Let’s face it—searching for a job is a full-time job. As such, once you have taken the first step and drafted a résumé, you want your credentials to differentiate you from all other possible candidates.
In the recent past, listing a college degree as documentation was the “gold standard” of such success. However, even this accomplishment doesn’t guarantee your advancement to the next step of the interview process. Data-hungry organizations have become increasingly savvy and rely more and more on electronic scanning tools to sort applicants’ qualifications based on pre-programmed “desirable” keywords or phrases.
So, what’s a qualified job seeker, like yourself, to do?
What strategies can you embrace?
Potential employees have considered completing certifications as one method of distinguishing themselves from the rest of the pack. The benefits to these are obvious:
- They can usually be obtained in a short period of time.
- They demonstrate additional education or training.
- Their description (if included on a résumé) may elicit a positive response from an employer because it may contain those elusive “desirable” keywords.
- They illustrate specialization in a particular area of interest.
But, wait—not so fast. Not all certifications are created equal.
You’d be wise to answer the following questions before embarking on this journey, because certifications may not be the panacea you expect.
1. Who is offering the certification?
Many associations provide their members the opportunity to improve their skills by offering their own industry-specific certifications. In most cases, although not explicitly stated, these are either in partnership with or have been developed by an academic institution’s faculty experts, thus lending credibility to the content. Some hospitality examples include: Meeting Professionals International’s (MPI) Certificate in Meeting Management; American Hotel and Lodging Association’s (AHLA) Certified Hospitality Educator program; Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International’s (HSMAI) Certified Revenue Management Executive. Be sure to fully vet the organization providing the certification, since you want to make sure the return on investment (ROI) will be recognized by industry. In other words, avoid certifications from such places as “Joe Schmoe’s no name” college, university or association.
Of course, many large organizations such as Marriott offer employees their own certifications—these are really designations that may or may not translate to other companies.
2. How intense is the program?
The old adage, “You get out of something what you put into it” is very true. If a certification is easily obtainable, how unique and how worthwhile is it? Some certifications entail numerous components—online training, actual classes or seminars, study materials, tests, presentations, etc.—while others merely require reading a few articles and completing a test at the conclusion—not as valuable. Perhaps one of the most prestigious and recognizable certifications is that of a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). This is an extremely difficult and time-consuming process, yet it is deemed valuable as it is renowned not only by the accounting industry but also by the public.
3. Is the certification replacing a degree?
Most experts would agree that few certifications are as valuable as the experience of obtaining an actual degree, at either a bachelor’s or a master’s level. Granted, certifications may cost less in the short term than a completed degree, but again, another adage (sorry)—“You get what you pay for”—can also be true. Certainly, the optimal situation is obtaining a certification from an accredited institution as a component of a degree (a course embedded within an MBA program, for example) or as credit should you complete the certification—in this case, you’ve “tested the waters” and subsequently decided to enroll in an actual program. In these cases, the money translates into course conversion and degree completions.
4. How many is too many?
This is a case of remembering that “Less is often more”… oh, another adage, yikes! If you have certifications from every entity under the sun or in a wide variety of areas, employers are going to question your focus and expertise. Perhaps you have multiple areas of interest and numerous certifications; however, as you customize your résumé, you should list only those certifications pertinent to the actual position for which you’re applying. Your name should not have so many letters after it that is confused with alphabet soup or a pharmacy prescription.
5. How long can you include the certification as a credential?
Most certifications have a shelf life: They’re perishable commodities unless you renew them to demonstrate you’ve updated your skillset by perhaps completing additional classes, attending a prescribed number of seminars, creating a portfolio listing your newest accomplishments, and, of course, spending additional dollars. While most organizations don’t state that they “take away” the credential (
because, let’s be honest, it is advertising for them also), a shrewd employer may still ask when and if you have renewed your certification.
6. Is the certification skills-based or more professionally oriented?The National Restaurant Association is recognized for offering numerous worthwhile skill-based certifications for food service personnel, the most common being ServSafe which demonstrates your understanding of food handling, alcohol service, and awareness relating to food-borne pathogens. Often these certificates are prerequisites for obtaining a front-of-the-house foodservice or bar position. Conversely, higher-level certifications, such as the Certified Revenue Management Executive, as mentioned earlier, are designed to designate your professional expertise in a particular area. Depending on what career ladder rung you’re on, it is important to choose the appropriate level of designation.
Keep in mind that, many professional certifications have “prerequisites” in order to be considered—previous years of experience at a particular management level for example—be sure you have met these standards before beginning the application process.
Finally, certifications provide just one of myriad résumé enhancements from which to choose—and remember, they do not replace the value of a degree! Volunteer or community service is nearly always respected, as is continuity in terms of employment. A tailored résumé directed toward a specific job is an absolute must—this is not “one size fits all.” If you truly want a particular job, as stated earlier, you need to work for it.
To learn more about the Johnson & Wales University College of Online Education and how one of our degree programs can help further your career, complete the “Request Info” form on this page or call 855-JWU-1881 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.