In her interview with Ryann Ellis, long-time talent development professional Elaine Biech states, “Boost your confidence and satisfy your career progress with a plan for your future. Ask yourself: What do you need to learn to stay on the cutting edge? Find a place for you.”
One way to satisfy your career progress and stay on the cutting edge is to secure a professional credential. A little unclear about a credential versus license versus certificate? You’re not alone.
According to the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA), “A credential is issued by a third party with authoritative power, and is proof an individual’s qualification or competence in a given subject.”
TargetRecruit explains it well: “Credentialing is commonly defined as the process of examining, reviewing and verifying that a candidate’s professional licenses or certifications, education, experience and other variables are in order and all occupational and related criteria are met.”
Why Professionals Seek a CredentialNEHA asserts that “possessing a credential not only helps one to prove competency and capability in a given field, but also demonstrates to one’s community and employers that the individual is competent, properly trained and equipped to carry out his or her duties.”
Bethany Hearn, CPA/ABV/CFF—that is, certified public accountant, accredited in business valuation, and certified in financial forensics—is chair of the AICPA (American Institute of CPAs) Accredited in Business Valuation Credential Committee. She started out as a CPA, as she valued the national recognition of AICPA. “Having a credential really sets you apart. It tells others that you have the education and experience requirements to perform this work,” she says.
So while there are others who do valuation and litigation work without the ABV credential, she worked hard to gain hers. “The ABV, being issued by the AICPA, has a high level of respect in the community in which we work,” Hearn adds. “So, the judges, attorneys, the IRS, and users of valuation reports respect the AICPA, and therefore, they respect the ABV credential.”
According to George Rogers, assistant executive director for the International Coach Federation, explains that, apart from the professions where a credential may be a requirement for employment, “holding a credential from a professional body can serve to increase employment and earnings opportunities for the credential holder.” He notes that a credential is especially important in non-regulated professions such as coaching.
“Earning a credential provides a sense of professional and personal achievement, allowing individuals to benefit by being part of the larger community of practitioners and helping professionals demonstrate their knowledge, skills, and commitment to high ethical and professional standards,” states Rogers.
What’s more, with the changing work demographic, earning a credential can really shine a light on a young professional’s capabilities. In his article, “Why a Credential Is a Good Choice for Young Professionals,” DeeJay R. Garringo, CAE, discusses the value he feels he’s gained from the American Society of Association Executive’s certified association executive credential.
“After all, we—as young professionals—are the future of our profession. To step in as emerging leaders, we need to be well-rounded and ready to make an impact. The CAE can help you do that,” Garringo says. “Throughout the experience, you learn the ‘big picture’ way of thinking. You get to understand what it takes to run an association of any type, size, or budget.”
Rigorous ProcessThe value of a credential comes in part due to its rigors. Garringo warns that the process can be daunting—even while it is tremendously rewarding.
Part of a credential’s rigor is the required hands-on experience. Hearn states that there are universities that have an ABV-focused curriculum—complete with a textbook, slidedeck, question bank, and the ABV exam. But while those students can sit for the ABV exam, they can’t get the credential until they conduct a certain number of valuations and receive their hours of continuing professional education in valuation. Having the experience before you take the exam is a lot easier, Hearn continues, “because you’ve seen the practical application of the concepts, and you’ve worked with the standards and the valuation approaches.”
It’s not only the individual striving for the credential that must fulfill structured requirements with precision and hard work. Indeed, a credential is well-respected because the process to develop one faces its own rigor. For example, the ABV Credential Committee reports to the National Accreditation Commission, which oversees all AICPA credentials. The committee is responsible for developing and maintaining qualification requirements, including the ABV exam; making sure the exam tests for the appropriate content; and serves as a technical advisor for the education offerings, both on the pathway to become an ABV credential holder, as well as the education offerings after someone becomes credentialed. Again, the committee must be meticulous in these efforts because it’s important for credential holders to stay on abreast of the latest knowledge and trends of the industry and master the technical requirements of performing a valuation.
“Credential holders have undergone a rigorous process to demonstrate that they meet established qualifications and have been objectively tested to validate that they are knowledgeable, competent, and ethical,” says Rogers. “In the case of professional coaches credentialed by the International Coach Federation, all credential holders have completed training that is specific to their work, have accumulated valuable experience, and have passed assessments of knowledge and skills. By requiring professionals to hold credentials, organizations show their concern for and help to increase the quality of the services they provide.”
IntangiblesIn addition to the professional respect a credential brings to an individual, having a credential brings intangible rewards. For instance, in the case of the coaching profession, Rogers explains that “individuals benefit by becoming part of a community of professionals that is committed to ongoing learning and growth, follows a code of ethics, and provides high quality services to their clients.”
Similarly, Hearn outlines some of the benefits she has received from belonging to the ABV credential community. When fellow credential holders get together, there’s animated conversation: “We get excited about talking what we’re doing, we get excited talking about what’s going on in the industry, staying on top of issues that impact our profession.”
Why the Organization CaresNo doubt, a credential can boost professional respect from outside entities. In the case of Hearn, this comes from judges and lawyers she must work with. But how does this play out within one’s own organization?
“As one part of the hiring process, selecting individuals who hold a relevant professional credential provides some assurance that the candidate is well trained, experienced, and has been tested against a recognized set of standards for knowledge, skills, and abilities,” says Rogers. Specifically, regarding the coaching profession, he adds that “by selecting from those who hold recognized credentials, organizations have a much higher likelihood that the coach is competent and providing services that are of high quality.”
Better recruiting isn’t the only advantage. As times change, many industries face greater competition from online resources (think LegalZoom). The valuation industry is a good example; available resources allow users plug in a couple of numbers and receive a dollar value of their business. But this takes the professional judgement and experience out of the equation, Hearn stresses. “The professional credential is extremely important, and having that professional be the one delivering the service and providing the valuation analysis is going to benefit the user of the valuation so much more than a cheap or free service they can get online,” she contends.
Partnerships, mentoring, and long-term career guidance are other potential benefits. For instance, in addition to working with universities on the curriculum for the ABV exam, the ABV Credential Committee partners with academia to promote a business valuation challenge—open to undergraduate and graduate students—where students form teams to undertake a valuation. Then, teams are paired with ABV mentors for the work. Partnering with universities increases awareness of valuation, providing students with additional, alternative career paths under the accounting umbrella.
The ABV Credential Committee also is responsible for the assessment tool, which individuals can use for free, that goes through each area of the exam. Users can determine their strengths and weaknesses in each area covered on the exam, allowing them to narrow their focus in their preparation for the exam.
Coming Full CircleHow does all this talk of credentials apply to the talent development profession?
“The commitment to earn and maintain a credential … shows that the potential employee is invested in their ongoing learning and growth,” declares Rogers.
Sound familiar? Isn’t that exactly the mindset we try to promote inside our organizations? Perhaps it’s time to point some of that zeal on our own careers. TD pioneer Biech sums it up best: “I like to think that the talent development profession invented life-long learning. If that’s the case, then we need to take our own advice. … Determine your strengths and the areas you need to shore up. Then get to work.”