I was working my latest Ask the Expert column for the AMA and was surprised by the number of questions I got concerning certification specifically (“Can you recommend a marketable web certification?” “How do I become a Professional Certified Marketer?”) or credentials more broadly (“Is there a possibility a company won’t hire me (even if I have a Masters Degree) just because they do not think the University I went too meets the “top-of-the-line” criteria?”).
I understand that people are looking for something to give them an edge in a highly competitive market and that they may have time to devote to education and personal development, but the value of certification per se seems dubious to me, particularly in the interactive/marketing space.
While there are some certifications that I’m told are meaningful – Google Adwords Certification and Project Management Professional Certification are two examples – my basic assumption is that they are at best a useful addition to a record of proven experience as a practitioner in a particular discipline.
My thoughts on this subject were paraphrased by Dave Atkins on Twitter yesterday when he wrote, “Connections are more indicative of authority than credentials.” Some pointed out that connections may be more indicative of personality than authority, and I can see that, but the more important point to me was that authority does not come from credentials. Authority reflects a respected position within a community which is generally earned by demonstrated ability and measured by influence.
In other words, if you want to be a more attractive candidate for a marketing or interactive position, focus on establishing authority by earning the respect and recognition of your peers. Your authority and experience make your credentials meaningful, not the other way around.