A wooden bat
The last year that I played Little League Baseball as a child, probably about 15 years old, I had a favorite bat. This bat was a wooden bat, and it made me unusual because most of my teammates used an aluminum bat. As I remember it, I played well that season, but not as well as I had hoped or expected to. Then, in the last game of the season, my wooden bat broke, and I had to use an aluminum bat for the first time. In that last game, I hit the ball harder than I had all season. I hit the ball harder because I was using a better bat – the aluminum bat. It turns out that all of the other kids were right – an aluminum bat was better than a wooden bat. It turns out that my performance falling short of my expectations was because I was not using the best tool for the job.
Having the right tool
This is not my only example of the fact that having the right tool for the job makes the work easier, but also leads to a better result. Using the right type of saw or drill makes the sawing or drilling process easier. Using an electric screwdriver is faster than a hand-powered screwdriver. The right tools make gardening easier. The list goes on…
The best professional certification
The list also includes your professional certification. When you choose your professional certification, you need to choose the right one for the job. And in this case, “the job” is your career. You need to choose the professional certification that will serve you the best in your career. It is important to keep in mind that the best certification for your friends and colleagues may not be the best certification for you.
How do you determine the best certification for you? There are a few questions you should answer to determine the best certification for you.
- What do you want to be doing in 5 years or 10 years? You need to look into your future to determine what will be best for you. You should not choose your professional certification based on what you are doing now (you already have that job), but rather on what you want to do in the future. What certification will give you the skills and knowledge that you will need to perform that job you want in the future?
- What certifications do people who have the job you want have? Look online at people who currently have the job that you want, and see what certifications they have. If they all have a certain certification, then chances are good that you will be expected to have that same certification in that job.
- Are you able to gain that certification? Some professional certifications have strict eligibility requirements regarding education and/or experience. You need to be certain that you meet those requirements. If a certification requires an education that you do not have, then you should not spend time trying to pursue it. For example, becoming a CPA has very specific education requirements and if you have already graduated and are not close to meeting those requirements, then CPA is not a certification that you should plan to pursue.
Related to this point, you also need to ask how realistic it will be for you to complete the certification? Some programs have 12 or more exams that take as many as four years to complete. Do you have the time, and the financial resources, to be able to make that investment?
- Are you going to be able to do the required studying? You also need to be certain that you are going to be able to put in the time that is required to study what is covered in your exams. If too much of the syllabus is new to you, or in topics that you do not like, it will be very difficult to put in the time needed to prepare properly for the exam. On every exam, there will be some topics that you do not like, but they should not be a majority of the topics on the exam.
Jump-start your career
If you choose the correct certification, it will provide great benefit to you throughout your career. You will start to see those benefits as soon as you start studying because your skills and knowledge will improve. You will see the benefits of your certification as you get promoted, find a new job in a new company, and move into the job that you saw when you chose your certification. The benefits will continue to come to you as you become more involved and active in the professional organization and the networking opportunities it provides. The right certification will jump-start your career and help you reach your professional goals.
So, before you start studying, spend some time thinking about the questions above to make certain that you start pursuing the best certification for YOU. Your certification is a tool that you will have available throughout your career, so make certain that it is the best tool for what you want to do in your career.
Brian Hock, CMA, CIA
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