What is “Pin Chasing”, how it is damaging, and how do we make achieving certifications truly advance us in our careers and personal fulfillment in wine?
I have been teaching every certification available in America (including college degree tracks in wine and excepting CMS) for 10 years. 20 years ago, when I was working on the WSET Diploma in NYC, generally in America, certifications in wine were not important, and there was an atmosphere where one was expected to demonstrate their street credibility over schooling to earn respect in the wine industry. Things have really changed in that time. As the average consumer and professional have become generally much savvier and more knowledgeable, certifications have gained in meaning for employers to sift through a sea of candidates who want to gain coveted positions in the wine industry. Along with the rise in the importance of certifications, has come a dark side to wine education…pin chasing!
I define “Pin Chasing” as the maniacal quest for more and more validation of one’s self-worth. This happens when students have issues with self-worth (which is so common in our industry/culture, not only amongst minority populations and people with learning differences), and that the only way they can feel better about themselves and prove they are worthy is through an endless quest for certifications. I will admit, I have engaged in a bit of this myself on my path to self-realization in my work (as a mother, a woman). On the other hand, learning and practice is what hones our thinking and skills, and certifications are more and more important in the wine industry (rightfully so), to demonstrate knowledge in an efficient way for employment and reputation. So, wine certifications are meaningful in multiple ways - most importantly for the learning journey they inspire in us, and as a tool to employment and professional achievement through wine.
If a person, comes to their professional process and education with a basic premise that they are worthy, and that curiosity, humility and hard work are core value systems in that process, certifications become tools. A person can then assess the value of the particular certification (based on the two reasons to seek them, which I named above), then decide if that certification will get them where they want to go. By determining which wine certifications to seek based on the premise of the individual’s unique aspirations, talents, and abilities as opposed to an arbitrary quest to prove oneself to others who are perceived as more worthy to belong. Students can then, make better decisions, get the most out of learning, and find greater success through their wine education and wine certifications.
When one assumes their basic value and is willing to work hard, they can make decisions about certification which leads to efficiency in achieving their goals through education/certification, not wasting time on things which they do not need. People save themselves squandering their energy/lives studying in ways simply designed to pass a test and stroke the ego (the brain usually dumps information learned in these ways, shortly after an exam, which leads to over-certified, but under-qualified people). When education and certification are pursued in a manner that is designed to inspire real critical thinking, and discovery, we end up with people who are genuinely qualified, and certifications likewise become even more useful and meaningful to our industry.
Obviously, I have devoted my life to wine education, and teaching various wine industry certifications has been, and is a large part of my work. However, through that work in supporting wine student’s advancement of their wine knowledge, I recognize that it is imperative to create an atmosphere at the wine school where people can show up as their authentic selves and achieve real deep success through the pursuit of knowledge and validation of that knowledge.
See how various industry certifications stack up. Read my blog post where I compare the various wine study programs, direct students how to select between them, and suggest wine schools to study with. Programs compared in the post include: WSET/Wine and Spirit Education Trust, SWE/Society of Wine Educators, CMS/Court of Master Sommeliers and Wine Scholar Guild.
Wine School Seattle, Wine Classes Seattle, Wine Education, Wine Certifications