certifications

Do I Need to Go Back to College to Change Careers?

iStockphoto.com |  monkeybusinessimages

iStockphoto.com | monkeybusinessimages

You are well into your career. You’ve made all the right moves, you have a track record of success, salary increases, and promotions behind you, and yet you’re feeling bored and unfulfilled. What can you do to spread your wings and pivot into a new career path?

The most traditional historically has been to return to college to earn an advanced degree, or to study another discipline. In the economy of the past, this was a no-brainer, but is it the best approach today? Going back to college to earn a graduate degree or some other diploma can be an expensive, time intensive endeavor, and your return on your investment is far from guaranteed – even if your next diploma is from an elite and prestigious college or university. It’s important to weigh your options carefully. Here are some factors to consider:

Does the new field you are choosing require a specialized type of education?

Some jobs require specific advanced training and education. For example, you can’t just apply for a job as a nurse without a nursing degree, or as a lawyer without a law degree. But for those who have the time, resources, and aptitude to pursue such a specialized education, it’s entirely attainable to make such a change.

 

Do you want to jump start your career?

Presuming you like your line of work, if you want to jump start your current career, going back to college to elevate your position in your chosen field may be the best option. An advanced degree may open your world to new opportunities that would not otherwise be available, regardless of your talents and accomplishments. For example, many Fortune 500 companies have management training programs that are open only to newly-minted MBAs from top programs. Many careers have built in career progression ladders and at some employers your distance to the top may depend on your level of formal education, with the advanced degree serving as a gateway to promotion. And don’t underestimate the positive momentum an alumni network at a highly-ranked university can provide your career.

 

Do you need to reset your career?

If you’re not satisfied with your chosen profession, career advancement isn’t going to satisfy you. It’ll make you simultaneously wealthier and more miserable. Many individuals take a break from the workforce to find a new passion. For example, I’ve seen professionals of all disciplines (nursing, government, finance, you name it) go back to get an MBA and land new careers as brand marketers, management consultants, investment bankers, and other fields. That kind of “hard reset” can help you shift gears into a totally new career path with no penalty and, often a jump in pay. Which brings us to…

 

Can you afford to take the time and expense to go back to school?

If money is no obstacle and you can pay for higher education without taking out loans or making other major sacrifices, then your decision-making process will focus largely on the advantages another degree may bring to your career. But few people have such a luxury.

And yet, sometimes the risk and expense may be worth it. We are well acquainted with an individual who, in his early 40s, newly married, and with a baby on the way, was impacted by the Great Recession. He had a bachelor’s degree, and he suddenly found himself unemployed and competing unsuccessfully with applicants for jobs that didn’t require any sort of college diploma. After much deliberation, he and his wife agreed that he would return to college to get a masters degree while serving as the stay-at-home parent. He selected and was accepted to a local, elite university considered to be one of the best in the world for his discipline, but its marquee value would not come cheap. After three years of aggressive cost management, he earned his master’s degree and parlayed his new credentials into a full-time job with far more responsibility and compensation than he had ever had in his past. That said, he still has $40,000 in outstanding student loans to this day, and he needs at least one more promotion or a position with a higher salary to manage those financial obligations.

 

Are there good alternatives that won’t empty your wallet or consume years of your life?

Taking on continuing education that can positively impact your career doesn’t necessarily require returning to college. There may be well-regarded training or certification programs that will help you get where you want to go. You can become a computer programmer – fast – by signing up for programmer boot camps, Launch Code, or other programmers. Individuals with a passion for project management or business analysis can boost their qualifications with a certification from the

Project Management Institute (PMI). And functional subject matter experts in ERP systems such as JD Edwards, or customer relationship management (CRM) systems like Salesforce, can earn advanced certifications that can help transition into customer support or systems management roles. Certifications are often much more expedient and considerably less expensive than returning to college.

 

Are there development opportunities within your existing company?

