As someone with a growth mindset and a strong passion for learning and sharing information, the trainer role appears to be a perfect fit for me. Prior to holding my first official talent development role, I’d done training officially and unofficially for various groups. I felt prepared and ready to lead the training function for a new company. After all, it just takes a little charisma and communication skills, right?
I rolled up my sleeves and got to work, preparing and delivering training with enthusiasm and expertise. I was learning a lot and things were going well, so I decided to pursue the Associate Professional in Talent Development (APTD) certification, which was an easy decision as I firmly believe in the benefits of certification from reputable organizations. However, at the time, the decision to become certified was more akin to a “rite of passage.” It was something to do to cement my place in the industry and to show that I belong rather than something to do to enhance learning. As it turned out, though, my APTD journey upgraded my understanding and appreciation for training and talent development. To say that I learned a lot would be an understatement. I also debunked myths and gained some best practices. Given what I learned from my APTD journey, it’s clear to me now that I went in as a pseudo-trainer and left as a talent development professional.
Switch From Competency Model to Capability ModelI started my APTD journey just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, initially enrolling to do one of the final iterations of the APTD exam based off the competency model. However, due to the pandemic, many tests were postponed, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The lovely folks at ATD CI reached out to me and gave me the option to do the new exam based off the Talent Development Capability Model. I knew that a switch to the new exam would defer my goal of becoming APTD certified, but I viewed the offer as an opportunity to be one of the earlier Capability Model-certified APTDs. I took the opportunity to be certified in the industry’s newest body of knowledge. Also, given that I had paid for the online preparation course based off the competency model, ATD CI was kind enough to give me access to the new online APTD preparation course and the Talent Development Body of Knowledge (TDBoK) based off the Capability Model. This benefitted me as I was able to get perspectives from both models.
Ways the APTD Certification Helped MeThe biggest benefit of my certification journey was the enhanced perspectives and learning I gained from taking the online courses of both models and reading the TDBoK and various ATD articles and publications. As such, I recommend using multiple resources to anyone preparing for the exam and paying particular attention to the areas of focus of established talent development professionals. This is critical, as a few questions on the exam may be based on areas not covered in the TDBoK. Even prior to taking the exam, in my day-to-day functions, I began to apply the best practices and perspectives I learned during my preparations.
The biggest change that I implemented early on was a more deliberate and enhanced focus on the design of projects and content and using instructional methods as a guide. This helped me design more impactful material, gain more flexibility, and focus my efforts on the learner and the retention of content. Knowing that I was no longer applying the practices of a pseudo-trainer and was now using methodologies recommended by experienced talent development professionals gave me greater confidence in the execution of my duties. The final piece was the positive feedback from my peers and the increase in performance by teams with whom I worked closely.
Final TipsI recommend certification for anyone thinking about taking this step. And for those preparing for the exam, I leave you with these simple tips:
1. Do not underestimate the exam. Prepare thoroughly.
2. Do not expect the style of questions on the actual exam to be the same as those in the preparation courses.
3. Schedule the exam for the time of day when you are at your peak mental acuity.