Join mensa?
December 20, 2012 7:10 AM   Subscribe

Should I join mensa for professional advancement?

I'm an (assistant) tenure track science professor at a "top-40" department in my field at a major research university. Having just looked at what a qualifying test score is, I only now (years after taking such tests) realize that I qualify for mensa. I'm pretty sure that most of my peers among science faculty at major research universities also qualify. Yet I've never seen anyone list it on a CV or heard any of my peers talk about it. So it'd be weird for me to join and put this on my CV, right?

(The CV has plenty of other things that speak to high intelligence that would usually be on a CV, such as a PhD from a "top-3" department in a Nobel laureate's lab, phi beta kappa membership, etc.)
posted by anonymous to Science & Nature (34 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Yes, it would be very weird to put this on an academic CV.
posted by caek at 7:17 AM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

My understanding is that MENSA is a social club and nothing more.
posted by Rubbstone at 7:18 AM on December 20, 2012

So it'd be weird for me to join and put this on my CV, right?

Right. Definitely, unequivocally correct. It would be very weird, and you shouldn't do it.
posted by redfoxtail at 7:18 AM on December 20, 2012 [27 favorites]

Don't put it on a CV or resume. And don't join for the professional advancement, because odds are it won't help you in that any more than joining any sort of group would. But do join if you generally want a(nother) social outlet. Or if you like playing board games. Mensans are crazy-ass about Dominion.
posted by Etrigan at 7:20 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

There is no way this helps you. Publish great papers, get big grants, and be a good citizen. That's the path to tenure.
posted by eisenkr at 7:20 AM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Uh NO!

I'm not even sure you should join MENSA for a social outlet. You might go to a meeting to see if these folks are your kind of people.

But under no circumstances should you put MENSA on your CV. Personally, I rank MENSA up there with, Hentai Anime and LARP.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:24 AM on December 20, 2012 [23 favorites]

I guess hanging out with the Mensa people could give you another social network. But putting it on a CV or resume? To indicate, what, that you have a reasonably good level of intelligence? No. Just, no.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:27 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Think about how you would evaluate a similar candidate that listed it? High intelligence is, at best, a starting point for success as a scientist. Other requirements are creativity, motivation, organization, a ridiculous amount of personal tenacity, and frequently a good amount of luck.

Trying to play up the intelligence will likely just make you look like you might be lacking in the rest of the other traits. I think it would be a big mistake.
posted by mmmmbobo at 7:28 AM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

MENSA is a social club, publicizing membership of MENSA is for people who have no external proof of their intelligence. A lot of the membership is made up of people who were brought up to believe they were dumb or inferior, or whose life circumstances didn't afford them chances to make the most of their intelligence. These are the people for whom MENSA is likely to be most valuable, not people whose entire careers have already been successfully built on overt displays of intelligence. That is not to say you wouldn't have a lot to offer in terms of mentoring, so I wouldn't discourage it at all.

That said, I don't think it would necessarily look the way you think it would look. If you joined MENSA and publicized your membership it would make a person in your position seem very weirdly insecure. That may not be fair, but it would look that way to a lot of people. Let me explain the reasons why.

Anecdata: my dad joined MENSA in the 80s and soon left in annoyance. He said the people he met at meetings were dumb and had chips on their shoulders. That may or may not be fair, but it's what he thought. A lot of the letters to the editor did seem to be written by people who were dumb and had chips on their shoulders, though, so I believed him.

Anecdata: I used to have a boss who, he said, had taken some kind of university degree or higher qualification but not been awarded it because the exam papers got dropped down a drain, or some equivalent bureaucratic fuckup. He HATED students and would every single day circulate some news article he'd found proving that students are dimwitted leeches on society and that university is a waste of time. This was just an instance of his general mission in life to prove that anyone who wasn't him was a contemptible moron. He joined MENSA, made a lot of noise about it, and casually left his IQ test results in a prominent place on his desk. I was studying for a Master's at the time. He suggested that I take the test and join too. I said no, I didn't have time, and I also had the fleeting thought that if I scored higher than him I wouldn't put it past him to bash my head in with a lead pipe in order to become the smartest person in the room again. When I got the Master's, he fired me, accusing me of being "confused" and mentally impaired.

So admittedly I'm biased but I would wonder if you were similarly competitive and insecure if you were to publicize a level of intelligence that, for someone in your position, most people would assume was just there.
posted by tel3path at 7:42 AM on December 20, 2012 [9 favorites]

I always think of Mensa as something for people who aren't really as smart as they think they are, since they are paying good money for other people to tell them how smart they are. Put your time and resources into your academic work.

Also, I waited on a group of Mensa convention attendees a few years back. They were quite eager to tell me "I belong to Mensa!" Kinda felt sorry for some of them.
posted by futureisunwritten at 7:44 AM on December 20, 2012 [5 favorites]

Hard-science academics for the most part already are, or at the very least think they are, in the several-sigmas-out intelligence range MENSA claims to represent; openly trumpeting your membership will be seen as at best meaningless and at worst rather pretentious.

