Professional Certification -- The Journey



I’m here at SHRM Talent 2018 and this morning, SHRM announced its new certification specifically for talent acquisition professionals. It seems fitting that I post this blog as certification is on my mind. I hope you are inspired by it.

For the past thirteen years or so, I have helped HR professionals prepare for their certification exams through the support of my local SHRM Chapter. I began this work because I had such a hard time studying on my own for the SPHR. I vowed to help others who struggled with self-study and created a prep group – we meet weekly for months in preparation for the exams. It has been a rewarding experience and I swear I learn more about being a good human each and every time I present. After everyone in the group has completed their tests, we meet one final time. As you can imagine, some are celebrating a successful result and some are looking for a shoulder to cry on. I show up for both, and I celebrate both. Below is an excerpt of the message I offered recently to each one of those professionals who traveled with us along the way.

To everyone who prepared for and/or took this test, I have some thoughts for you. By now, you know I can talk until you’re exhausted but rest assured, I can’t type quite as much. I will try to be brief.

First and foremost, you tried.

Think about those words! Let them settle upon you.

  • You made an attempt to learn something.
  • You took time away from other, really important things like your kids, your bike ride, your sick aunt or faithful puppy in order to increase your knowledge!
  • You came with an open mind in order to fill it with new ideas and concepts.
  • You invested in your future.

That alone, dear HR professional, sets you apart from many of your peers. Thank you.

Second, you made yourself uncomfortable.

Whether you ended up sitting for the exam or not, you stepped out of your comfort zone.

  • Making yourself vulnerable is difficult, and becomes even more scary when it’s in front of your peers, but you did it anyway.
  • Sitting in class and trying to focus and learn after a long day at work is nearly impossible and tiring, but you did it anyway.
  • Disciplining yourself to show up even when the holiday festivities circled around you created angst and sadness, but you did it anyway.

Improvement in anything doesn’t happen within our cage of comfort. But there you were, stepping out of the peaceful pleasantness of your role in order to improve your mind, your job, your organization and our profession. Thank you.

Some of you sat for the exam but didn’t get a favorable result. I wouldn’t be surprised if this stirred up emotions you weren’t quite prepared to face. I get it, and I am sorry! I, too, have been disappointed in myself. I, too, have been embarrassed in front of my peers. I, too, have compared myself unreasonably to others not in similar circumstances and not added up. But I challenge you to re-read my words above. You tried. You made yourself uncomfortable in order to improve. Regardless of the result of that exam, you are a better HR professional and perhaps a better human because of your journey. Thank you.

Some of you sat for the exam and succeeded. What a relief that must have been when you saw those words appear. I am happy for you and I know the elation you felt when you realized you DON’T have to prepare for and take the test again. Congratulations!

But you’re not done, my dear HR professional! No indeed, your work has just begun!

Not only do you need to commit to continued learning in order to keep your certification, but you owe it to our honorable profession, and you owe it to yourself to prove your worth! Don’t throw away those learning materials – use them and implement those ideas and philosophies today, tomorrow and beyond. Start sharing your knowledge and your lessons learned with those who have not yet had your experiences. Start behaving and acting in your job TODAY as you did for the four or so hours during the testing period. You’ll remember I told you many times during the prep sessions that for those four hours, you were to pretend you were a high performing HR professional. You were to pretend you were a strategic thinker. You were to pretend you had the best interest of the organization top of mind. You were to pretend you were focused on this profession’s terrific but challenging purpose.  Well, you passed that exam, but now we all need you to stop pretending and start being!


It takes all of us to advance this profession, and those much deserved alphabet characters sitting proudly after your name mean you hold a higher burden to carry us a bit forward. 

By the way, I’m speaking at SHRM Talent 2018 and I am hosting a brain date on this very topic. Join me and others to talk about the road ahead as you prepareyou’re your professional certification!

For more information on the SHRM Certification, please click here



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