Why Professional Certification Is So Worth It
By Susan Peryam

Posted January 15, 2010

To certify or not, that is the question.
I’ve been asked the question “…why would I want to certify anyways, I’ve been in the profession for years.” My answer is simple…it is a matter of personal choice. I made that choice three times. During my first career I became a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), years into my second career I became a Certified Quality Manager (CQM), and at the beginning of my third and current career I became a Certified Professional Facilitator. It is accurate to say that I believe in professional certifications. How about you? I would enjoy hearing your thoughts and experiences with professional certifications.

I consider myself priveleged to have been given the opportunity to experience the challenges and rewards of three careers. As I reflect on the reasons I chose to become certified, I realize that my motivations changed over time. I sense that is a reflection of my personal growth.

My story begins with my first career as an accountant. While married, raising a son and working as an accounting clerk, I decided to finish my college education at night school and earned a degree in Accounting. The sense of self-satisfaction from earning a degree was so strong that I immediately enrolled in the Masters of Accountancy program. What was I thinking? Continuing this grueling schedule was crazy, so I decided to take a short cut and instead enrolled in the Becker CPA review class to prepare to sit for the CPA exam. The class schedule and studying was much more demanding than college classes, but I knew the duration was shorter. In the end, I passed the CPA exam and earned my first professional certification which gave me the right to say that I had mastered a body of knowledge worthy of recognition. It boosted my self-esteem and confidence, and gave me the ability to progress in my Accounting career.

Several years later, I transitioned from Accounting to an Operations Support role which led to a career in Organizational Design, Quality and Change Management. Along the way, I had a manager who required all leadership staff to earn the CQM professional designation. I thought…”why me? I’ve been doing this stuff successfully for years – do I need to take the time to brush up on testing techniques and sit for exams? Okay, so it is a job requirement and I happen to like my job…I’ll do it.” I prepared and successfully passed the exam, but little did I know what would happen next. I became part of a larger community that encouraged and supported each other. The comradeship was instantaneous and the opportunity to share challenges and successes was an efficiency boost. I became part of a national group that was learning from each other and evolving the profession.

Continuing with my career, I was asked to lead a group of internal facilitators who would be facilitating teams to determine things like recognition and rewards systems, quality improvement processes and mission and value statements for their business unit. I decided to seek out a professional certification so that I could validate that I had the knowledge and credentials to lead this internal facilitation team. Through my connections in the quality arena, I was introduced to the Southeast Association of Facilitators and the International Association of Facilitators (IAF). I learned that the IAF was the only global, professional organization that offered a professional certification – the Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF). Talk about a rigorous certification process! To gain certification one must document education and experience, submit written evidence of understanding and applying competencies, and demonstrate through face to face facilitation and interviews. It was nerve racking, but I successfully passed.

I have since chosen the profession of facilitation – group collaboration, to improve the effectiveness of groups of people coming together- as my sole profession. No longer employed in corporate America, I am invited into all types of organizations to facilitate. I am passionate about promoting the profession of facilitation and about raising the awareness that the CPF professional designation exists. In addition, I serve as an IAF Assessor for candidates that want to become certified. It is accurate to say that becoming a CPF has opened the door to self-actualization.

This is the first in a series of articles that I will write about the International Association of Facilitators Foundational Facilitator Competencies. These competencies were developed over several years by IAF members with the support of facilitators from around the world. The competencies include the basic set of skills, knowledge, and behaviors that facilitators must have in order to be successful facilitating groups of people collaborating for a purpose. There are six competencies areas and several sub-competencies.

The Six Foundational Facilitator Competency Areas

A) Create Collaborative Client Relationships
B) Plan Appropriate Group Processes
C) Create and Sustain a Participatory Environment
D) Guide Group to Appropriate and Useful Outcomes
E) Build and Maintain Professional Knowledge
F) Model positive Professional Attitude

In the coming months I will take a deeper dive into the six competencies and share some experiences with you.

Are you interested in learning more about the competencies? My partner and I have developed and delivered training based on the competencies to our clients on-site and to the public. We have a three day, open to the public Facilitation Basics training session scheduled in Atlanta, March 29-31 and a pre-conference two day session scheduled in conjunction with the IAF North America conference in Chicago, April 20 -21. Click here for more information.

Posted by Susan Peryam