martin-luther-king2.jpgThere are a few things in life that get you instant credibility.

* Famous parents. If your dad was Martin Luther King, or your mom was Jane Goodall, you’d get it.
* An Ivy League degree. Having Harvard or Princeton on your resume gets you it. (My MSNBC column today is about this.)
* Tallness. Study after study shows that we just love tall people and respect them for little more than they are tall.
* Wealth. Let’s face it, if you’ve got lots of money you can pretty much command credibility. People just think, wrongly or rightly, if you’re rich you must have done something right.
* Awards. Admit it, if you knew a neighbor won a Nobel Peace Prize you’d invite her to dinner in a heart beat even if you knew nothing else about her. (I’ve been surprised how much credibility I gained after winning a SABEW award; and most people don’t even know what the hell it is.)

For the rest of us, garnering such instant credibility to help get us an interview, open doors, etc. is much harder. But do you need it? What about building respect and credibility?

In King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, he said:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Indeed, we shouldn’t judge people because of the color of their skin, but what about all the other seemingly peripheral factors we take into account?

Career experts tell me over and over again that it’s what you bring to the table, how you perform, the type of person you are deep down, that brings success and happiness in life.

Do most of you think this is true anymore? Did you ever think it was true?

Many who have had the privilege of attending an Ivy school, as you can read in my column, feel they have benefited greatly.

Candace Lindemann, who got her BA from Yale and her masters in education from Harvard, said when she went into education consulting and eventually mommy blogging at Mamanista.com, she found the schools’ reputations helped her land gigs and gain credibility.

“Having those names on my resume has helped me make connections with companies and even find paid consulting work,” she said.
 “I have also found that Ivy League alumni are especially excited to find one another and help each other out.”

For the rest of us, life may be a bit harder when it comes to getting doors open. And that might be why Adam Wheeler, the kid who lied to get into Harvard, is garnering some sympathy even though he may have lied.

His attorney pointed out that stories on the websites for major newspapers in Massachusetts included comments that overwhelmingly defended his client. And there’s even a “Free Adam Wheeler!” Facebook page with nearly 400 friends.

Come on, you know you secretly gave some kudos to Wheeler because he was able to dupe the smarties over at Harvard.

Why? It’s unfair that some folks get instant credibility for something that’s beyond who they really are.

But the credibility is instant after all. That means it can disappear as quickly as it came.

What really matters, stressed career coach and resume writer Chandlee Bryan, for any student, parent, job seeker, is the quality of the relationships we build in our lives, whether they be at school, work, or with our friends and family.

Bryan has worked in career services at a few Ivy Leagues and saw first hand that employers did make lists of target schools they wanted to hire from, but she said, even given that harsh reality, the bottom line is what your desired career outcome is.

“The question isn’t should you or should you not go to an Ivy, but you should be researching your potential career interest and market for what you want to do,” she said.

When you figure that out, she added, then you can find ways to make yourself credible to employers, including things like social networking. She’s co-authored “The Twitter Job Search Guide: Find a Job and Advance Your Career in Just 15 Minutes a Day,” and believes given technology, suddenly we all can create, or at least try to create, a virtual instant credibility.

That’s another one for the instant credibility list. Clearly, people who have tons of Facebook or Twitter followers are credible, no?

Well, Ashton Kutcher has 5 million Twitter followers and I’m not inclined to put him on my instant credibility list, but that’s just me.

As for Wheeler, the Harvard impostor, time will tell whether his lack of an Ivy degree, and a potential conviction, will impact his career. Some still have high hopes.

Here’s one comment from the Wheeler Facebook page:

“I can hear the best-seller book proposal from Adam Wheeler next year: ‘What They DEFINITELY Don’t Teach You At Harvard.’’

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