A friend of mine recently was discussing the fact that an HR certification she got several years ago has been eclipsed by a different, more "well-known" set of letters. She had to study hard and sit to take a pretty demanding test to get the certification, and now she questions whether she should get the more "well known" designation.
It's a common question: will getting specific training to get a set of letters after your name make a difference in the job market? In Seattle, this question is especially relevant in the tech market. With Microsoft being one of the largest area employers, having MCxx (Microsoft Certified...take your pick) after your name is de rigueur and somewhat expected. A lot of out of work professionals have taken advantage of UI-funded programs such as getting their PMP (Project Management) as well, and want to know: is the time, money, and effort worth it?
As with most questions, this isn't a simple "one answer fits all". It really depends on the industry, job title, and quite honestly the organization. I'm seeing more and more job descriptions wanting professional certifications on them. My professional opinion is that this is a way for hiring managers and recruiters to help narrow the pool down. For a lot of professionals, getting those letters after their name is just a validation of the experience they've already accrued over their careers. This subject falls under the question of education for me: how will it impact your chances in the workplace? Will it get you more money?
But maybe more importantly in this tough economy, getting a certification while you are unemployed shows that you, as a professional, have been taking time to do *something* during your downtime to improve your employability and professional profile. For this reason alone, if you can afford it, getting industry certifications are definitely worth considering.
But before you run out to get your Six Sigma green belt, make sure you thoroughly investigate what your industry is looking for. Read job postings, blogs from professionals in your industry, articles etc. to determine if it will make a difference. Going out and getting letters after your name *could* backfire on you if nobody in your industry wants them. It could give the impression that you are getting ready to change industries or even that you aren't current with your profession. As much as I hate to say it, professional impressions count even more now than they did two years ago. Make sure the impression you are giving is concurrent with what is happening in your profession.
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