By Joe | Career Advice

For many workers, the COVID-19 situation and related job layoffs have caused career self-reflection to occur. The result for some has been a decision to make a career change away from what they previously were doing for employment. I personally know a person who was a life-long senior-level business manager working on transitioning to a career in Human Resources (Can you imagine someone wanting to work in Human Resources that much?).

Making this type of move is easier when you have transitional skills that can carry over from your current profession to the new desired one. This way you can make a strong case that there is significant value to your years of experience working in another field. The most common transitional skills usually consist of more of the “soft skills”, such as verbal and written communication, listening, presentation, and leading teams. What is often missing is the specific job, field, or industry knowledge that is required to be successful in the transitional position being sought. As an aside, a person can probably gain the industry knowledge via networking with key people.

The problem is how to gain the specific job or field knowledge necessary without going back to college or university. For most people in the situation of considering a change, the thought of going back to school for another several years to update their education seems more like a nightmare than an opportunity. There is an option, however, that is often overlooked and much more obtainable – a certification in the field being sought.

In many fields, there is a certification (or multiple levels of certification) that can be obtained to show to a Hiring Manager that you are knowledgeable in the field. These certifications can usually be obtained for much less money than a degree and in a considerably shorter time period. For example, my friend (noted above) is in the process of studying for a HR certification that, if successful, will be completed in a 3 to 4-month time period. Certifications usually focus on what you need to know to perform particular jobs or within specific industries.

There are several other benefits to obtaining a certification, beyond just the job knowledge that you will gain by the exercise.

  • It will display a desire for continuous learning. Companies want to see that candidates have continually sought to improve themselves. Candidates will often tout the initiatives that they led to improve the organization, but what have they done to enhance themselves? The answer for many, unfortunately, is not much.
  • If you happen to be over-50, then this is also a great way to break down the stigma about learning at an advancing age. You know the tired line of…”you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. The reality is you can learn, and obtaining a certification is a great way to show that you still have intellectual capacity and room to grow.
  • If you happen to unfortunately be in an unemployment situation, then obtaining a certification is a nice statement that you were not satisfied staying home and relaxing. Rather than spending the time in the sun, you spent it working on improving yourself. You can easily make the case that you are a high achiever and have the proof to show it (the certification!).
  • Obtaining the certification is a clear indication that you are serious about transitioning yourself to a new role. Oftentimes, candidates want to transition, but are ill-prepared to do so because they have not planned out and worked towards what is needed. A Hiring Manager should be impressed by your initiative and your commitment to making the career switch.

Going through the process of obtaining a certification can also be greatly beneficial for someone who is not changing careers. It serves to validate what you already knew, also ensures that you have the most up-to-date knowledge base in your field. Furthermore, obtaining the certification may provide you an additional level of gravitas with business partners as someone who is a certified “Subject Matter Expert”.

There is, of course, some vetting that should occur before you jump into a certification process. You need to determine if the skills that you will learn via your certification is of value. In other words, will you learn what you need to land the position you are seeking. Finally, is the certification that you will be obtaining recognized in the market. For example, some fields have multiple certifications available from a variety of institutions, but there is usually 1 or 2 which are the coveted ones that get you recognized. You need to do that legwork to make sure you are using your resources wisely.

As always, best of luck in your job search.

The following has been prepared for the general information of WNYJobs readers. It is not meant to provide advice with respect to any specific legal or policy matter and should not be acted upon without verification by the reader.

Joe Stein
WNY Human Resources Professional

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