Building Your Foundation

Have you ever wondered if gaining additional education or professional certifications is worth the time and effort for your career? Over the years, I have gone back and forth on how I see the value.

Much has been written about our "knowledge economy." It seems that every occupation requires a new level of sophistication. It has helped me to form a way to think about this ongoing need to learn and adapt. When you realize that you are your most valuable asset, then you can develop a habit of investing in yourself. When you invest in yourself by pursuing higher education and certification, it benefits you in several ways.

Here are three ways it helps you:

  1. You prove something to yourself. This is the biggest value I see. Each time I set out to learn something new and have a goal of achieving a specific certification, I am telling myself that I can do it. When I achieve the goal, then I can look back on that accomplishment in the future and use it as strength for reaching for the next goal. It is foundational for me.
  2. You prove something to your peers. This is secondary but still valuable.
  3. You show that you think positively about yourself and your career. If you value something, you will invest in it and maintain it. If you have a nice home or nice car, you will do certain things to keep them up. If you feel that you and your career are valuable, you will invest time and money to maintain them. People will see that.

A few years into my first job, I began looking into getting an MBA. I had neither the time nor money to do it, but I studied the schools and how long it would take. I enrolled in a program and took a few courses, but I could not make it work with my schedule. I stopped taking classes. A few years later, I started back up with one class. At the time, it seemed like I would never be able to complete the program. I did not even think it would matter that much to my career. But I felt like it was something I needed to prove to myself. Eventually I did finish and received my MBA. That was a mental accomplishment for me that I have leaned on over the years.

On the flip side, I started work on becoming a Certified Database Administrator with one of the leading database providers back in the 1990s. I bought all the books, began watching the training DVDs and started taking practice tests. My busy life took over, and I never completed the certification. I love working with software, particularly databases. It has not held me back in my career to not have that accomplished, but I think about it often. I still plan to complete that certification!

Learning should be fun. If you have a frame of reference that you are your most valuable asset, it is easy to invest in yourself. Find something formal to get involved in and build your foundation. It is a lifelong process. Do it for yourself. When you do, the benefits will follow. It will help you, your team and your company.