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Beyond Credentials: Certification as a Path to Advance Professional Development

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A Conversation with Brad Whitworth, GCCC Chair

IABC and its professional development initiative, the Global Communication Certification Council® (GCCC), recently announced that its Communication Management Professional® (CMP) certification program received international accreditation from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). This milestone designates IABC as the only communications organization to receive accreditation under the specific ANSI/ISO17024 standard for practitioners.

To gain a deeper understanding of the value that this certification brings, we spoke with Brad Whitworth, ABC, SCMP®, IABC Fellow and chair of the GCCC.

Whitworth has been a member of IABC since 1978 and held numerous leadership roles in the organization, including a past chairman of the IABC’s international executive board and a past president of two local chapters. In this conversation, hear about his passion for lifelong learning, why certification is just the start of one’s professional development journey and more.

You are currently the chair of the GCCC. What drew you to this role and why do you believe certification is a valuable resource?

I was part of the first group that took the CMP test. I truly believe in the power of lifelong learning and bettering yourself through certification — when the opportunity to take on this role came about, it was a natural fit.

I see the value of professional certification as twofold. It proves to the world you have mastered the skill sets and information needed to do your job well. It is also an internal sign of accomplishment, that you have the ability to continue to grow and advance in your career.

When you take any professional exam, you are proving what you know, and, at the same time discovering what you do not know. As you prepare for an exam, or even when you’re taking one, you may find questions that will suggest subject areas to dive into deeper in the future. Certification is proof of what you have accomplished and a pulse check for where you need to keep going.

In your opinion, how does the ANSI accreditation add to the value of the CMP certification?

As someone who has worked for global companies, I’m particularly excited about the worldwide acceptance of this accreditation. The CMP is now the only communication program with this specific, internationally recognized designation.

IABC has had solid programs in the past that were globally focused, offered in multiple languages and attuned to each culture appropriately. With the ANSI accreditation, we are going beyond adapting certification to a global audience — this is tested and proven to be such around the world. There is a universal acceptability to the concept and true power to the value that an ISO17024 standard carries.

How does this certification give communication professionals a competitive edge, especially in today’s environment?

I’m looking forward to seeing the benefits of this new accreditation long-term, as more data is available and we can quantify results. What I can say for the immediate future is that when it comes to certification, there are many ways it can help you gain a competitive edge. For instance, research by Career Data Labs found that recruiters are three times more likely to shortlist an applicant if they have a professional certification. Their research has also found that more than 50% of certified professionals are promoted within the first six months of getting a certification.

There are tangible benefits people see over time when it comes to certification across many industries. We’re just beginning to collect the data that will be specific to the field of communications.

You have been both CMP and SCMP certified. Can you speak to any moments when this helped advance your career?

At one point in my career, I received a larger-than-average bonus after achieving certification. It was a way of my manager saying “thank you” for tackling the test and going above and beyond my on-the-job accomplishments.

Financial benefits aside, I believe certification at its core is about the drive to do more. There are some communicators who want to show their current managers, potential new employers and themselves that they are on top of their game. It’s an achievement that can set you apart from everyone else.

That’s the same drive that sent me back to school for an MBA. I realized there were things that business people knew that I didn’t because it wasn’t part of my liberal arts curriculum. I knew I needed to acquire this specific skill set. That path and mindset, in a way, drew me to certification. For me, a lot of it goes back to being a personal challenge.

Why do you maintain your certification every year? 

Once you attain a certain level with certification, you want to make sure you’re maintaining it and you’re not letting your competition move ahead and leaving you in their wake.

Consider other professions, too. Certification is required for public accountancy, to stay on top of changing tax laws and regulations. Auto mechanics are certified because the onboard technology in cars is changing every year. You have to know the latest and greatest if you want to be competitive in the marketplace.

What advice would you share with a communication professional who is considering CMP or SCMP certification?

In Richard Bolles’ “The Three Boxes of Life,” he describes the simplistic view that many people have of life in three stages: first you learn, then you do, then you enjoy life. Bolles’ premise is that you should be living in all three stages at all times. I think certification fits that philosophy. Learning does not stop when you finish school. Certification is one way to continue to learn about yourself, the profession and the industry, and prove to yourself and the rest of the world that you are moving ahead and not being left behind.

Since 2015, 242 people have received GCCC certifications. The programs are available to both IABC members and non-members. Ready to learn more? Visit gcccouncil.org.

Brad Whitworth, ABC, SCMP®, IABC Fellow and chair of the GCCC, has been a member of IABC since 1978 and held numerous leadership roles in the organization, including a past chairman of the IABC’s international executive board and a past president of two local chapters.

Kristin Frankiewicz

Kristin Frankiewicz is the senior content coordinator for IABC.

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