Academics, especially, get really hung up on the idea that moving vertically – and that the right job *title* and the more *money* that comes along with that equals success. And I’m here to tell you that I know plenty of folks who have moved laterally – sometimes even for slightly less pay – just to be able to try something new and break into an area that is much more engaging for them. Success looks different for different people.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about credentials. For the first few years after I started working full-time in a new field, I was relishing *just* working. I finally had some semblance of work-life balance and had no reason to consider building up my credentials. My existing credentials had gotten me in the door and then the quality of my work itself was good enough to not just keep me there, but to get me promoted a couple of times early on. But it’s not just that I was fine leaving well enough alone. I also had a certain, well, attitude about it. I refused to consider another degree or a certification. I felt strongly I had already done more than my fair share of time as a student.
When you work in an academic line of work, at some point, you may find yourself facing credential regret. Credential regret is the career form of opportunity cost (an economic concept in which making one choice prevents the gain you could have gotten from selecting another alternative). Credential regret is that sinking feeling that your time spent pursuing a Ph.D. or J.D. would have been gotten you farther along in your current career by simply working instead, putting in time on the job. You would be farther along – professionally, and even financially – had you used that time to simply climb the ranks in your current job family from the get go. I would love to be able to tell you that your conclusion is probably incorrect, but the reality is that most employers – even higher ed employers – usually place greater value on the length and nature of work experience than on advanced degrees. Here are 2 points to help you understand credential regret.