I'm a member of quite a few organizations, some for interests, some for prestige, some for professional advancement. The only ones I mention on my CV are the professional societies and any activities immediately germane to service either in my field or to the university (for instance, I'm involved in high-school math competition administration and I'm an advisor to a student organization; those both get mentions).
posted by jackbishop at 7:46 AM on December 20, 2012

Ten worst things to put on your CV

Mensa came it at #5 (and again somewhere around numbers 40 and 70).
posted by vegartanipla at 7:47 AM on December 20, 2012 [12 favorites]

(Oh, and that link is specifically about academic CVs.)
posted by vegartanipla at 7:50 AM on December 20, 2012

If we received a CV with mensa listed on it in my office, we would pass it around and giggle, and only go back to it for consideration if there was no one else equally qualified. And most of my coworkers are either single or double PhDs.
posted by elizardbits at 7:59 AM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

I am a tenured faculty member in a top-40 STEM department who has participated in many hiring and promotion meetings, and I just want to add my assurance that a CV with MENSA membership listed on it would elicit a hearty WTF from all around the table.

In other news, nobody cares if you were in Phi Beta Kappa.
posted by escabeche at 8:02 AM on December 20, 2012 [8 favorites]

Should I join mensa for professional advancement?

Promoting professional advancement is why we have conferences, alumni groups, and professional societies. If you don't have access to any of these, MENSA might be helpful, but that clearly doesn't apply to you.
posted by deanc at 8:04 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm pretty smart. My family, friends, coworkers and acquaintances are pretty smart. And yet there is NOTHING which could appear on a CV which would rub me the wrong way more than a Mensa membership. Like, not even a membership in the Tri-State Having-Sex-With-Farm-Animals Club. I dunno... my gut feeling (which I know is shared by a number of others) is that Mensa is an organization for adults who view "Gifted Child Syndrome" as something to celebrate rather than something to aggressively treat with therapy, booze and self-deprecation.
posted by julthumbscrew at 8:17 AM on December 20, 2012 [9 favorites]

Sort of like listing your SAT score -- at some point in life, you have to be able to show *results,* not potential, and both SAT and IQ tests are designed to measure the latter and should be outgrown. Your professional advancement depends on your research, teaching, conference organizing, grants, and all the other work of the profession, the success of which is only loosely correlated with raw intelligence. Apply yourself, earn your kudos.
posted by acm at 8:26 AM on December 20, 2012 [7 favorites]

Here's Dr Lancelot Ware, co-founder of Mensa, speaking in 1996 (on Mensa's 50th anniversary):
Dr. Ware seemed disheartened by the Mensans' seeming inability to focus beyond self-gratifying pursuits and apply their collective brain-power to problems facing the world today. "I do get disappointed that so many members spend so much time solving puzzles," Ware said. "It's a form of mental masturbation. Nothing comes of it."
(Source: this fascinating dissection of high-IQ societies.)

When a society is characterized by its founder as a bunch of mental wankers, it's probably not a good addition to your CV.
posted by pont at 8:28 AM on December 20, 2012 [10 favorites]

My landlord is a member, and yes, it does seem to be a social club as much as anything else. From the newsletters he gets there seems to be lots of opportunities involving meeting up and discussing scientific topics, if that appeals to you.

I suffer from Gifted Child Syndrome myself, but thanks to dyspraxia would score poorly on an IQ test because I struggle with arithmetic and spatial awareness. However, nobody would doubt that I am an intelligent person. It's indicative of a particular type of intelligence rather than intelligence overall.
posted by mippy at 8:34 AM on December 20, 2012

You should not.

The CV has plenty of other things that speak to high intelligence that would usually be on a CV, such as a PhD from a "top-3" department in a Nobel laureate's lab, phi beta kappa membership, etc.

Those things you list are important for your CV, but they are not important because they "speak to high intelligence," they are important because they speak to accomplishment.
posted by OmieWise at 8:38 AM on December 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

Personally, I rank MENSA up there with, Hentai Anime and LARP.

What an awful thing to say. There is nothing wrong with hentai.

