Impressed with Alphabet Soup?

By Affiliate Joni Daniels, President of Daniels & Associates

A good friend recently called me after she attended a national conference in his chosen profession.  She wanted to know what all the capital letters meant after someone’s name if they were a speaker.  In the world of professional speaking, or more specifically, in The Nationals Speakers Association, some members are not just members (membership requires a certain level of qualification) they are certified speaking professionals (CSP), and some are  CPAE’s – which means they are in NSA’s Council of Peers Award for Excellence. Some folks are also PCC’s meaning that some organization has certified them as a professional coach.

Some people have different letters after their name: CPC (Certified Professional Coach), CEP (Core Energy Coach), and ELI – MP (Energy Leadership Index Master Practitioner). Some have letters that are more commonplace and recognizable: PhD, CPE, DDS, MBA.

It can be confusing, and a little alarming. How many letters and which ones should come after your name in your correspondence? Here is my take –

Generally speaking in the world of ‘degree etiquette’ you can use as many letters after your name as you’ve earned when you are acting in the capacity in which the field of expertise of your degree is relevant. I wouldn’t sign my letters Joni Daniels M.S., Ed. when writing to the local paper unless it was in the area of counseling, because that is the field in which my degree is actually in.

In creating a business card or applying for employment, you can feel justified in claiming your degrees earned if it is relevant to the positions you hold or for which you are applying. I confess that I don’t use letters after my name on my cards or in my footer. If people want to know, I’m happy to tell them. In the spirit of full-disclosure, some of my educational and pharmaceutical clients prefer it.

Many professional organizations grant certifications or licensure, and it seems like more are doing it every day. And some not-so-professional organizations are joining in as well. If you think it provides an appropriately related credential, include it. Be aware however that some (PE – Professional Engineer, CPE – Certified Professional Accountant) are widely known while others (CSP – Certified Speaking Professional, PHR – Professional in Human Resources) may not be as well known.

I think alphabet soup is fine and so is including a variety of letters after your name. Just keep in mind that it’s not everyone’s cup of T.

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