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Creative Career Path

Does Certification Really Set You Apart?2012.08.20

    It’s official. You’re certified as a lawyer, accountant, medical professional, corporate trainer, or software specialist. But so it seems is everyone else in your field competing for the same clients or position working in a company. What in the world sets you apart?


    The conventional approach is to emphasize your experience, your client list, your success stories, your additional certifications, whatever you can put together to enhance your professional credentials. But there is almost always someone out there with more experience, more relevance, or more contacts.


    Moreover, certification is itself a thriving business. In addition to state certified professional licensing, there are certifications in many fields of training and technical skills. These certifications supposedly lead to a bright future with high demand for your services and clients booked months ahead. Alas, many such service professionals now flock to seminars on how to market your services or increase your income as a professional.


    There are professional associations which are designed to provide continuing education and raise the standards of practicing professionals, and this is one way to improve your position. However, to the consumer of your services, all this talk about certification is far less interesting or important than you might assume. Every practicing dentist is certified and has their credentials hanging on the wall. But that is not reason enough to open your mouth and let the dentist work on your teeth. While convenient location might be reason enough for a first visit, it will take more than that to keep you coming back. It will take a lot more than that to make you confident enough to enthusiastically recommend that dentist to your family and friends.


    In English a certification is a third party assurance attesting to completion of training or mastery of a set of competencies, an assurance of professional quality. The character in Japanese for certification is 資格 (shikaku), and the parts of the characters offer a fresh perspective on what the word originally means in Japanese. 次 (next) + 貝 (shell, money) = 資 (resource, capital). 木 (tree) + 各 (each) = 格 (quality, standard). In other words, a certification (shikaku) is a standard of professional quality which leads to continuing income. The piece of paper by itself is no guarantee at all of getting clients or repeat business.


    Other words using the character 資 (shi) have meanings ranging from assets (shisan), to means (shiryoku), to character (shishitsu). Other words using the character 格 (kaku) have meanings ranging from exceptional (kakubetsu), to remarkable (kakudan), to dignified (kakuchou). The word 資格 (shikaku) can even be used to mean qualified in character, being the appropriate person for the job, even apart from professional certification.


    It is not unusual to find people who are professionally certified and unemployed. The euphemism is over-qualified. Often this results from unrealistic expectations about what certification can do for you, and a neglect of the more important elements of professional quality and attitude that makes your value shine through.


    There is nothing wrong with seeking professional certification, and some professions require it. But it is little more than the price of entry, a ticket to get in the door. What you do from there is what will set you apart, and takes far more work and ongoing commitment than was required to get the certification in the first place. That is why it must be something that you love to do, something which engages your mind and body fully, and not just something you do for the money.


    The real professional, regardless of his or her credentials, is a person who is irreplaceable, the only person for the job or mission at hand. Strive to be good enough that people will accept no substitute! That is worth more than any piece of paper.



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    Article Writer

    William Reed

    William Reed is a renowned author-speaker who coaches physical finesse and flexible focus for a creative career path. A certified Master Trainer in Guerrilla Marketing and 7th-dan in Aikido, he combines practical wisdom of East and West to help you learn personal branding at the Entrepreneurs Creative Edge.

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