Connection point Certification
ATD Blog

Certification Is Part of My Lifelong Learning

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

I was 18 when I earned my first certification. I did it to double my income. As a college student, I was making one dollar an hour waiting tables in the faculty dining room, but I learned that I could earn two dollars an hour teaching swimming. To qualify to teach in the school’s physical education department, I needed to be certified as a water safety instructor (WSI).

While I wanted to increase my earnings, I found more than money. I learned the joy of swimming and teaching others how to be safe in the water. Here are some of the reasons that I loved my first certification experience.

Red Cross experts had developed a consistent way to execute each stroke. The more that I followed this pattern, the easier the stroke became. The scissors kick led with the ankle, not the knee. Combining two strokes—the sidestroke and the crawl—into the double trudgen enabled me to swim long distances and have enough endurance to bring back a struggling victim. There were many amateur ways to stay afloat. Following the procedures for “drown proofing” gave me and those I taught ease, endurance, and confidence.

These refinements in my own technique made swimming more enjoyable, which I passed along to my students. The WSI certification also prepared me for any crisis in the water. There have been three times in my life when those skills helped me to rescue someone. Those skills often are not used, but when they’re needed, they’re lifesaving, which is why the Red Cross required me to be recertified every year.

The WSI certification isn’t the only one I’ve found rewarding. I also am a great fan of the Association for Talent Development’s professional certification. I’m working on my fifth recertification, and I’ve been a Certified Professional in Talent Development for 15 years. There are many reasons that I value being certified.

Certification gives me a roadmap to being a full-fledged professional. My first ATD certification started with the competency model, a definition of 10 skill areas. Today, this definition of what it takes to be a talent development professional has expanded to the Talent Development Capability Model. The Capability Model provides a broader view of the profession that’s framed by more than my immediate job assignment or client engagement. A broader view of the capabilities increases my adroitness to recommend more strategic and integrated solutions because I can see the impact of what I am working on and how it affects other talent development issues.


This comprehensive view also helps me align with other human resource professionals. For example, an assignment to develop a leadership development program requires a posse of supporters. Organizational development helps to define the values into behaviors. Change management breaks down silos and helps to get these behaviors to all levels in the organization. Performance management tracks actions and results that determine that leaders are implementing the behaviors that lead to better business results (Kirkpatrick’s measurement levels 3 and 4). I can’t influence significant change alone.

The TD Body of Knowledge also helps me sort through the noise of many methods, innovations, products, and jargon. I rely on the solid foundation of our profession’s thought leaders—Knowles, Kolb, Mager, Kirkpatrick, Gagné, Gilbert. This serves as a “foundation” upon which I can hang all the modifications and advances that come with progress in our profession. The meta-model helps me understand SAM and ADDIE. Beyond those two models, I understand learning clusters and how to use social learning and technology to ensure that skills are presented just in time.

I know how Gagné’s nine steps can be put in a different sequence to create blended learning or a flipped classroom or separated into different events to create the space needed for participants to absorb, practice, and apply what they learn. I know many different ways to make application become a part of the job that enables better performance. With a certification, I am able to align with the many stakeholders involved in getting the result that we all want: more skilled, nimble, and innovative talent.


Remember that one of our profession’s capabilities is lifelong Learning. The CPTD is not a destination. It is a process. I’m still learning by working on the recertification every three years.

The recertification is a balance of various ways to learn and use your skills for others. To keep up my CPTD, I attend webinars and read books about the new capabilities. I conduct instructional design workshops for my local ATD chapter. As needs changed with the pandemic, I adapted the instructor-led training workshop into virtual instructor-led training.

Today I contribute to my profession by being actively involved in my chapter’s year-long programming. Every month we focus on one of the capabilities. In another initiative, my co-designer and I are creating an ATD workshop to teach how to convert an organization’s values into leadership development.

Certification gave me inner strength. It’s the affirmation of my know-how. I admit that no prospective client has asked whether I have a CPTD. But then, they don’t need to ask. It shows up in my work.

About the Author

I have a calling. I continue to learn and to teach what I know. Instructional design lets me unleash the mighty skills of an expert so this can be imparted to others. Working with Conscious Capitalism engages with who are a force for good in the world.

I believe that our highest talents should be used to help others. I founded the Community Outreach Program which united ATD and Organization Development Network professionals to provide their services to Bay Area (San Francisco) non profits. For that long term commitment to public service, my local ATD chapter awarded me a lifetime volunteer achievement award.

Professionally, I build sales and customer service cultures where customers and employees thrive. We (Kris Schaeffer & Associates) do this through an inspiring customer discovery process, customer CARE improvement projects, and training for the entire company -- customer facing, customer support, and all leaders -- in CARE skills.

I still contribute to my local ATD chapter and teach Instructional Design workshops twice a year. I am also a regular blogger of Conscious Capitalism CEOs to fill the airways with stories of good companies doing extraordinary things when guided by a higher purpose and values.

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I achieved the CPTD certification last year and appreciate your thoughts on the importance of lifelong learning. ATD certifications and participation on the local and national level in ATD activities does provide a sense of strength and direction. Thank you for continuing to give back!
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Kris, thank you so much for your wisdom. In a conversation with a fellow ID last night. We discussed the APTD certification. She mentioned "it doesn't seem like the APTD cert is required for most jobs," I replied, "for me, it's not about industry recognition, it's about me as a lifelong learner. I'm choosing this certification because I believe that it will help direct my path in understanding various aspects that I might not be exposed to." Your article confirmed my desire to go forward. Thanks
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