There is a lot of buzz lately around alternative education and training. If you run a Google search for “certifications in demand” you get no less than 35 million results. The question that arises in this case would be How relevant is a certification and will it actually help your career?
There are always two sides to the story. On one hand, many certifications are as useful as the paper they are printed on. To obtain them all you need to do is learn by heart one set of information and pass a yes/no test. As an employer, I find those to be highly irrelevant. My reaction is usually “Okay, now show me what you are made of and what you have done so far.”
On the other hand, there are those certifications that are a mix of knowledge and expertise. PMI institute is surely a leader in making sure their certification system is relevant. Hubspot is a second example which is close to my heart, as I know how tough they are as you move up the certifications ladder.
I personally believe the truth sits in the middle of the table. You need both certifications and expertise to be relevant. Here are a few reasons why.
It is a good start for your career
If you just graduated from university or changing lanes reinventing yourself in a new career then expertise is usually the missing piece of the puzzle. If you are determined to pursue this career you will start digesting information and educate yourself until you feel comfortable with the field.
How do you start? I believe in self-education, but the hardest part of it is structure. Just like when we are small, we need to learn how to stand up first, then we can learn how to walk and, in the end, run. Certification programs are providing that structure that can help you learn the right things at the right time. They set up the basics so that you can use your practical expertise as you advance.
Close the gap between knowledge and skills
Young professionals agree immediately when there is talk about a mismatch between formal education and required industry skills. Without diving into long debates, we all heard at least once that graduates are not in sync with what the labor market needs. The European Commission uncovered not long ago that within the European Union young people reach an unemployment rate of 23 percent. At the same time, almost 2 million jobs remain vacant. As a result, Europe is creating a Rethinking Education strategy to respond to align education and job markets. As the press release states it is clear that education systems also need to modernise and be more flexible in how they operate to respond to the real needs of today’s society.
This is where alternative education systems are bridging the gap and supporting the alignment of young professionals with the market. Certifications become a trusted framework that demonstrate that you made that alignment happen. Both the training course as well as the certification itself support your career by making your knowledge and skills relevant and accredited.
Credibility and Commitment
Certifications do not prove that you have the experience required for the job or for the assignment. That is proven by expertise and past achievements. However, what a certification proves is the responsibility and commitment you take in what you do, offering credible proof that you have common knowledge on the topic. It might not help if your experience is short lived and you are up against a candidate that worked his way through the trenches and knows the job inside out. But it will say you are fully committed to your career and making sure you have the latest information, tools and know-how at hand when doing your job.
Training and certifications also create a positive impact on financial benefits. Data is not available for every industry, but for those that do have it, the case for following a certification route is compelling. According to 2014 salary report by PeopleCert those professionals that added new skills through training were twice as likely as the overall average to see a raise of 11 percent or higher (18 percent vs. 7 percent), and raises were more pronounced for those who had completed a new certification within the prior 12 months.
It’s very likely that a certification will not generate a salary increase directly, but it helps with positioning yourself within the organization, standing out and showing drive and ambition. This impacts the value you bring to your organization and may account for better benefits or promotions.
It complements skills that support your success
Last but not least, certifications help your career if they are in your area of expertise, but going through a certification program can also be seen as gaining complementary skills. These should be seen as improving your performance in your job and give you the insights you need to “play well with others”.
For us, the best example is our own experience. We have met several sales people and entrepreneurs that already adopted and learned about inbound marketing before connecting with us, and we ourselves come from an entrepreneurship, sales and business development background. Discussing planning and business with them is a pure pleasure as the level of understanding we have by using the same terminology and concepts is amazing. I feel like every sales person should get a marketing certification and every marketer a sales one. Business meetings would be transformed radically.
Hubspot is offering a free Certification program for the getting the basics right, which will help us when starting new collaborations to get everyone on the same page with minimum effort. If you are working in marketing or sales, and even if you are an established business owner or young entrepreneur going through the inbound marketing certification may help you more than you think.
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