Certifications Broke My Heart

Nigerians often seek shortcuts to success. Then there’s the “sure banker”, professional careers. But do certifications truly enhance careers, or are they empty promises? Let’s explore the reality behind the allure.”

Nigerians are funny people.  Everyone wants a shortcut to success. For those without the liver to ‘do Yahoo’ or go into politics, sing or act in Nollywood, the obvious choice is having a professional career. I mean a career in just anything… as long it guarantees a chance to impress Baba Nkechi, the neighbor.

I recently went on a rant of how having an extra degree has been mostly fraught with disappointments but I’m not yet done yet.

Will getting certifications or professional qualifications provide my career with a needed boost?

My naïve family and friends think so; and in fact, they feel it’s a “sure banker” strategy.

Let’s talk about it.

Certification and professional exams come in different shapes and sizes. Sexy and luring, boring and deflating. I’m making a half-hearted attempt to categorize them my way. In general it depends on what miserable career you are trying to enhance.

The Compulsory Certifications
Some careers where you can practically kill someone else, such as medicine, pharmacy, etc., are more regulated than nuns in a nunnery. These certifications come under my rant, because they are compulsorily required – else you won’t be allowed to do anything.

For example a lawyer trying to practice without law school degree is flirting with going to jail; the only time you can be allowed to sell drugs without a pharmaceutical certification is when you are a drug dealer. That itself, will get your head missing in Indonesia.

The Computer Certifications
Nigeria welcomed the 1990s with a slew of computer schools – the corner street panacea to everything needed for a modern career. Everyone rushed to do computer education with dubious diplomas but the racket didn’t last for long because did it help build any career except for the account balances of the patrons.

But computer certifications won’t just die easily. It upgraded itself and became the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MSCE). For the first time we had something that if you had, it briefly guaranteed you to be god’s cousin. It actually helped careers… before the charlatans were discovered. MCSE cost one hand and two legs and people got jobs in droves. I remember the wistful way I used to look at Solix Technologies adverts then.

Solix’s a story for another day. Then everybody I knew got on the MCSE train and it stopped being fun.

We moved on to other things.

Oracle certifications glowed briefly. Novell tried for just a few days before it became dead on departure. Cisco seems to have had the best outing so far. TheCCNA was easy to get on, with the promises of a good career as a network administrator. CCIE has been adjudged as visa to career heaven, wherever that is. But once you got on it, you discover that heaven is more of a personal thing. You get me?

I spend dearly every year for my Chartered Fellowship with British Computer Society. 6 years down the line, I’m still trying to justify it. It looks good on my LinkedIn profile though.

The Project Management Certifications
PMP came with a bang, followed by its cousin, Prince2. The myth of project management as a job or career was created by Nigerians who trooped to the UK on the HSMP programs, got there and couldn’t find gold on the streets of London. Hey, don’t crucify me yet! That’s the rumor I heard. I can’t be sure it’s true. Someone confirm for me.

Project Management meant many things.
OK, I was also on the PMP and Prince 2 trains. I did them to show that I’m also smart. I found out I was stupid, as it never did anything for me. I mean nothing!

Quite a number of friends, relatives and even family members did these certifications with a hope that their lives and careers would take a sudden change for the better. It never happened.

The Dead Ass Certifications
How people started doing HR certifications baffles me. I mean HR guys are usually miserable people who endure thousands of emails from jobseekers expecting them to perform miracles, find work and pull promotions out of thin air? They are a fantastic bunch but if you don’t want to become a lecturer in Nigeria despite respecting your uncle that’s a professor, don’t do HR certifications also.

I’m sorry if you did ICAN or ACCA with hope that being an accountant means anything, you need your head examined.

The accounting work has been largely automated with fancy software. When last did you see a job vacancy for accountants? How many of your cousins with accounting degrees are accountants?

The Glory Certifications
If you can pass the CFA, a big IF, you deserve everything you think you deserve. Mostly nothing at times. CFA takes about 3 years to pass alongside 1,000,000 liters of coffee and stubby fingers where the nails have been eaten off and hopefully you get a good job when you are done.

The only one person with CFA that I know whose life changed for the better because of this qualification was one dude who got moved from dead ass role to live ass investor relation job because he has CFA. The job itself doesn’t require CFA.

My Diatribe Against Certifications
Certifications, through the empty promises of improved career and super fly lifestyles provided by “armed robber” salaries, never came! I could have spent the tiny I had on beer and at least forgotten my sorrows for a while. Instead I slaved nights, read dumps, went to boring classes and got shafted.

I was intellectually raped.

And I wasn’t alone. I, being a very nice dude and a gentleman, am asking this question today: can certifications turn your career around or provide a needed leverage?

My humble assessment, if you bother to ask me, is no! I know some people have made it because of the few wonky certifications.

I know a lot of people who have been “healed” in churches too; but hey, we both know where you go when malaria shakes you and rattles your bones.

You may want to read the following carefully.
Too many people are certified, and if you paid attention in your economics class, you would know that demand and supply wreck havoc to the most beautiful things. Once everyone has PMP, your project management certificate means nothing. Don’t even mention Prince2. I don’t know what else you can do with it apart from using it to craft paper kites.

If it was that good, someone would have put a gate on it. You want to do PLAB to be a doctor in the UK and earn good money? Trust me there is at least 7 years of extremely dreadful medical degree between you and that.

Does anyone know any successful accountant around? So why do you subject yourself to incredible cruelty with ICAN and ACCA? Nobody hires accountants these days.

I have been on interviews panels like a billion times and we hardly take a second look at certifications; we look at you! Are you smart? Do you come with a positive attitude?

