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Are you certifiable? Why professional qualifications matter

At small companies and even large ones, people perform tasks outside of their areas of training. This is a natural occurrence, happening when folks cover each others tasks during a vacation, because of a promotion, during special short-term projects, and for many other reasons. A lack of formal training is almost a condition of participating in certain emerging fields, such as, say, search engine marketing and social media. So, how does a professional ensure they’re current with the existing standards? By self-study – reading books and blogs, by setting goals and measuring yourself against your own high standards, and by participating in professional development activities – attending conferences and obtaining relevant professional certifications.

For search engine marketing, certifications are available from professional associations such as the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO Institute offers a certification) as well as the Search Engines themselves:

Anyone managing projects in this industry should consider Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI).

Relevant but non-certifying professional organizations include: the Usability Professionals Association.


Why a Project Manager should consider the AdWords exam

I’ve wandered some in my career from my formal training. I was trained to be a professor of biology, for instance, which means I learned the Latin names of a lot of plants, I learned some ecological theory, and I learned how to set up deer exclosures to conduct my field experiments. I learned that deer are better at jumping than I am at exclosing. Yet, during this preparation, I also learned many things directly relevant to my job as a project manager in the search engine marketing industry. I learned hypothesis testing, data management excel tricks, and statistics. And I learned to be quite suspicious of data before I believed what I thought it was telling me.

Yet, that’s not enough. I am a project manager, and so I have pursued the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI). It requires hours of project work, the mastering of the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge as expressed in passing a standardized exam on it, and maintaining the PMP certification with professional development activities. It is renewed every three years. To obtain the PMP, you need to accept and be accountable to the ethical standards of the PMI. I do not believe that the PMP certification gave me all of the tools I needed to manage projects, but it did give me the vocabulary in common with 300,000 other folks who also hold project management credentials from PMI. A shared language and a community of peers. That’s valuable.

I work in search engine marketing, and even though I do not manage our clients AdWords accounts (our analysts do), I am conversing about AdWords specifically and pay per click advertising in general a fair bit of my day. So, I took the Google Advertising Professional exam, an exam meant for agencies that manage multiple AdWords accounts. It immersed me in the AdWords help prior to the exam. I’m going to let our analysts manage and optimize our client accounts, but I have a deeper understanding of the domain because I took the exam.

Why Professional Certifications Matter

Professional certifications are many things. They are not a guarantee of competency exactly, but they are a signal of commitment to professionalism. The signify mastery of a shared vocabulary and knowing where to look things up. They are a symbol of affiliation with a tribe, guild, association, or team. They’re also a requirement of working at Pure Visibility.

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