But Mensa membership belongs on a CV as much as a hentai addiction does.
posted by Nomyte at 8:43 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm not in the sciences but I'm just backing up the "never put this on an academic CV" crowd. There's no need to prove that you're smart (or, let's face it, smart enough to pass an IQ test, flawed as they are) -that's so much taken as a given it's weird to even bring it up. Research, publications, teaching (where relevant) are the things that matter. Like others, if I saw that on an academic CV, it would be hard not to pass it around to colleagues in a "get a load of this guy" kind of a way. Not the kind of image you'd want to project, I'd imagine.
posted by ob at 8:43 AM on December 20, 2012

The CV has plenty of other things that speak to high intelligence

Nobody cares about your intelligence. They care about your work.
posted by empath at 8:45 AM on December 20, 2012 [13 favorites]

Not only would it not help, but I know several academics socially and they are universally anti-Mensa. Being a professor is ITSELF evidence that you are intelligent; joining Mensa would be seen by the professors I know to be evidence that you are just intelligent enough to join Mensa, but not intelligent enough to by humble and discreet about your intelligence.
posted by jb at 8:47 AM on December 20, 2012

I think David Mitchell best described what the general non-Mensa member's perception of Mensa is "people with something to prove. You can't really imagine a prime minister or president joining up." I.e., people of above average intelligence who are below average at applying their intelligence.
posted by justkevin at 9:32 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

It'd be meaningless for you to join just to put it on your CV. But if you tried it out and found it to be personally useful, then it would be useful for you to put on your CV.
posted by disconnect at 10:11 AM on December 20, 2012

You're a PhD right? Lots of people at the doctoral level qualify for Mensa - partly because we've taken a bunch of those qualifying tests. Even if you qualify for Prometheus Society, no one is going to be impressed.

Leave it off your CV. Impress people with your body of research and publication.
posted by 26.2 at 10:24 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not only do people not care about your intelligence, but joining a group like this is a actually a negative predictor for intellect, in the eyes of a lot of people. To brazenly steal from a Metafilter discussion about this a few weeks ago:

Mensa is the society for people intelligent enough to want to pay to be able to tell people they are a member of a high-IQ club, but who aren't intelligent enough ... well, to not join fucking Mensa.
posted by Mayor West at 10:54 AM on December 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

No, even if you joined and found it useful and made lots of friends and it was the best time ever DO NOT NOT NOT put it on your academic CV, ever.

Even if you became the national president of Mensa and acquired tons of useful, directly job-related skills like organizing conferences or booking guest speakers DO NOT NOT NOT put it on your academic CV even in that case. Because Mensa is considered, in the academic community, at best a hobby club for would-be intellectuals.

Putting Mensa on an academic CV shows a significant tone-deafness to the culture and mores of academia. If this is an area in which you have some disadvantages (decoding social cues and unspoken cultural preconceptions is a specific skill that many highly intelligent and accomplished people are shitty at) you might want to think about talking with a career counselor who specializes in helping people in the science and technology sector navigate the process of professional self-promotion.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:52 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you're smart enough to qualify for Mensa, you're smart enough that the second you start talking, in the room you're in for an interview, people will know you're very smart.

And the way you get invited into the interview room is by showing the qualifications that are expected and explicitly desired by the people doing the inviting - the publications/research stuff being the biggest thing in your case (in most fields, the biggest thing is having done similar work before.)

Leave off the Phi Beta Kappa membership now that you're on the tenure track, BTW, unless you're like, an active adviser to a group on your current campus, or on the board of directors, or something.

Again: everyone knows/assumes that you're smart (up until the moment you do something bone-headed, anyway,) and will only be impressed by unusual "brightness" if you perform well in person, so leave it off.

(My advice would be somewhat different if you had spent the last five years in jail, or doing janitorial work, and wanted a job that required a lot more intelligence/social skills than either of those would suggest you were capable of - in that situation you'd want to put almost every last positive thing you could say about yourself, on that first resume. It'd be better, though, if you could say "started the first chapter of Mensa on Riker's Island, and managed it for three years," or something similar.)
posted by SMPA at 12:00 PM on December 20, 2012

Join Mensa if you want to meet people with IQs above average. I've met some Mensa members who seem like nice people. It's unlikely to advance your career and you are unlikely to meet people to network with, except for socially. Consider becoming active in the professional organizations for your field.
posted by theora55 at 12:36 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Tangentially relevant, but when I think of Mensa, this is always the first thing that pops into my mind: Woody Allen's short story The Whore of Mensa.
posted by MacChimpman at 11:20 AM on December 22, 2012

It's not something I wave around in people's faces, but I've been a Mensa member for years. I enjoy some of the social activities, and that's the reason I joined. While it's true that some individual members are a bit odd, plenty of others are very nice and enjoyable --- just like any other group of people (just like MeFites!), they vary. I do NOT put it on my resume, and rarely even admit to being a member --- see all of the above 'Mensans are self-absorbed wankers' posts for the reason.

Mensa is a social organization, not a professional one, so no: joining won't assist your career. Even worse, listing membership on your resume not only won't help your career, it might even backfire. There are, as above, people who view Mensans as dumb, anti-social misfits, stuck-up and/or self-centered losers; there's also sometimes a perception among those hiring that the Mensan is obviously gunning for THEIR job, and therefore hiring that person would be a mistake. (I've even had an employer find out about my membership long after hiring me, then assuming it meant I was automatically capable of doing every job in the company.)
posted by easily confused at 6:21 PM on December 24, 2012

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