Can you work without supervision? Do you know why Buhari wouldn’t devalue the Naira? Nobody gives two flying horse legs about certifications – except of course if you are going to be in networking or IT security.

The Outliers
It’s not all doom and gloom. Some certifications will certainly enhance your chances. If you are going to be doing networks, better come with at least a CCNP else you should stay at home. If you have a CCIE, oh, we will roll out a damn red carpet for you. Even better, we will be thinking you are effing crazy not to be in Dubai earning Arab money. UAE, and to a large extent, the Gulf, is a nice place to be if you have Cisco networking certifications.

Same for the increasingly needed IT security experts. The spate of computer attacks these days is scary. So large companies like telecoms, banks, oil and gas, etc. are practically gobbling up IT security experts and no better ways to show you know your left from right than your certifications. CEH, CISM, CISSP, GSEC, etc. are regularly served for dinner.

Guaranteeing Career Success
Ok, I lied. I don’t know how to guarantee career success for you. I mean, I don’t know a single formula. What I know, however, are things you could do to move up the ladder – without spending the money you don’t have on phony certificates.

I’m probably when I’m less busy, I will come back to share some tips. Until then, goodbye and go have a good beer!

This article has also been published at www.bellanaija.com.

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Author: Adedeji Olowe

Adedeji / a bunch of bananas ate a monkey /

16 thoughts on “Certifications Broke My Heart”

  1. Interesting views about professional certifications with regards to actual impact on professional advancement of the individual, in Nigeria.
    I still believe the most important qualities that make one stand out from the pack, and also advance in the careers are always internal, but sadly, most hardly express these while they seek external validation in the name of certification.
    Look at entrepreneurs for example, you need no certification to be one, and most of the highly remarkable ones do not even hold a degree, let alone extra certification, yet they stand out.

  2. @ deji what about statistical package ( minitab, SAS, Big Data , SPSS). Can I still go for it I’m currently studying statistics ? What’s your opinion.

  3. Read this article on bellanaija.com and I just had to follow you up here.
    It seems to directly addressed the questions on my mind.
    Funny and I enjoyed reading it.

  4. I hope people understand that this write up is more like ‘How Deji sees it’. His perceptions may not apply in all areas but I must say ‘e make sense die’ in so many areas. I am also an ardent believer in customer service I believe it is the backbone of any organization but one ‘oga’ I met disagreed with me, He said ‘Sales’ is the backbone and I kuku said OK.
    @Yemi A’s comment……. Perfecto!
    With that said, if you need someone with an inborn customer service skills….*raises hand*
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  5. I so agree with this write-up.
    Its really our individual skills that carries us all the way. Certification help to put a feet in the door but then if there are just too many of that it would be time to bring out ones “A” game.

  6. To be honest with you, this article is confusing. Your emphasis on competence has me conflicted. Would you advise a fresh graduate that competence is more important than certifications? Competence in what? How do you become competent without practice? Which practice would hire a trainee accountant without anything less than AAT these days?

    1. Competence means you are good in what you do. However that can be a big challenge if you don’t have any job experience. Most often than not recruiters use surrogate values to decide if you are going to be worth the effort. Do you show enthusiasm? Do you play like a team player? Can you go the extra mile? Attitude is pretty important.

  7. I do not totally agree with you. The relevance of certifications also depend on the industry you want to work in.
    I will sight an example you mentioned. The ACCA and ICAN certification which you termed as not useful is important for anyone that wants to rise to a level of a Manager and Partner in an audit firm.
    Without being chartered esp. ICAN chartered and further having an FRC number, you cannot sign off on the audit opinion of clients’ financial statements

  8. Cool that we’ve agreed that this approach does not apply to entry positions and that indeed you still need some kind of leverage like EXPERIENCE before you start applying surrogate values. And even with that, deciding to go without getting certified will be limiting. Like someone said already, some semi senior or senior positions in accounting need a professional qualification.
    Much of this your approach is plain rhetorics and cannot survive in the real world. I’m afraid a vulnerable naija job seeker will take this seriously. All entry positions in accounting will require (in addition to some of the surrogate values you mentioned) certification full or part from a relevant professional body. Except for apprentiships in the UK, which is targeted at school leavers.
    However, there’s an salient point in your approach I agree with and that is, you must know how to use and apply your certifications. You need to have a GOAL in mind with respect to how realistically useful it is. Are you getting chartered because you want to earn arm roba salary? Then don’t get chartered. Would you want to own and run your own private practice? You need it.

  9. To a large extent, I agree with your submission. I have interviewed several intending staff for my coy and trust me, certification is the very last thing I look at which has little or no effect on my judgement. I do this every time simply because what I am after is your personality, perception of life and your belief (not religion). This only worked for employing sales/customer service personnel and managers. when we needed an accountant, it flipped. You just have to be chartered. Usefulness of certification(s) for some professions should not be undermined.

  10. The truth of the matter is when it comes down to it, certifications do not help you do the job better, they do not build competence in most environments. Having said that, sometimes these pieces of paper give job seekers an edge over others without them. They create an illusion of competence that a good percentage of employers seem to be comfortable with. So will I advise a fresh graduate to go through the motions? I will say yes. It’s like makeup…makes you look more attractive than you might be, especially to superficial onlookers that may turn out to be important.

  11. Hey…here comes Mr. Intelligent, articulate and realistic once again….nice article…you nailed it, right on the head.

  12. …Hey…here comes Mr. Intelligent, articulate and realistic once again….nice article…you nailed it, right on the head….

  13. The lord of certifications took over the country in the early 2000 with every gradate crazy about thinking it will take them to the next level.

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