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How I Aligned My Career Change With the CPLP Journey

Thursday, December 28, 2017

I moved to California in January 2017. I had worked for the international office of an East Coast university for several years and landed the Bay Area with hope for a change. I had international program management and training experience, and had started to develop my passion for learning. I was eager to start my new life on the West Coast, but I didn’t have a clue about my future career.

In March 2017, I started to look for a job actively. When I searched online for L&D-related jobs, the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) credential was mentioned in a lot of the job descriptions. I went to ATD’s website to learn more about the CPLP and decided to try to obtain one. I liked two things about the CPLP. First, it is a comprehensive knowledge system—I would have the opportunity to learn different aspects such as performance improvement, change management, and coaching. Second, the certificate needs to be recertified every three years. It is a great way to motivate myself to continually stay involved as a learning professional. So, I registered to take the Knowledge Exam in July and began to study the Learning System material. Along the way, I discovered two opportunities to align my CPLP journey with my career change.

First Opportunity: Align the Knowledge Exam With Interviews

Looking for a job and reading more than 1,000 pages to prepare for an exam at the same time was very stressful. However, the two things are interdependent. The more I learned from ATD Learning System, the more confident I became in my job applications. Because I applied only to jobs related to learning and development, I always referred to the Learning System to prepare for the interviews. If I wanted to know more about certain fields, I used the informative references in the Learning System to go a step further.
In late May, I landed a job at a local university. My schedule was less hectic, and I had one month to devote to study. At that time, I took the practice test to identify my study focus. After a lot of caffeine, I passed the Knowledge Exam in July.

Second Opportunity: Align the Skills Application Exam With My New Job

As a course manager for innovative courses, I know instructional design will be an important part of my daily job. Luckily, that’s also the area I selected from the areas of expertise. Conveniently, I’m also involved in global educational programs, which can utilize the knowledge from global mindset module.

After taking the sample Skills Application Exam (SAE), I realized the real challenge of this test was to think about how to apply instructional design theories in real work. Thus, I redesigned my learning plan for this test. The first step was reading the instructional design and global mindset modules thoroughly. The second step was trying to apply what I learned in my daily work. For example, if I needed to discuss the course content with faculty, I tried to use the methods of eliciting and validating content from subject matter experts that I learned while studying for the CPLP. The learning theories in the instructional design module work as a tool box when I participate in course design for my work.


Another recommendation is joining a study group for SAE preparation. I did not have the chance to do so. But I think it is extremely valuable if you have others to talk to about application and the case studies in the module. The ATD Learning System even provides a study guide for groups, which is very handy if you have a group.

Onward Journey

In early September, I took the SAE test. I left the exam with uncertainty. Nine weeks later, I received the email that I had received the CPLP certification. Mission completed! I immediately shared the good news with my employer.

I would like to thank ATD. The CPLP journey brings a lot of confidence to my career. I am ready to embark to next adventure in learning and evolving.

Learn more about the CPLP certification.

About the Author
Shiqin Xu is the course manager at Stanford Biodesign. In her position, she is responsible for managing Biodesign’s core courses, including the two-quarter, graduate-level, multidisciplinary Biodesign Innovation course. She also contributes to the annual executive education program and Stanford Biodesign’s global initiatives.
Prior to joining Stanford, Shiqin worked for Global Training Initiative at North Carolina State University as director of China programs.
Shiqin holds an MPA degree from North Carolina State University and a bachelor’s degree from China University of Political Science and Law. She has been a CPLP since November 2017.
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Wonderful job Shiqin! I am preparing to take the CPLP exam as well and I am so overwhelmed with the thought of it. Your article helped refocus me a lot. Thank you very much and congratulations!
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Thank you for sharing your story. I have been thinking about taking this certification for a while and after reading this, I do feel more comfortable in my decision. Thank You once more!
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Thank you for sharing your experience not only regards your preparation style but also approach towards interviews. Wish you good luck always
Thank you. Hope you find the information is useful.
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