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5 Pillars: Certify Like a Pro

Credit: Aaron Burden via Unsplash


Achieving the #1 certification in your industry signals credibility and creates network.

  1. Consider your target roles. What is the most relevant certification?

  2. Look at your highest value Project. Is there a certification that naturally complements this project?

  3. Start small. Take a skills training and exam prep course (often as little as $15 on sale). Validate every step before making bigger time commitments.

  4. SPEAK UP. Create Visibility with Mentors and peers. Find colleagues and community online to share your journey with.

  5. Don't hide your accomplishments. Cite your certification clearly in a modern resume format, and whenever an interviewer asks about motivation and readiness.

To become Credible, Capable and Visible in your industry, getting the #1 certification is a powerful complementary tool. I remember the day I passed the key certification and gave my well-placed Mentor this Reason to Believe. I skipped back to the office and walked up to my study partner with a huge grin on my face. We had been quietly studying for weeks, and I was the first to go in.

My wife rushed to meet me in the lobby and we embraced. I had been studying evenings and weekends for months. She knew how much pressure I felt to pass this on the first try, before my final interview.

I had taken an exam meant for new hires approaching 6 months tenure, and passed it before the interview. According to the hiring manager, this would create leverage in our favor for the debrief.


The most motivated professionals are looking for every advantage they can create for turning points like hiring debriefs, promotion reviews and investor pitches. We all want to create defensible evidence that speaks for us when we aren't in the room. We are asking someone to take a risk on us, so let's create Reasons to Believe and make that task less complicated.

Below, I address 3 common arguments not to invest time and prioritize a certification. In my view, these are misconceptions. I advocate a moderate, informed and balanced approach to certifications as part of your total 5 Pillars effort.

1. I don't need certifications because I'm 'not a technical person'

Our jobs economy has changed. We exist in a skills based economy where we are competing to be Credible, Capable and Visible. Sales, Finance, Engineering, Marketing, HR are tackling old challenges with new AI-assisted methods and data-driven business insight.

Our productivity depends on speed to actionable insight, and the agility and digital dexterity to anticipate and respond to change on time.

Bottom line, companies want to hire and promote employees with current, demonstrable skills. Self-limiting titles like 'non-technical founder' are less attractive every day.

Certifications make our capabilities credible and explainable during decisions on hiring, firing, promotion and funding.

2. It's a waste of time because I'm already capable and doing the role.

I see this in the comments after someone excitedly posts about a certification they completed. It's present in the chuckles I hear when I ask about plans to support teams getting certified.

Here's my argument:

Capable =/ Credible

Just because I believe I'm capable and enjoy bragging rights with my peer cohort, is that something I trust my manager to articulate? Is that something HR and Finance will understand when it's decision time for budgets, headcount and compensation?

3. It's not my priority because my industry changes so quickly, certs are rapidly out of date.

I respect this view. However, I come to a more moderate conclusion.

Understanding how things came to be orients us for new trends and best practices. I can be in the ballpark instead of across the state.

This leads to more credible, informed conversations with mentors and leadership. It improves decisions on career priorities and who we choose to invest our time with.


Achieving the #1 certification in your field can be an effective complement to your 5 Pillars approach. Recognizable certifications support any evaluation process with gatekeepers for your career goal. Holding the #1 certification helps hiring managers, HR and investment partners argue in favor of your credibility.

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