by Rose Holland, CWDP
I know I would have a job if only I had a degree or another certification or this one thing. I am not sure where this had come from, but it is something I have heard a lot lately. Some military spouses seem to collect certifications like the badges we used to collect in Boy or Girl Scouts.
Guess what, a certification or a degree is probably not the reason you did not get that job (more likely it is the lack of networking, but that is a whole different blog). It is easy to place the blame on a piece of paper. Now I am not saying it will hurt you or that it can not assist; what I am saying is you need to really think about the types of degrees and certifications you are going after, even if you can get it for “free.” How will it benefit you? How does it relate to your long term goals?
I have seen spouses and veterans with numerous degrees and certifications. One even had 5 related degrees! This person wanted to know which degree they should obtain next in order to get a job. This particular person seemed to treat a degree like a ticket that guarantees a job and did not understand why no job was in sight. In this case, the person did not look at their job search methods and was connecting to those in the field.
Recently I worked with a spouse who has a degree in engineering, certification in housing inspection, another certification in a medical field and was going to go after yet a third certification in IT through the Syracuse Veterans Career Transition Program (VCTP)*. When I asked how each of these related to his career goals, the response was, “I am just trying to get a job and if I get a certification I will get a job.” There was no plan, no long term goals, no looking at how the job search was being conducted to see if that was the issue. I have seen this all too often. Now there is nothing wrong with wanting a job or pursuing a certificate, but when you hop from one unrelated job (or certification or degree) to another you end up with a resume that tells potential employers you have no focus.
In talking to this spouse, there was a long-term goal. It was to become a construction project manager. So, I wanted the spouse to explain how that IT certification would assist in reaching that goal? I suggested stepping back and perhaps updating the home inspection license, obtaining a real estate license or utilizing the VCTP to obtain the Project Management Professional or Lean Six Sigma certification instead of the IT certification. Each of these could provide some background for the long term goal of a construction project manager. I also suggested considering looking for a position as an apartment or housing manager or perhaps a position in the construction industry to gain industry experience. All of this better aligns with the goals of the spouse. This spouse had never looked at things in this light. By reconsidering their job search techniques, a job with a construction firm ended up being the perfect fit.
I realize your goals may change due to your life experience, but carefully consider any certification or continuing education. Think about how the program will help you be better prepared in your career field. If it will not, do not waste your time or money (even if it is a grant it will cost you your valuable time). If you cannot identify how it relates to your career field, then just don’t.
How do you find out if you do need a certification or additional degree? Take the time and talk to those in the field (check out last week’s blog on Advisory Conversations to learn how). Utilize professional organizations, LinkedIn or your local resources to connect to those in the field and determine which courses or certifications will benefit you. This has the added benefit of providing you with a network when you are seeking a job.
If you do need a degree or certification to achieve your goals, please take the time and investigate the program. Do not just rely on the educational institution’s website. Find out what graduates think, it is easy to look up graduates on LinkedIn. Talk to those working in the profession and ask their opinion of the certification and the reputation of the specific program. Discover the benefit obtained in your career field because of the program. Ask questions, lots of questions. There are lots of schools and organizations that are after your money. Not all are the best fit for your career field and not all are reputable. You may end up doing more harm than good if you do not bother to do the research.
Do not be a mere collector of certificates or degrees. It takes much longer to get a certification or degree than doing the research to determine if it is right for you and your goals. Know degrees and certifications are not tickets to a job. It is important to be sure that any additional education will help you obtain your end goal. You should understand how every certification fits into your short and long range career plans. If you cannot relate a degree or certification to your goals then do now spend your valuable time earning it.
* The Syracuse VCTP program is available for post 9/11 veterans and spouses. More informaiton can be found at http://vets.syr.edu/education/employment-programs/. Please be aware that the last application period closed in less than two weeks due to the volume of applications.
Rose Holland is the spouse of an Active Duty Army Reservist and is an advocate for military and veteran families. She has three adult children and has been married to her husband, Michael, for 30 years. She is a certified Workforce Development Professional, Federal Career Coach and Job Search Trainer.