This article first appeared on the Adecco USA blog and is reprinted here with permission.
How do you advance your career and differentiate yourself from others in your profession?
The answers to this question are as plentiful as the number of people asking it. There’s no hard and fast rule that’s guaranteed to propel a career forward and set someone apart from the rest of the pack. The strategies vary greatly by job, industry, and company. Yet there is one option available to professionals – from accountants to environmentalists to plumbers — that can significantly improve your standings: a professional certification.
A professional certification or designation provides an impartial endorsement of a particular professional skill set, knowledge, or experience level. Certifications are typically earned from a professional organization, trade association, or IT vendor by taking an exam that evaluates an individual on his or her aptitude.
Incentives for Becoming Certified
Obtaining a professional certification often requires a significant time investment, as it involves studying for the exam and possibly taking a prerequisite class. However, the time commitment is typically worth it given the array of career benefits that can’t be obtained with other advancement techniques.
Prove Your Skills
Perhaps the biggest incentive for earning a certification is the credibility it lends to you and your professional abilities. The certificate you receive is concrete, indisputable proof to employers, colleagues, and clients that you are a capable and qualified professional.
Increase Your Paycheck
Most employers are willing to pay more for people who bring a little something extra to the team, whether it’s a particular skill set, experience, or designation. Professional certification isn’t a one-way ticket to a bigger salary, but it will certainly give you leverage in asking for a raise from a current employer or negotiating compensation terms with a new one.
Enhance Your Resume
Professional certification is like a gold star on your resume. It shows that you’ve gone the extra mile to make yourself the best you can be at your job. Plus, nothing says job commitment like devoting a chunk of your after-hours (and money) to furthering your career. Current and prospective employers will take notice.
Gain a Competitive Advantage
If you want to be the best three-point shooter on your company’s intramural basketball team, you should probably spend a lot of time on the court. Similarly, if you want to be the best at your job, you need to devote the time to improve your professional skills and experience. A certification accomplishes this task and gives you an edge over those who don’t have one.
Professional certification is a card you want to be holding if you’re trying to take your current job to the next level, apply for a promotion, or land your dream job. It’s not going to be easy, but earning yours just might be your best career choice yet.
Have you recently become certified? How has it changed your career path?