Wednesday, January 29, 2014

the thrill of certification

I've been in my profession about 8 years and figured it was time to try to get certified.  Over the last five years I took a handful of short online courses in marketing, financial management, customer service, etc.  The courses were fairly easy, and as long as you answered at least two discussion questions and completed the project, you got the credit.  Online courses weren't enough, I also had to have a minimum number of hours of webinars or live courses.  Once I completed those 100 hour minimums, I was ready to sign up for the certification exam.

It was really hard to get back into that routine of studying again.  I signed up for an online study group, which helped focus my reading.  First I started with reading the books on the train to and from work.  I also made about 300 flash cards.  Reviewing for 80 minutes 5 days a week didn't seem like enough (shockingly) so I had to include 1-2 hours after work at least twice a week plus a few hours on the weekends.  Of course there were some weeks where I couldn't keep up with this routine.  It was a lot of work.  There weren't many practice tests available, but I did have about 3 in my possession, so I took them throughout the 3 months I studied and turned many of them into flashcards too.  All the exams I finished early, I wasn't averaging 1.2 minutes per question and I was only averaging about a 60%.

3 months of studying.  At the end, I was getting burnt out. I didn't want to study anymore. I wanted my 'life' back (which is silly because I don't do much) and I wanted to read for fun again.  But I pushed through to the end. I took the day off before the exam to review areas I was less confident about...but for the most part, by this time, I thought I was ready to go.

The morning of the exam, I went into the city early and walked around for about 40 minutes for fresh air and to get my blood flowing.  I still got to the site early, mostly because it was raining and I didn't have an umbrella or a hood.

There were only three candidates in the room.  They provided the pencils and the water.  No snacks at all during the 4 hour, 200 question exam.

At the appropriate time, I opened my exam book and started.  Slowly, I started to become frustrated with the questions of the exam.   I started skipping the ones I had no idea what the answer was, and I'd go back at the end, I had to remember to leave enough time.  At three and a half hours, I counted how many questions I had no clue what the answer was...30.  Yikes.  30 questions I would be mostly guessing plus other questions I got wrong.  I was getting frustrated.  I didn't like where this was headed.  Time was ticking.  I realized I was spending so much time re-reading some of the poorly worded questions and re-reading questions because I was still trying to figure it out.

At exactly four hours I put my pencil down.  Not because I was done and confident with my responses, but because I didn't have any time left.  I answered all the questions, but there were a few I would have liked to think about a little more.  Oh well.

Then I had to wait 8 weeks for the results.

When the sealed, confidential envelope arrived at work, I had this sinking feeling that I failed and would try to re-take the exam one more time.  I started to dread giving up my 'fun' reading again.  But I also remembered how much time and work I put into it.  No matter what would happen, I knew that I learned so much, and there is always more to learn.  I looked up and thought of ManFriend and his encouragement about certification, I knew he'd want to see me pass.

I debated if I should open the envelope at work or wait until I got home.  But it was staring at me.  I am really bad with will-power.  I had to get it over with. I needed to know.

I read the letter.  It didn't make any sense.  I read it again.  Wait, what was that first word? Congratulations.?  Holy shit. I did it. I passed.  I started shaking.  I went into my bosses office with the letter in my hand and I said "I did it, I passed".  and his smile was so huge and congratulated me, stating that he was confident I was going to pass.   You could tell how proud of me he was.

I took a picture of the letter and I mass texted many of the people that knew about the examination and the time I put into it.  Everyone was thrilled.

It was a very labor intensive (and expensive) process.  But rewarding.  I feel so accomplished.  And I really did learn so much over the last few years.

Now I just need to keep it up the credential and recertify every few years.

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