Sayeth Paul Kedrosky, MBA., Ph.D., R.O.W.B., etc.

I’m puzzled that Fortune magazine’s columnist is puzzled that it is a faux pas to append “MBA” to one’s name on a business card. It seems that said columnist advised doing as much in a prior column, and has been overwhelmed since with people writing to say that recommending same is a mistake.

Here is an email cited in the current column:

“I cannot imagine a bigger business gaffe than to put ‘MBA’ after one’s signature,” writes San Francisco executive recruiter Jon Holman. “It sends a signal of low self-esteem. (I am a Stanford MBA, by the way, so no sour grapes here.)”

Right, but it isn’t just low self-esteem that is the issue. It is one of those inverted things where if you are advertising having an MBA in a crowd that actually thinks it’s so appealing to have said degree that they condone appending it after your name then you are talking to the wrong crowd. It is, in a word, declasse, doubly so when you consider that most people around you have MBAs, so saying that you do too is banal and unsurprising, like saying that you breathe regularly.

Does the same logic apply to other degrees, like Ph.D.? I’m somewhat torn, but one Fortune letter-writer says it does:

A reader named Bill B. sums up the majority view thus: “Unless you are in an academic setting or you hold a professional degree that indicates licensure (CPA, M.D.), lose the letters.”

I think that is generally true, but I would add one qualification. No-one ever went broke underestimating the moth-to-flame giddiness of people to accord “experts” undue respect (and money), especially someone with a doctoral degree. Presented properly, a Ph.D.’s relative rarity still makes it a useful marketing tool.