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Certification Crazy? Check the ‘Other Side of the Coin’

How many certifications does one really need nowadays? I recently met a woman who, while having extensive experience with project management, found out when she repatriated to the US that there exists more bureaucratic red tape existing here now than ever before. She added that there exists a certain ‘craze’ over certifications and bemoaned that despite her background, she still needed to have one to be reintegrated into the US system and gain clients. For all the craziness that surround certification paperwork, finally, she questioned if these actually have any value.

Undoubtedly there are some frustrations and challenges with certifications today, as there are processes, procedures, and rules to consider. However, I think that is only ‘one side of the coin’. Yes, you have to work hard to get certified, and you need to make the effort to remain certified. You also need to five careful consideration and identify which certification(s) make the most sense for your career.

At the same time, most of us can easily identify individuals who are not certified that arguably are better at what they do than some who are certified. But, in all honesty, it would be hard refute the statement that certifications in general raise the level of personal performance, and that they also raise the level of collective or organizational performance.

The ‘other side of the coin’ for professionals, I think, is that certifications present an opportunity for you to take charge of your own career. Times today are different that the ‘pre-certification’ era, where professionals generally had steady, long-term jobs with a single organization that often provide training and indoctrination in their way of doing business.

While that is great in many ways, and it worked for those times, there was less control and mobility among professionals. A lot of people who operated in such an industry had experienced painful layoffs, particularly when the workplace rules had shifted. The changing rules of the workplace are a good place to start thinking about the ‘other side of the coin’ regarding certifications.

Getting more control over your work life is what the ‘other side of the coin’ offers. And the world demands it today. You are more likely to be in a profession than a company for the long term. And, if you desire, you have the opportunity to transition among various professions, in part by leveraging your ability to earn certifications. Here are 7 quick positives that I see on ‘the other side of the coin’:

1. A certification can provide you with a degree of job security.

2. A certification can provide you with a gateway to independent consulting.

3. Certifications will help determine what the minimum skill levels are.

4. Certifications help to promote collegiality among professionals, creating for you a network based on a common background.

5. Certification can help you make a career change.

6. Certification can provide a career ladder, where you might not be climbing an organizational hierarchy.

7. Certification can very definitely enhance your skills!

So, how can you translate those listed positives on the ‘other side of the coin’ into real life for yourself? Here are some more examples of how certification can help you as a professional, no matter what stage of your career. These 5 examples show some different individual situations, and you may see yourself in one or more of these situations. Career paths, certification decisions, and options are personal and depend on your background, interests, and goals:

1. An individual with PMP certification might enhance their skills by earning the PRINCE2 certification, and thus learn a different and more ‘prescriptive’ approach. The mix is reputably powerful.

2. A PMP working in the IT Department in a large organization might find that they can enhance their skills, credentials, and value for their specific area by earning an ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) certification.

3. An application developer might be certified in specific technologies, such as Java, Visual Basic, C++, Oracle, and more, but might desire to more toward a managerial role. The CAPM or PMP certification might offer a structured and realistic way to acquire those skills and credentials to be in position for those opportunities.

4. Someone who has earned the PMP might be asking “What’s next?” Certification provides alternatives, like earning the PgMP (Program Management) or Six Sigma certification.

5. A CAPM certified professional might be gaining experience, but might also want to accelerate their progress while they gain experience. An alternative like the Business Analyst (ABAP) certification might make sense to them.

The key is to develop your own customized plan for the future, and get pretty specific about the next few years. Like so many other successful people, you can leverage the reality of certifications in today’s world as an opportunity to advance your own career.

John Reiling, PMP, PE, MBA is an experienced Project Manager and Engineer. John’s web sites, Project Management Training Online and Lean Six Sigma Training Online [http://www.leansixsigmatrainingonline.com], provide online training in Lean, Six Sigma, and related topics. John writes regularly in his Project Management blog, PMcrunch.com.

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