Sunday, July 28, 2013

Professional Certification: A Key Differentiator

In marketing terms, differentiation is a key source for competitive advantage.  Having a smart differentiation strategy helps a company build a good brand.  This is true for a professional as well.  To build a good personal brand, the professional has to be unique and have the ability to positively differentiate him/her from others.  Professional certifications can serve as an effective differentiation tool for an aspiring individual.

Survival of the fittest is the mantra that professionals should always remember to stay ahead and continuously grow. Thus, any CV with professional certification(s) apart from the experience and educational qualifications will add a lot of credibility for the applicant of a particular job or those seeking job promotions.  Only a fittest person will find time and energy to prepare for a professional certification and successfully complete it.  Many people are unable to complete professional certifications as they claim to be 100% busy due to their current job responsibilities and not finding time to spend on certification exam preparation. 

As a person who has cleared few professional certifications, I would like to provide some quick tips for successful completion of a professional certification (such as ASQ Certified Software Quality Engineer - CSQE).  All you need to succeed are the 3Ds - Dedication, Determination and a Deadline Mindset.  Here are some useful tips:

1.  Understand thoroughly the body of knowledge (BOK) or the syllabus for the certification examination - Refer to the professional organization's website to understand clearly the various topics that you need to prepare for the exam.  Note down the major sections of the BOK.

2. Go ahead and book the appointment for examination: First and foremost, pay the exam fees and enroll for the next exam date (available 2 months from the current date).  This will ensure that you stay committed and prepare well for the exam.

3. Come up with a plan and timetable to study the BOK topics: Allot enough time to study each of the BOK areas.  Come up with a timetable.  Based on my experience, your time table can be of a duration of maximum 2 months. 

4. Prepare notes yourself: Refer to prescribed text books (maximum 2) and other online materials to prepare relevant notes (brief points, diagrams, formula etc) for each topic of the BOK.  Let the notes be brief highlighting the very important points.  I suggest avoiding ready-made exam guides available in the market, as they are mostly shortcuts to clear the exam where you may compromise on the learning part.  Eventually, a successful certification should make you a more knowledgeable person.

5. Go through sample question papersSample question papers will be available in the professional organization's website.  Also, refer to the Internet for additional sample question papers.  Take minimum 2 mock tests before the real examination.  With this you can improve your time management skills and answering strategies for the examination. 

6. Revise the notes:  Go through the notes prepared by you twice before the day of the real exam.

7. Re-certification:  Most certifications are only valid for a certain period of time (say, 3 years).  Post your certification, you need to keep yourself involved with BOK related activities and earn credit points to re-certify after 3 years.

Some times you may need more than one attempt to clear a certification examination. Don't lose heart.  Rather understand what mistakes you did earlier and try to not repeat it.  Go with your fullest energy and knowledge as you will definitely attain success the next time.

Please note that Professional Certifications have a lot of value, be aware, complete few relevant professional certifications which will help you stay ahead and have a successful career.

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