Antecedent credibility: making people believe in your abilities before they know you

As a consultant, I need to know what I’m doing. I certainly believe I’m capable–but do you?

There are a few things we can all do to build our “antecedent credibility”–other people’s beliefs in our ability prior to meeting us and seeing for themselves.

For higher education practitioners, you need this credibility most when working with strangers: a new department; a new vice-president; a new CIO. As people see your actual work output, your antecedent credibility becomes less important to them.

Here I’ll talk about three ways to build antecedent credibility, and challenges in building your credibility while employed. :-)

How to build antecedent credibility

There are a few ways to build antecedent credibility. Higher education degrees, for example: people believe that if you have a Bachelor’s degree then you understand how to navigate a bureaucracy, for example. They haven’t observed you personally, but your degree is an indicator.

In Information Technology, certifications serve a similar purpose: CISSP certificates show you understand IT security; CCIE certificates show skill with Cisco equipment; ITIL certificates show an understanding of IT service management; PMP certificates show a strong background and understanding of project management. The list goes on; there are hundreds of IT certifications.

People vouching for you is also helpful: the more evidence that exists of your past work, the more people will believe in you. If you have worked with peer institutions or done similar work, people start out believing more in your ability.

Pursuing certifications

Many people’s challenges with building antecedent credibility is how it looks for your employer. Are you trying to pad your résumé?

Here are a few reasons why you should allow employees to pursue certificates:

  • Valuing standards: showing an organization that it’s good to pursue training and to learn from other organizations’ experience
  • Career-building: certifications can be a job perk
  • Building departmental credibility: having an IT team of PMP-certified project managers is very impressive to Facilities departments or new CIOs, for example
  • Salary ranges: requiring a certificate can increase the pay range for a job

More generally, does your employer value staff pursuing advanced degrees? If so, the same logic can apply to certifications.