What Keeps People From Pursuing a Certification?

This is the second half of a two-part blog post. Interested in reading the first part – how and why more and more professionals are leveraging certifications? Check out the National Institute for Social Media blog!

We’re seeing more and more professionals pursue professional certifications. It’s an efficient use of time and money, and for a lot of people, it’s the best way to demonstrate specific skills. With all of these positive notes, why isn’t everyone pursuing certifications to advance their careers?

FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt). It’s always more comfortable to stick with what you know, even if it’s making you miserable. In hindsight, it’s easy to say stretch goals are the best thing you’ve ever done. It’s also easy to recommend other people reach outside their comfort zone and learn new things. But when you’re the person who needs to invest time and money, it’s common to suddenly have a long list of reasons why things may not pan out.

A (perceived or real) concern about a shorter return time for your ROI. Later in life, you have less “working years” left, so it’s easier to talk yourself out of making a change simply by saying what you’d have to invest wouldn’t be worth it.

Time and money. Many of us fill the time we have and spend the money we’re given, so finding extra of either (or both) can be challenging. It may require a conscious choice to give up something in your life to make room for your professional development.

There are certainly cases where these are legitimate issues that need to be addressed, most of the time they serve as convenient excuses to do nothing to improve your career outlook. And the best way to get past that hurdle is to have a conversation with yourself about investing in your own professional happiness.

What are the essential elements a person needs to complete a certification?  

Are you convinced that you should at least consider a certification? If so, take a look at these recommended first steps.

  • Determine what certifications are valuable in your industry. The rise of certifications that leverage knowledge and experience to help people gain the credibility they need in a short amount of time has led to more and more opportunities in a wide variety of industries. Explore job postings (even if you want to stay in your current company), opportunities through associations, and ask for advice from leaders you trust.
  • Set a reasonable goal. In a lot of industries, there are multiple options for learning and advancing your career. Be careful not to overcommit and set yourself up for failure. Even the smallest change can have a big impact, so prioritize actions that will help you be successful.
  • Make sure the prep is something you can manage. The flexibility of online and blended courses has made prep courses and even completing exams much more accessible. The process may be more manageable than you think, but if it isn’t feasible, there’s no point in starting something you can’t finish.
  • Confirm you have the personal and professional support you need. Can your spouse take on a little more of the household responsibilities while you prep for your exam? Will your company reimburse you for course costs? Your prep is an investment that likely affects others. It’s important to identify all of the people involved before you’re too far down the path.

What makes the risk and sacrifice worth the reward?

When people begin exploring a certification, they typically have a specific motivation in mind. They’re ready to advance in their career – financially, but also in their ability to influence others. They want to grow into or out of a specific job. They have knowledge but are hindered from using it because of a lack of credentials. There are a long list and a wide variety of reasons, but no matter where they start almost everyone ends up with the following perks.

  • You spend a third of your life at work – if you’re happy (or happier there) that carries over to the other aspects of your life. If having less family time for a few weeks or months while you prep worries you, ask yourself if it will be worth it to be happier and less stressed when you are at home.
  • Being happy at work usually makes you more productive at work! I’ve even seen people fall back in love with their current job because of a professional development opportunity they explored. So if you’re talking to your boss or if you are a boss, remember that professional development often has in-the-moment benefits, too!
  • In most cases, measurable skills and accomplishments lead to better jobs and more opportunities. Even if you don’t want a new job, professional development is a great talking point in your next review. And just because you don’t want a new job right now doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared for opportunities that may emerge.

As hard as the commitment may be to make, the reward is worth it. It’s hard to find someone who invested in their personal or professional development and regrets it. And remember, this is the second half of a two-part blog post, so if you want to know how and why more and more professionals are leveraging certifications, check out the NISM blog for the first post in this series!


Author Bio

Dr. Amy Jauman, SMS, is a speaker, professor, and certified social media strategist who bills herself as “an educator for the business environment.” She focuses on using social media, experiential learning techniques, and online resources to make information meaningful to adult learners in traditional and remote business and educational environments. In 2017, she authored the NISM textbook Comprehensive Field Guide for Social Media Strategists: Master the Six Content Domains of the SMS Exam and in 2018 published her second book, Certification Success: Create Your Personalized Study Plan, through Kendall Hunt Publishing. Amy has a master’s degree in experiential education and a doctorate in organization development. In 2013 she became a Certified Instructor through the National Institute of Social Media (NISM).

Topics: Digital Credentials

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