In the time since I wrote the article “12 Licenses and Certifications You Will Need in The Green Economy,“ people have asked me a number questions about certifications and their importance to employers in the green, environmental and infrastructure job market. I have been asked questions like : “How will a certification help me in my green job search? How does a certification help me from an educational standpoint? Are employers really looking for these certifications?” I am going talk about why a certification can help your green, environmental or infrastructure job search.
I recently had conversation with a gentleman ( we will call him Rick for reference) who wanted to transition from construction to alternative energy. His current company was heading downhill because of the recession and he was feeling the pressure. He had moved into an operations management role four years ago after fifteen years as an estimator which, in his mind, made him vulnerable to a layoff.
After fifteen minutes of conversation, Rick told me his issue with his job search: His network was thin and he was having a hard getting his resume noticed by potential employers. I told Rick that he may not have to take as big of a step back as he thought. He could possibly seek the Certified Estimating Professional (CPE) designation offered by the AACE or the Certified Professional Estimator offered by ASPE (American Society of Professional Estimators). Here is how the certification could help him and possibly you in your job search:
Certifications can build on existing or update old experience
One of the important things to remember about a certification is a certification can build on your existing experience or update your old experience. Many of the green, environmental and infrastructure projects such as green buildings, environmental clean up, SMART Grid, solar, water infrastructure and wind power are new construction projects funded by government money. Due to the regulation changes in accounting and government funding, companies involved in these projects have to keep strict tabs on project costs. Professional Estimators are key people in instituting and monitoring cost controls. They collect information on the costs of materials, labor and time which can doom a project if they are fully researched. This information is used by banks, building owners, investors, procurement managers and contractors to determine the cost, profitability and return on investment on a project As the economy recovers, it projected that estimators will be in high demand due to a large numbers of green and infrastructure projects and low numbers of qualified professionals.( See more information on Estimating as career).
Let’s get back to Rick. Rick already had a college degree and good estimating experience but he did not think about getting a certification as a route to network with potential employers. As we finished our conversation I shared the following information with Rick to help his decision: When employers are looking to hire a new person they are looking for the following:
- A person who has knowledge and skills that can be used immediately (People who do not need training)
- A person who have direct relationships with their target clientele/market (Someone who can sell products and services to a specific group of clients)
- A person who has experience or expertise to create efficiency (People who can manage projects, administration, financials, people and policy)
Rick’s old estimating experience positioned him as a person who met two of the three criteria. Take a look at your background and determine where you are positioned.
Certifications can change the level and scope of networking opportunities
Rick needed an opportunity to network with new companies who were looking to hire people with estimating experience. To see how the certification could help, Rick and I pulled up the The Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering (AACE) website. Here is what we found:
- There were 59 recognized corporate sponsors for this association. All of the companies were well-known companies in their industries. Companies who are willing to put their name and money behind a certification are an important part of validating its value and significance. These companies should be first on any job search list.
- There was an international directory of certified professionals. Networking is still the best way to find a job and directory of names will give Rick an advantage when contacting companies about positions. Personal relationships can help ensure that his resume gets to the right people in an organization.
- There was a regularly scheduled annual meeting where members could participate in forums, submit papers and interact with companies who were exhibitors. If Rick goes to the conference, he will meet a large number of people who can provide him leads in his job search.
A Word of Warning: Investigate Before You Invest
A certification does not guarantee a job but it can enhance your opportunity to find one. In this age of “diploma mills” and education scams, it is important to investigate an organization or institution before investing money in an education program. Here are some important questions to research before going through a certification program:
- Is it fully accredited?
- Is there an established professional community behind the certification, degree or training?
- Are there companies or consumers who value this expertise?
- What is the outlook for employment?
- Who are the major employers of people with this certification ?
- Are there job postings and recruiters in this space?
- What are the salary ranges for the jobs?
- Do you know anyone who has taken this course?
- Is there a local professional networking group?
- Are the top employers in the industry involved in the group as sponsors or participants?
- Can I find other people with these certifications, licenses and training on social media networks?
- Is there a directory of professionals with listings of local, national or international contacts?
- Is the association certified as non-profit or not for profit entity?
Rick’s Action List
Here is what Rick had to do after our call.
- Determine which certification fits his career goals (AACE or ASPE)
- Study the certification materials and pass the exam
- Update his resume and put his name in the directory
- Begin developing relationships with CPE professionals in his local area and region
- Find out which employers in his local area actively recruit CPE
- Find job postings through the association website
- Plan to attend local chapter events, continuing education classes and the annual meeting
What is your action list?
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