Say you're looking for help --- an accountant, dentist, landscaper, lawyer or vet. You have lots of choice. You can set your minimum requirements and still have your pick. How do you decide who you can trust?
Why not look for
ChemistryChemistry is intangible and personal. You like someone or you don't. There's a special connection or there isn't. If you're intuitive, why not trust your first impressions or how you felt just after the meeting? If you're analytical, you'll need more time. When you decide, compare with your "gut feeling".
If you work for a corporation, you're stuck with people they picked. Even there, chemistry helps you motivate colleagues to help you.
CaveatIf you often have trouble finding anyone, you may be too picky. Perhaps there's something about you that repels others. Since we can't see ourselves objectively, ask others you trust about how others react to you. Listen without attacking your messengers. Later, reflect. You could make changes that help you in all aspects of your life.
If you select based on chemistry alone, you'll get someone charming but that doesn't mean they have the ability to do the work properly.
CredentialsWhile chemistry is about magic, credentials are about ability. Some fields require little training. In sales, personality and techniques can take you far. Life insurance is considered "sold, not bought", which attracts advisors whose main expertise is in selling.
As clients become more demanding, the advisors struggle to keep up. Some upgrade their skills. Others keep doing what they've been doing, counting down the years to retirement.
You'll find advisors with years of experience --- 10, 20 or more --- but no designations. Not even a university or college degree. If they truly have the skills, don't you think they could have easily completed formal training? Maybe they tried, failed and quit. Ask and they get defensive. They may tell you they don't need to prove to others how much they know. Yet they do.
Those without designations have trouble demonstrating their competence. So they tend to complicate matters to show how much they know. Bad move. The truly knowledgeable have the passion for simple --- which you'll appreciate.
Pushing through the dip to earn a designation takes time, intelligence and persistence. Those who succeed resent those who failed but claim to be as good (or better). In particular, accountants treat advisors without proper qualifications as salespeople rather than professionals.
Designations aren't enough by themselves. Some were earned ages ago. Some don't require continuing education. Some were purchased. Some were earned in foreign lands and don't mean much here. Also look for believable testimonials from clients on LinkedIn or other credible sites.
Look for samples of past work. If there aren't any, ask yourself why.
CaveatsDesignations are brands. Brands compete. Brands want buyers. A new designation may have an "introductory offer" which waives or dilutes the normal admission requirements. Some designations become obsolete or have no requirements for continuing education. If in doubt, do a web search.
Also, be wary of impressive titles. They can be concocted.
Those who can, do. Those who cannot, avoid the real world by staying in school. Too many designations is as bad as none. Can someone truly master many different skills? There's an element of boasting too. Quality trumps quantity. You'll find designation hounds who can't apply their learning. What a waste. You want a practitioner, not a professor.
GenerosityAdvisors with an abundance mentality will share. Donations to charities or volunteering at the food bank are wonderful. You're probing for something else: signs of generosity that directly helps clients. Information makes the ideal gift: blogs, videos, photos, newsletters, answering questions on LinkedIn or other forums.
Maybe the advisor is willing to share but lacks the technical savvy to put content online. If they have trouble learning new basic skills, how can they bring you the latest ideas?
If the advisor won't share, they may have a scarcity mentality. Maybe what they know is generic and they're afraid you'll discover they offer nothing special. They may worry about competitors copying them. If you were able to compare, you'd see their competitors already do similar things in similar ways using similar tools.
Competitors may have similar chemistry and credentials. They probably don't have the same level of generosity, which is why all three matter.
- The foolproof measure of trust (new)
- Fraud U: toppling a bogus-degree empire (Wired, Dec 2009)
- What do designations mean? (Alberta Securities Commission)
- Do continuing education (CE) credits protect you?
- Does your advisor have your best interest at heart? (Million Dollar Journey)
- How advisors fool you (and what you can do)
- Are chemistry and credentials enough for trust?
Podcast Episode 68 (5:47)
direct download | Internet Archive page
PS You're looking for someone you'd feel comfortable referring to people you care about