Archive for June, 2015

Every profession has incentive to increase the perceived value of what it does. As a result, we receive large doses of propaganda from every profession.

As a kid, everyone profession can seem pretty impressive. If you picture every profession as a tower, these towers are much taller in our minds than they are in reality.

But what happens when you get to the top of one of these towers (i.e., when you become a certified plumber, MD, teacher, yoga instructor, attorney)?

1. Some people become very self-important and have no interest in correcting people’s overestimation of the tower height.I don’t know if they notice the inaccuracy or not, but they become in their eyes as important as their prior-perception.

2. Other people notice that it’s not as impressive as they once thought, and adjust their perspective accordingly.

3. Finally, some people think the tower is still really tall, and they must just be an imposter. (i.e. “the other people must be as smart as I thought they were before I got into this profession, but somehow I managed to sneak in”). I think that is where career imposter syndrome comes from.

Here’s the thing, though. In order for a profession to very effectively over-inflate perceived value relative to actual value, it kind of needs its members to buy into it. i.e., it needs a lot of people like I describe in 1. I guess this happens naturally, because most people enjoy being admired. However, I wonder what things can be done to deceive people about their own intelligence & skills. How do professional organizations accomplish this? What are effective methods?

Is putting up more hurdles and making the profession more exclusive enough? Can people tell the difference between “there were a lot of hurdles but most people could jump them if they wanted to” and “this is extremely difficult and you need unusual skills”?

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