Could certifications be really a waste of time?

If it were left to me, I would officially become (accidentally) the most “certified” professional on the planet. I’m that hungry to learn more and also because every workshop one gets to attend these days hand you over a certification at the end of it all.

But getting “certified” in anything comes at a cost, literally. Of late, I’ve been wondering if getting after “certifications” holds any value at all. Does it? I’m not sure. I’ve been interviewing a lot of experts lately for more insights on the state of human resources in 2019 and how technology (particularly AI) will affect the talent acquisition function. The most common insight they share for someone trying to upskill themselves is to read more and be-in-the-know at all times. I haven’t met a single person who’s actually said that folks should pursue some “big-name-brand” certification.

In fact, one of them even suggested that “certifications are a waste of time and money.” I partially agree. Not all certifications are meant to be signed up for. Particularly the ones that come packaged in a 4-5 day workshop format (and I’m guilty of signing up for these myself but I’m much wiser… I think)! Now that I’ve reflected enough, I think it’s silly to expect to be certified as an expert in something that you’ve been learning for the past 4-5 days. Right?

The rule is this — if you aren’t “working” (which includes lots of reading, learning, studying and practicing the concepts in the real world) towards a certification, it’s just not worth it. The cost and time investment is just way too high. And mind you, by signing up for certifications like these you’re basically funding these learning institutions whose livelihood depends on people like you who’re obsessed with certifications. The business world is to be partially blamed for that since they need documented proof for every damn thing you’ve learned.

Now, there’s a difference between a certification workshop and just a workshop. I’m big on (the good ole’) workshops because they focus on skill acquisition and most often doesn’t come with a heavy financial burden that of a certification workshop. The challenge is they’re old fashioned now. Almost every learning organization out there have moved to a “certification” model that enhances the overall value of the workshops they’re already offering. This basically helps them charge more.

I hope you’re able to see what’s happening here — it’s a trap innocently set by the corporate HR and smartly leveraged by the educational-service providers. Of course, not all educators are out there to make money. But it sure is one of the core objectives. They have a business to run after all. The best ones, however, will make you work hard for not just the weekend but many weekends. Those are the ones worth investing your time and money for.

Thankfully, there are free and paid (nominal compared to what conventional certification workshops cost you) alternatives that you can tap into to satiate your learning. These include Coursera, Udemy, Amazon (they sell books, remember?) and online publications (that may have a paid subscription option). I’m pretty sure there are many more but I would definitely start from the basics (books, of course!) and then move to online platforms.

So, if you’re like me, you might want to reevaluate the dozens of certifications you’ve listed in your wishlist. Give them a long and hard thought as there’s a price to be paid after all.

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