Once upon a time, I looked down on industry certifications. I thought they were crutches, tools that people used to hide a lack of a track record, and for a certain small percentage of the population, that’s probably still true. But for the most part, I’ve changed my perspective on certifications and now view them as valuable.
Why? As people get busier and busier, as the world grows more and more complex, people are willing to devote less time to getting certifications or continuing education. Certifications’ value have increased not because they’re harder to get, but because people are unwilling to make sacrifices to obtain them. In many cases, our workdays are so busy, so frenetic that we don’t have a moment of spare time to devote to personal advancement. Employers don’t go out of their way to give employees dedicated chunks of time to go get certified in anything. Thus, certifications have to be pursued outside of work, and in some cases even at our own personal expense.
Because of this, someone who has a certification from a legitimate authority is demonstrating by proxy that they’ve invested in themselves. They’ve spent time and possibly money to grow themselves, and that’s a powerful personality trait that you want in an employee.
What makes this even more powerful is that a legitimate certification can help to overcome bias. When you think of Brian May from the band Queen or NBA champion Shaquille O’Neal, do you think of intellectual rigor?
Perhaps not, but May is Ph.D. in astrophysics, and O’Neal is a Ph.D. in Human Resources. We have biases about these individuals based on their fame that obscures our ability to see their intellectual feats.
Now extrapolate that down to the non-famous. If you have two resumes in front of you that look virtually identical – as many entry level candidates do, thanks to grade inflation – there’s a good chance subtle biases will come into play, consciously or unconsciously. Having a legitimate certification, such as a Google Analytics certification, suddenly puts more objective data on the table that can reduce the influence of bias, particularly subconscious bias.
Where should you go for certifications? As much as possible, go to the originating source. If you’re interested in Google technologies, get certified through Google. Want to be recognized as authoritative by Facebook? Facebook has Preferred Marketing Developer and Preferred Marketing Partner certification. When certification from the originating source isn’t possible, then you’ll have to shop around, but beware that there’s much more snake oil than legitimate, rigorous certification in the third party market.
The bottom line for me is that certification demonstrates investment. If you’re not willing to invest in yourself, why should other people invest in you? Conversely, if you’re willing to improve yourself, chances are you’re willing to improve any organization you’re part of.
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