a blue banner with the text "Purpose-Driven Development: Building Competency through Certification" accompanied by a certificate with a ribbon

by Parker Stephenson | 3 Minute Read

a blue whistleAs a Coach, I am often consulted on the topic of professional development, and the answer always starts with me saying, “well, it depends,” and then quickly following up with “where are you today, and what journey do you want or need to be on,” which builds an awareness on where we are on our journey and where we want or need to go next. However, I’ve recently found myself starting that answer by stating:


a certificate with a ribbonWow, did a Coach just say that? (Yes, and please don’t make me repeat myself!). Now, don’t get me wrong, certifications are great and can often be critical in our professional careers by either helping us get a job we are seeking or helping us advance in a role we are currently in. However, if there’s one thing I have learned in my career thus far, it’s that certifications do not equal competency. We should stop treating two- or three-day courses & certifications as something that will automatically deliver the competency we often find ourselves looking for.

a piece of paper with the word "Resume" on itPart of my role as a Coach requires me to dedicate a fair amount of time focused on people development and interviews, so I’m often looking for talent. I’ve read my fair share of resumes and conducted hundreds of interviews in my career with no signs of slowing down now. An increasing trend I continue to see is a huge disconnect between the certifications a candidate has versus the experience needed for the role we are looking to fill.

So now, let me take that bold statement above and turn it into a more focused sentence around development. Stop getting certified and start being purpose-driven on your professional development journey. Meaning, stop collecting all the certifications you can fit into the shopping cart and start being purposeful in developing the skills and experience you need for that next role you might be seeking.

In a recent one-on-one with someone, they asked me which certification they should seek next to get that next role. After asking a few more direct questions to better understand their answer to the age-old question, “what do I want to be when I grow up,” I paired their answer with the role they wanted next. Although they wanted me to tell them which certification to get next, my answer was “none,” and so there they sat in front of me perplexed. So here is my advice to them, and you:

  • a sand-colored map outlined in blue with three destination icons connected by a dotted lineDo(es) your current certification(s) support your current role, and can they help support you in the direction you are hoping to take your career? We often will see prerequisites present in a job role we find interesting, but even if you have the certification but no applied experience to support it, you are nowhere closer to getting the role you are seeking to fill.
  • a blue magnifying glassResearch is key. Do you know someone in the role you are shooting for? They can help provide insight into their journey to help you gain better knowledge on what it took for to get that role. Which industry-leading practices and certifications will not just help you land the job you want, but also help you sharpen your skills to reach your potential?
  • an icon of a personSeek out and find a few mentors. I can’t tell you how impactful great mentors have been and continue to be in my life. They have helped me develop in areas and ways I never thought possible. Take the initiative to seek out a leader you aspire to be like, a person in a role you want, or even a respected fellow peer can be a mentor.
  • a blue arrow at an angle pointing upFocus on developing your soft skills along with your professional or technical skills. Consider attending a Coaching bootcamp, learn deeper facilitation skills & techniques, or widen your collaboration and engagement strategies. These will help you reach a new level both personally and professionally. Soft skill development is key, especially if you are looking at a people development or leadership role.

In closing, it’s not as easy as just attending a two-day course and “poof! Magic and knowledge come together” to deliver competency. We need to dig deeper to match knowledge, experience, and opportunity together to strive in building a more meaningful, value-delivered competency in our roles. So remember, stop getting certified and start being purpose-driven in your professional development.