Should You be in a Certificate Program to Retool?

Career Development and Educational Options Abound
Certificate programs, and other short terms classes, are now easy to find to help everyone update their technical, data, social media and e-commerce skills no matter where they are in their career trajectory. For example, General Assembly (GA), with local locations in Santa Monica and DTLA (and all across the USA) offers intensives that many of my clients have enrolled in to increase their skills and open new career doors as data scientists, data analysts, coders and product managers. My son actually attended GA in their intensive 12-week Data Science program over the summer before he went into his sophomore year. He’s now graduating from college with a great job doing work he loves, and has a bright future ahead in the Big Data world. Many other programs, often called Boot Camps, are available online and in other cities, that provide rigorous, hands-on training. UCLA Extension offers many excellent classes and certificates; USC’s Marshall School of Business, and other universities all over the US, have now created shorter term certificate programs to satisfy the needs of professionals who may need to update their skill set for the digital world we now live in.

Update, update update
If you’ve been following me for a while you know I am always encouraging learning. Learning anything new can stimulate new ideas, innovations, and opportunities of all kinds; being in a class can help you to meet new people and find important resources. Certainly, learning new skills that are specific to your work can help you reposition yourself in your organization, and the job market. One mid-career client with an MBA plus years of marketing experience had taken a step out of the workforce for family reasons. After taking a few UCLA Extension classes in social media marketing and SEO data analytics she was able to ‘talk the talk’ and found a great new job using her updated skills. However….

What Employers Really Want
These programs are not for everyone. Part of the reason I’m writing this blog is because I see some experienced clients taking certificate classes (prior to working with me) expecting/hoping to be welcomed into a new career path because of their new credential. GA, for example tries to provide hiring opportunities to it’s grads, but I know from clients that this often doesn’t come to pass. Yes, there’s a need for UX Designers, and more potential employees who understand Data Science and analytics, but someone with a 20+ career in marketing or TV production, or other unrelated career paths, will find that this job market is tough to break into with just a 6, 10 or 12-week program. I know it’s frustrating when you know you can do a job, but employers aren’t noticing you. They may not be so open to a career changer because they want someone with a proven track record, someone who knows how to grapple with the complex challenges of their particular space.

What Career Change Really Takes
My clients who have successfully made a career change into these more technical design and data oriented careers have used these programs as a spring board, but years of additional classes, networking, internships, and contract work have also been required on the road to an actual full-fledged job. It can be done, and it’s not a bad idea! But be prepared with a reality check and good research to know what to expect.

Make Smart Choices
I always stress how important it is to do your homework to know what you’re getting into before making a commitment to a new career path and the education it may require. If you’re looking into the future – at any age! — and have the feeling it’s time to update yourself and your skills but you’re not sure how, you’re in good company. We’ve got a lot of change ahead of us. This is great news if you love to learn! Let’s get you ready for your future successes now.