Benefits of Certification and Professional OrganizationsDan Beare | Environmental Professional and Current Events Blogger
Across Canada there are a multitude of professional associations covering all segments of the economy, many of which can be found here. Many more such associations exist in the United States and United Kingdom. Applicants need to be sure the certification is legitimate and recognized throughout their industry. I learned about certification that was available to me by speaking with associates in my field and was encouraged to apply for certification in order to enhance my chances of being selected for job openings (more on this later).
I became a certified Environmental Professional in Training (EPt) with Eco Canada in 2012, which is the only certification available to new graduates in my field with less than five years of work experience. The certification gives me access to a professional network on LinkedIn, where I can connect with more than 8,000 members who hold discussions on topics such as current events and job opportunities. There are even discounts to upcoming seminars and conferences, allowing for further networking opportunities. The Eco Canada website has a job board and provides additional information on industry trends and advice. Certification has become increasingly important in my field since it’s easy for job seekers to make false statements. The Canadian Environmental Certification Approvals Board states that “certification is crucial in the environmental sector where green-washing makes it difficult to separate the self-proclaimed experts from the real ones.”
Has certification helped me land a job? I would say not directly, although the legitimacy it represents and networking connections it provides is valuable. Some of my colleagues have not heard of the EPt designation, as the certification is still relatively new, but it is becoming more common as time goes on. For professionals looking for employment I would argue certification is worthwhile and makes you a more valuable commodity on the job market.
One area I struggle with is training received while employed, which doesn’t result in a certificate or designation. I’ve attended workshops during work contracts that aren’t recognized outside of my company’s human resources/training department. For example, this past summer I attended a day-long team-building exercise on the concept of Lean Six Sigma which attempts to eliminate waste and non-value added activities in the workplace. LEAN is all the rage in management these days and is now appearing on some job descriptions. Unfortunately, since I can’t provide any record of training received during my employment, it’s mostly useless to me. Of course that isn’t to say workplace training itself is a waste of time; in fact, I try to obtain as much free training as possible to give me an internal competitive advantage among colleagues.
There are professional certifications available regardless of your field which can be found through discussions with those in the industry or by examining job descriptions. Certification can be another way to improve your skill set to be recognized for your accomplishments. In a world of personal branding and marketing, any advantage that helps in landing a job is worth the effort.
Author Perspective: Student
Beare presents some very good arguments for pursuing a certificate designation to set yourself apart from others seeking jobs in the same industry. I am a hiring manager for a mid-sized firm and I often look for a certification when trying to decide between two otherwise equally qualified candidates. The certificate, to me, shows not only greater aptitude in a subject, but also greater interest.
However, I would caution people from becoming “overcertified.” I have seen resumes where the individual has four or five designations. That, to me, demonstrates that the individual isn’t able to commit to something and follow through with it. It also makes me question whether the certificates are meant to hide something, like lack of practical experience (which is still more valuable).
I agree with Beare’s points about seeking a professional designation. I find that my designation is most useful in networking events, as it gives me a certain level of subject matter expertise that enables me to talk to others in the industry I’m hoping to break into. It’s also a good way for someone like me, who’s just starting out, to demonstrate that I’m serious about my work.
Word of advice for Beare: I have a section on my resume called “Professional Development” where I list workplace training or other one-off courses/seminars I attend. You don’t necessarily need a credential to capture the learning you do.