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Professional certification is good but …

Professional certification is a process in which a person proves that he or she has the knowledge, experience, and skills to perform a specific job. The proof comes in the form of a certificate earned by passing an accredited exam that reflects prescribed standards for the particular industry involved.

So certification in itself is good. Ideally, the process of certification should equip professionals with the requisite skills. The question now is why do we find many certified professionals who are incompetent – lacking even the theoretical principles?

The reason is not far-fetched. Most professionals have the wrong motive during the learning process that leads to certification. When the motive of learning is to get certificates instead of to acquire skills, the professional, through exam success, ends up with only the certificate and no new skill.

Perhaps because it’s seen just as exams to be passed, the quest for professional certification is on the increase. It has become a popular fad. One time it was Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), today it is Project Management Professional (PMP), but ask most ‘certified’ professionals some basic questions in the area they are certified, you’ll be very disappointed.

This outcome is driven by the myth that when you get certified, you include them in your resume, append the corresponding acronyms beside your name, and it becomes easy to get new jobs.

But what most professionals do not realize is that certifications don’t get you a job. What employers are looking for is someone who can do the job and fit in. And for you to be able to do the job you need the necessary skills and the right attitude. If you want to validate them with certifications, fine. However, that does not make certifications the primary requirement.

Even though certifications provide status to those who have proven their knowledge, being certified does not ‘protect’ the incompetent. In fact, employers now know that you can become certified and still not be able to deliver on the job.

This is because learning with the primary aim to develop yourself is different from learning with the primary aim to get a certificate. Hence the outcomes are different. While personal development is what helps you to become the best human being you can possibly be, certification has become what people do to ‘get ahead’ in their career – a means to a limited end.

When your primary motive is to develop yourself, certification (if you still need it) then helps to assure employers, customers, and the public that you’re competent and professional. But when your primary motive is certification, you’ll fail to develop yourself.

Hence to advance professionally, do not put the proverbial cart before the horse. Seek personal development first and everything else will take care of itself.

So wouldn’t you rather focus on personal development? In one of our articles, “Developing Yourself to Success”, it was defined as the conscious pursuit of self-growth by expanding self-awareness and knowledge and improving personal skills.

You could start by reading value-adding books; volunteering in the field you hope to enter so as to learn; taking a course with the right motive.

3 thoughts on “Professional certification is good but …

  1. This is a very good article. Nothing can replace actual knowledge and skills. If there is a gap there, certificates cannot cover them sustainably.

    For some months now, I have been working on my public speaking skills. I have read related books, took some courses online, and voluntarily speak in public at every opportunity. Now I’m more confident and beginning to get offers to speak at social gatherings. Personal development is key. Certificates are secondary. Well written, LearnSmart.

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