I Can’t See The Career Forest For All These Certification Trees.

Most of us have probably heard the idiom of not being able to see the forest for the trees, which means getting so caught up in the details to not understand the situation as a whole.

I often feel this is what’s happening when it comes to certifications, career progression and if the focus is on what’s important.

I’m often asked, Chris, what should my next certification be?

I don’t really know the best answer, nor do I think there is one, but I usually then ask, where have you been, where are you today, and where do you want to go?  

If you can’t answer the latter with a clear definition, then I don’t see how getting another random certification will help you.

But if you can answer that with a clear goal in mind, then you probably don’t need me (or anyone) to answer it for you anyway.

Or to address this million-dollar question on the significance of certifications a different way:

Let’s look at examples of what most Salesforce job descriptions state (if you want to use that as a barometer):

  • Strong communication, presentation and interpersonal skills with ability to present complex ideas in a clear, concise fashion to technical and non-technical audiences
  • Strong business and technical aptitude with an attitude to solve complex problems
  • Team player and able to work well with diverse groups such as Business Users, IT Business Solutions, and other Developers.
  • Ability to support business users during testing and resolve bugs/issues in a timely manner
  • Effective communication skills (written, verbal, and listening)
  • Excellent problem-solving skills with the ability to handle a fast-paced, dynamic environment

I purposely left out the technical requirements, but even so, I haven’t come across any that say: need a 3X, 6X, 22X, 56X certified Salesforce professional.

Maybe at a minimum a Certified Admin or Developer, to get your career started or show a potential employer that you’re willing to put in the effort to learn, test, retool, etc.

Or if you’re becoming a specialist in a specific area (CPQ, Marketing Cloud, Field Services, Architecture, etc.). And then many times, even these specialist certs are often a nice to have and not must haves.

Additionally, let’s also look at the top 10 skills for 2020 by the World Economic Forum:

1.      Complex Problem Solving

2.      Critical Thinking

3.      Creativity

4.      People Management

5.      Coordinating with Others

6.      Emotional Intelligence

7.      Judgement and Decision Making

8.      Service Orientation

9.      Negotiation

10.   Cognitive Flexibility

Do you think certifications get you any closer to these top 10?

In my opinion, maybe a few, but what about the rest?

Doesn’t the job description mentioned above tie to most of these?

Wouldn’t you want to spend most of your time figuring out how to excel in these other areas such as dealing with people, emotions, stress, awareness, coordination, failure? 

I think the primary way to do that is on the job, taking on projects, throwing yourself to the wolves, getting bit a time or two, learning from it and trying again.  Even if it’s not in a Salesforce role but being in a position where you gain experience in these areas and then to be able to articulate, refine and correlate these concepts in a conversation or interview.

When most are thinking of tangible certifications as the way ahead, you need to stand out with your personal experiences, challenges and shortcomings that make you unique and only apply to you.

Don’t let the certification trees impede your vision of seeing the career forest in front of you.

Disclaimer: I am 0X Certified (as I’ve failed the Admin and Dev exams), although daily I do some variation of:  write, receive, review Salesforce job descriptions, as well as speak to hiring managers, internal talent acquisition personnel and Salesforce professionals of all backgrounds. Prior to that in the trenches as a technical CRM hiring manager, delivery manager, solution architect and an Accenture career counselor. 

While I don’t believe I have all the answers, I enjoy sharing ideas to help challenge the status quo and marketing hype. Hopefully, this article allows for a slightly different viewpoint on what I (and hopefully many others) think matters when it comes to career growth.

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