Certification is becoming a good idea in today’s job market

I’ve never liked, or agreed, with the idea of certification. I’ve resisted it at every turn in my career. I object, with I think extremely good reason, to the notion that the ability to pass a written test has anything to do with a person’s ability to do the job.

In the employment market, especially the IT market, highly experienced people stranded by layoffs, downsizing, outsourcing and a levelling of global economies are overwhelming the resume piles. Where once our competition was local, it’s now national because of our increased willingness to move to wherever there are jobs, and international because white collar work is geographically ambivalent. The challenge facing the unemployed today – and the currently complacently cubicled but possibly soon to be unemployed tomorrow – is how to become a sparkling diamond among the gravel. Stating you’re a people person isn’t enough anymore. You need something that the crowd doesn’t have: a piece of paper certifying a degree of competence in some aspect of your professed skill set. Even if it doesn’t prove anything, except that you’re capable of jumping a well-defined hurdle.

I’ve worked with far too many people incapable of delivering what their certification promised. To make matters worse, as an intellectual exercise, I’ve sat in on, and passed, tests that asserted I knew how to do X, knowing I did not know enough to perform the stated task. Certifications prove a person can pass a test, not that they can do the job.

So why this article? Because the reasons stated above are insufficient reasons to avoid certification. I’m even more convinced of this after recently completing a small study on the importance of the Project Management Professional certification (PMP) offered through Project Management Institute (PMI). When asked if having a PMP was a distinct asset when they got hired, 37 per cent of the 133 respondents answered yes. When asked if their current employer saw the PMP as a strong asset, that number jumped to 74 per cent. That suggests that either their initial estimation of the importance of their PMP was short of the mark, or that in the intervening time since they’ve been hired, the importance of the PMP certification has increased dramatically in their organization.

If a certification has become, rightly or wrongly, the passport that allows entry into the corporate world, then resumes without the necessary seals of approval are discarded faster than spam from an inbox.

My past objections to certification aside, all certification processes offer one huge benefit to any profession. Certification processes serve to create standards of communication. By being the hurdle of expertise everyone must clear, they propagate a necessary collection of common terminology. That alone justifies the proliferation and growing trend towards certification in all industries. Get certified, before you need it.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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