Building Professional Credibility

Hi, Everyone!

Booking a speaking, coaching, consulting or training engagement is becoming an increasingly difficult feat. As prospective clients have more and more alternatives from which to choose, the professional credentials a provider has amassed can be the difference between getting and losing the deal. In this lesson from the program “Building A Career That Matters” we explore the many ways through which human development professionals can bolster their credibility.

Have you ever lost an opportunity because you weren’t perceived to be as “qualified” as a competitor was? Did you ever hesitate to approach a prospect because you didn’t think you were “ready” yet? Have you ever thought, “What makes ME think someone else should listen to me?” If you’re like most of the people who have built a career as an independent speaker, trainer, coach or consultant, you’ve certainly had your share of doubts, and faced the “Credibility Catch-22.”

The “Credibility Catch-22” most commonly occurs when someone is just getting started in the business. Early on, novices believe that they can’t get engagements without experience – and they can’t get experience without engagements. The phenomenon isn’t limited to novices, however. As a human development professional considers entering different markets, offering different services or attacking a new industry, the catch-22 pattern reappears and reasserts itself, causing doubt and hesitation – undermining the professional’s progress and success in the new endeavor.

Holding a Ph.D. from a prestigious university or a coveted distinction from an international association can certainly open doors and close deals for the person who has earned those credentials. At the same time, our industry is filled with examples of people who lack academic degrees and professional designations, yet find tremendous popularity and prosperity for themselves.

So what’s the deal? Let’s take a closer look at what the word “credentials” means.

CREDENTIALS are the concrete substance of CREDIBILITY.

Credibility, according to modern social science, is made up of several dimensions. In their paper, “A Factor Analytic Study of the Dimensions of Source Credibility” David Berlo and James Lemert focus on three: Competence, Trustworthiness and Dynamism.

“Competence” is the result of the knowledge you have accumulated and the skills you have developed. When we’re assessing a person’s credibility, we favor the person with superior knowledge and skill.

“Trustworthiness” is the result of applying that knowledge and skill in real-world situations. We give more credibility to the person who has a successful track record … to the person who has more experience putting their expertise to practical use.

“Dynamism” can best be defined as the quality of being dynamic and charismatic. While the credibility test certainly favors people who meet the competence and trustworthiness factors, we tend to prefer to work with people who are upbeat and energetic over those who are controlled and static – and we definitely prefer warm, friendly and attractive people over those who are unpleasant to look at, listen to or be around. The more dynamism a person possesses, the more credibility we bestow upon them. In fact, as illogical as it may seem, dynamism is sometimes the most powerful factor in determining the level of credibility a person has, as seen in the success con artists have in exploiting their victims.

So how do you increase your credibility?

When most people in our industry think of professional credentials, they think about academic degrees and whatever designations the top association in their discipline offers – and depending on the type of business you’re trying to build, they can be critical to your success.

But many things contribute to your credibility. Here’s just a few:

— Group affiliations and association memberships show that you take your profession seriously – particularly if you’ve served as a volunteer, committee member or officer.

— Training programs you’ve completed as a student and train-the-trainer certification programs show that you continue to improve yourself and the services you have to offer your clients.

— Your resume and curriculum vitae document your employment experience and your professional accomplishments.

— Your publications – articles, books, audio programs and video programs – speak volumes about you.

— A listing of your presentations – including those you offered both for free and for a fee – are proof of your experience in working with clients.

— Client lists, testimonials, case studies, recommendations and references establish your “street cred” and serve as the REAL credentials as your business matures.

If you take time to SERIOUSLY inventory ALL of the experiences and accomplishments you’ve earned, you’ll be surprised how much evidence of credibility you have. Document it in a way that you can use in your marketing efforts and you may never have a problem with professional credentials again.



One Response to Building Professional Credibility

  1. G Sairamesh says:

    Couldn’t disagree with you.

    I suppose the credentialing only provides the individual concerned with the ability to engage in a meaningful dialogue through the awareness gained from a structured education system and application of the learning.

    Meaning, as long as one is able to go through a structured learning experience and has the ability to apply the learnings in real life he will be seen as creditable enough thus establishing his credibility. Further his convictions will be demonstrated through actions establishing is positional integrity as well.

    In view of the above I don’t foresee any comparison between individuals who speak their experience Vs individuals who speak theory. Going by this, you know who is going to be results oriented.

    Rgds – Sai

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