined up for today, but I got angry so I wrote this instead. Fair Warning.
Table of Contents
- Entry Level position. 3 to 5 years experience required.
- Bachelor’s/Master’s Degree Required.
- 30+, has a job & family.
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.
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.
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
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
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:
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 ONE SHOT
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.
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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