The rat race for success has deviated the young minds from seeking knowledge to chasing hollow recognition.


“This is to certify that Bruce Wayne has successfully completed the How to be a Superhero course”

- Signed by Jim Rohn

The Misconception

‘Actions seem to speak louder than words’ is a concept gradually being forgotten in these times. However, I shall not delve into the political aspects of this saying, but rather on an educational point of view. I would like to focus on the increasing trend of youngsters in pursuit of online certifications.

On the surface, this is indeed a wonderful trend to witness. With a multitude of portals like edX, Coursera, Udemy, Skillshare, Pluralsight, LinkedIn Learning, etc. offering MOOCs from top institutions around the globe like MIT and Harvard, the youth are making good use of the technological facilities available.

However, what I am concerned about is the misconception that certification means mastery

What’s in a certification?

I’ve completed four certifications, two of which were technical (Courses on Java and Python) and some of these were really challenging with high pass requirements. I learned quite a lot during the short but powerful classes I took. But what is to be noted is that I completed these courses five years ago (2013-15). Though these certifications are valid forever, the capacity of my memory and skill level is not.

The 70-20-10 rule states that the majority of what you learn manifests from doing tasks continuously, while formal education only provides a foundation. Although these courses include short assignments, to claim that it provides anything more than a foundation in terms of preparation is just optimistic.

You are certified, so what?


During my days as a b-school student, I’ve seen numerous colleagues with their CVs packed with various certifications. I often wonder just how many of them remember the concepts they learned. And I wonder just how many actually utilized the skills they learned to tackle a real-life need. The answer might be quite disappointing. I wasn’t special either, I was once guilty of flaunting my prized completion certificates on social media and my resume (It’s still visible on my LinkedIn profile as of this post).

My brother during his undergraduate degree had designed a website for my father’s architectural practice. As an employer, I would much rather prefer him as opposed to a candidate who has done a couple of certifications on website building. Remember, it’s not just what you learn that matters, but how you apply it. Active experimentation is the fourth, and probably the most important step of the Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle. It cements the learning and moreover produces results.


As a budding HR professional, this is a lesson I will keep in mind while interacting with prospective talent.

I will always look at certifications with a pinch of salt.

Proud, but not so much

On 1st October 2019, I came across the news Kerala Woman Creates World Record Of Completing 350 Online Courses In 90 Days. As a Keralite myself, I was quite proud of the headline. However, it got me asking “But why?”. The person completed on average three courses every two days. I wonder what was the motivation behind it? Was it the learning or the record? I would be interested to know just how much knowledge she would have retained from this feat. If she has an exceptional talent to hold fast to the said knowledge and translate it into results, then more power to her.

Sadly according to research, people tend to forget 50% of the information within an hour, 70% by the end of the day, and 90% by the end of the week if there is no reinforcement.

I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”, the quote from legendary Bruce Lee on focused practice emphasizes the lesson everyone who is pursuing certification should keep in mind.

So, should you get a certification?

I am in no way discouraging the pursuit of certification. It is a great opportunity and privilege to learn about something new or get deeper into familiar subjects. If you take a pool of individuals who have no certifications to those with a few to their name, then the latter stands at an advantage. Keeping customer perception and talent ranking in perspective, it is also a good practice for companies to invest in their employee’s education.

So, by all means, invest sufficient time in learning. But remember, the real journey starts when you apply.

It falls on the individual to ensure that the learning does not stop with a congratulatory document.