Saturday, August 1, 2009

Get Certified!

I have enjoyed great success throughout the years by working hard and working smart. I always ignored my own personal development by staying focused to the task at hand, helping my clients, pulling late nights and weekends and trying to make everyone happy. I climbed the corporate ladder by hard work and commitment, building strong client partnerships, and making lots of money for the companies I have enjoyed employment and believed that it was enough to succeed. Although I have always worked for firms that offered tuition reimbursement, I didn’t see the value in earning an MBA or certification, as it wouldn’t change my pay or my position within the firm.

And, for many years that worked. But the landscape has changed dramatically, unemployment is at 10%, companies are downsizing in great numbers and job stability, well it’s just unstable. I have been faced with unemployment, something I never thought would happen to me. As I spend hours in search of my next job opportunity, I continuously look for ways to set myself apart from the countless numbers of other resumes my next employer will be comparing me to. And, although I display a stellar career, in all honesty, I lack many of the credentials I should display at this point, at my level. Although I am probably an expert in several areas, employers want proof of your expertise and in the 10-20 seconds they will spend scanning your resume, certifications and higher education will help you stand out. And, it may mean the difference between you and a colleague who gets to keep their job.

I recently went on an interview and almost all of the leaders of that company had training from the Kellogg School of Management (Northwestern University) listed on their profiles. For me, it was that “aha” moment when I realized I’d missed the boat and should have focused even a little more on myself over the years. Looking back, it is one of the only regrets I have that I did not take advantage of those tuition reimbursement plans. And why not? I love to read and I love to learn new things and despite working too much, I am sure I could have found the time had I made it a priority or one of my personal goals.

So if you follow any advice I can give you, GET CERTIFIED! Look for ways to enhance your credibility. Take an online course in leadership and/or management from an accredited college program. The University of Notre Dame offers a fairly comprehensive course on-line for under $5,000 through the University Alliance. Wharton and Villanova offer classes as well, although their tuition is higher and you will need to take these classes on-site. I am sure there is a host of other programs available to you; look into different colleges or on-line resources or seminars and find out what interests you. Give some thought if you can put it on your resume and how it will enhance your value.

If you are in HR, get PHR or SPHR certified, or get your CEBS (International Foundation) or REBC (American College) or other benefits certifications. Professional Training Services (PTS) in Mount Laurel, NJ offers multiple classes to help you get a producers license in multiple lines of insurance and property/casualty or offers other programs for FINRA series licensing. If you are a project manager, get your PMP Certification or start earning your Six Sigma Green or Black Belt. If you have the time, go back and get your MBA.

You do not want to wait until you are doing a job search to start thinking about your credentials. Although you will have the time, there is a good chance you will not have the money to pay for it. Although Unemployment has some assistance available, they do not pay for on-line courses and if you already have a degree, you are limited to what they will actually pay for. Take advantage of tuition reimbursement programs your employer offers.

Stop making excuses that you don’t have the time or it doesn’t really matter. It does matter and will only give you more credibility. Do some research on-line for various programs/certifications that will enhance your value for your line of work. Even if you are still working, look at some job boards and see what credentials are listed for jobs you might be interested. Crack open those books and don’t wait like me until you are looking for your next employment opportunity to figure out that what’s missing from your resume is better proof of your expertise!

Feel free to comment and let me know if you you’ve enrolled in a class!

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