I had been working in human resources for 17 years when I decided to specialize in learning and development. I wanted to focus on making a difference helping employees through training and development, so I started exploring my options. I applied for and received a promotion into organization development at my company’s home office. I realized quickly that I had basic knowledge and good instincts, but I needed to build a higher level of knowledge.
Why Certification?When I was in human resources, I obtained two certifications through which I gained significant knowledge. I wanted to do the same in my new field. Certification is a great form of professional development, with a measurable outcome that acts as evidence of knowledge ability to employers. It also helps me stay current and makes me a stronger contributor.
How I Made My DecisionEmbarking on a certification journey is not easy. I had to determine if I could devote the time and energy to studying while still managing my commitments. I talked with my manager about my career development then researched external job postings to see if employers prefer certifications. Based on what I learned, I decided to take the Associate Professional in Talent Development (APTD) exam first. I planned to go for the Certified Professional in Talent Development (CPTD) later if I passed the first one.
My PreparationFor both certifications I reviewed the materials and study recommendations. I set up a target date and worked my way back on a calendar to create a custom study plan. I scheduled a chapter per week to read the learning system, take notes, and complete the practice questions.
I also did the online practice test every week to measure my progress. I was able to isolate areas where I needed to study more and iron out information that I had misunderstood.
For the APTD I read the online learning system, took a lot of notes, and completed the study questions. I felt like I would have retained information better if I had a printed binder where I could highlight things and scribble notes my way. I took what I learned from studying for the APTD, and when I decided to study for the CPTD I purchased the preparation course from the Association for Talent Development (ATD) and bought a printed binder. There was more information to cover, so I wanted resources that would work best for me.
A Painful Lesson LearnedAt times I fell behind schedule and found myself having to double-up the following week. Sometimes I was reading or doing practice tests when I was already tired and would not remember content. When that happened, I had to redo those sections when I was not sleep deprived. This probably cost me five hours in rework. In hindsight, I should have scheduled a set day each week to study and made sure I had a good night’s sleep. That consistency would have helped me stay on track without having to reread chapters. It also would have helped my confidence.
The Exam ExperienceFor both exams, I experienced a significant amount of test anxiety because the last big exam I took was in 2003. To set myself up for success, I made sure I got a good night’s sleep, had breakfast, and drank coffee, which helps me wake up. I arrived early and spent a few minutes reviewing notes in the parking lot. I then did deep breathing exercises to relax before I walked in.
When I went into the center, the proctor registered me and locked up my belongings. I took the time to read the instructions and become familiar with the software before I started answering the questions. I made sure that I followed the preparation advice and focused on questions I knew first and went back to those I was unsure of after. This helped me not get stuck on a question.