As I write, there's a media firestorm brewing over the accuracy of a BA degree in the resume for the current CEO of Yahoo, Scott Thompson. Some members of the Yahoo board want Thompson out: His resume says he earned a dual Bachelor's degree in Accounting and Computer Science. His alma mater, Stonehill College says he earned a Bachelor's degree in only one major -- Accounting.
The years of experience in Silicon Valley Thompson has under his belt don't count as many decision makers see it. What matters to board members, Warren Buffett and others in the court of public opinion: Telling the truth. Because even if the addition was inadvertent, a question mark builds mistrust. And it's hard to sell mistrust to investors, consumers, and the general public.
It's often said that the higher you climb in your career, the harder you fall if your reputation undergoes intense scrutiny and an accusation of wrongdoing. There are so many public figures we could mention here, but we won't -- they have enough work to do in reclaiming their reputation online. (In fact, I've purposely chosen to leave out the name of the former Dean of Admissions for a very prestigious school who had to leave her post five years ago after it became apparent that she listed a different college on her resume than the one she graduated from. She eventually hired her own public relations specialist and made her first attempt at a comeback at a public high school college admissions night months later.)
- When you learn of companies that won't consider your application unless you have the right degree from the right school, it can feel beyond frustrating.
- When you look at degree requirements for jobs at which you have all the other requisite experience but the piece of paper, you may say to yourself "if only I could add the degree"
- When you see the stats that -- on average -- people with a 4-year-college degree make over a million dollars more than those who don't have one, it may be tempting to call a "fake" degree provider and purchase a degree. (I once negotiated a Ph.D. in Economics for $400 while doing research for a paper on diploma mills. I did not buy it.)
But as tempting as it may be, you only get one reputation -- and as B'rer Rabbit says, "It's not what you got, it's how you use it!"
Once you've given others a reason to doubt, it's so much harder for others to find a reason to trust you. (They may not want to work with you, even if you are paying them!)
Bottom line: When in doubt, leave the information out. If you can't back it up, don't make a claim!
Cross-posted on Best Fit Forward. Photo courtesy of kxlly.