Lastly, there may be new opportunities right in front of you. Many companies believe that investing in their employees improves their long-term success, and may offer internal training, continuing education, and outside certifications that will help reposition you for various roles within the organization – often in areas or disciplines you hadn’t considered. And work with your manager to see if there are opportunities to evolve your current job to include new responsibilities or participation strategic projects. These, quite often, open new doors while providing enrichment without the pain of having to change employers.

Philip Roufail contributed to this article.


Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching services, and outplacement services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.

I Studied for a Professional Certification But Haven't Passed Yet... Should I Include It On My Resume?

iStockphoto.com |  Olivier Le Moal

iStockphoto.com | Olivier Le Moal

Certifications can be a big deal. There are certifications for technical folks, the bar exam for attorneys, boards for doctors, even the PHR (Professional in Human Resources) for HR professionals.

If you've studied for a test, and haven't yet passed, should you include the classes you took to study for the exam on your resume?

I consulted with an individual who recruits human resources professionals for global firms. Here’s what he had to say on the matter:

"People that show they went to an HR certification class on their resume but don't have a PHR…It tells me that in almost all cases they took the test and failed. Not so impressive and maybe not even worth listing if you analyze things the way I do."

It’s a judgment call, but it can make sense to include these classes on your resume. Let’s say you studied for a certification and are scheduled to take the exam in two months. Listing the course on your resume shows forward progress.

If, on the other hand, you studied for the exam years ago, and either did not take or pass the certification test, then it’s probably a good idea to leave it off.

Of course, there are exceptions. Let's say there's a job for a procurement specialist who reviews contracts. A law school graduate who didn’t take or pass the bar examination might still be a highly qualified fit for such a role. And the accountant who never attained the CPA may be able to perform many of the duties within an accounting department while continuing to prepare for the test.


Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.

Jump Start Your Career With A Professional Certification

iStockphoto.com (  SvetaZi )

iStockphoto.com ( SvetaZi )

 

If you're looking to move forward in your career, a certification can be a quick and cost effective way to sharpen your skills, improve your market value, and get some additional letters to place after your name on your LinkedIn profile and business card.

According to the U.S. Department of labor's CareerOneStop, "A certification is a credential that you earn to show that you have specific skills or knowledge. They are usually tied to an occupation, technology, or industry. Certifications are usually offered by a professional organization or a company that specializes in a particular field or technology."

Depending on the credential, the certification process can range anywhere from detailed and tedious, to a brief online course and test. It's faster than pursuing an additional college degree, and can often be done online per your own schedule. So, if you're looking to elevate your game, consider pursuing a certification to round out or solidify your credentials. Depending upon your specific field, here some certifications from which to choose. This list is by no means exhaustive.

PROJECT MANAGEMENT
Project Management Professional (PMP): The leading certification for project managers. It's not easy to get, but it's highly valued.
Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM): Not as in-depth as the PMP, but also quite good.

HUMAN RESOURCES
Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP) and Certified Professional (SHRM–CP): Designations denoting different levels of expertise as evaluated by the leading body in HR.
Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and Professional in Human Resources (PHR): Different certifying body (HRCI), similar credentials to SHRM-SCP and SHRM-CP.

MARKETING
American Marketing Association Professional Certified Marketer (PCM): Specializations in Digital Marketing, Content Marketing, and Marketing Management.

ENGINEERING
Professional Engineer (PE): The National Society of Professional Engineers offers this designation to demonstrate a higher level of competency in the field.

QUALITY
Six Sigma: There's a ton of certifying bodies for Yellow Belt, Green Belt, and Black Belt certifications. Supply chain, logistics, engineering, and business professionals can leverage a Six Sigma qualification to demonstrate an ability to use a methodical approach to solve problems and improve quality.
ASQ Certification: More of quality discipline oriented credential granted by a governing body.

WRITING & EDITING
Poynter ACES Certificate in Editing: If you have any interest in working in writing or publishing, this can help you elevate your game. Editing and proofreading have their own language and best practices.

This list is just a sampling. The information technology field, for example, has certifications for tons of technologies, security protocols, and systems. Even we resume writers and career coaches have our own credentials. Go online and do some research. Chances are your chosen field has credentials which can help you more forward in your career!


Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.