After finally convincing myself to be courageous and venture out on my own to start working as an independent educational consultant, I knew that I was going to need a lot of help figuring out how to start and operate a successful business.
Immediately, I began to research blogs, videos, and books that would give me the information that I needed to get started. While the internet provided me with more than enough resources, I mainly felt overwhelmed; it was hard figuring out how to organize and use all the information.
My gut told me that I would benefit so much more from working with an experienced entrepreneur or business professional who could curate the information for me and help me to break down the complicated process of starting and operating a small business into some actionable steps.
Fortunately, I had been researching and advising young people on alternatives to enrolling in traditional undergraduate programs for a while, so I was familiar with the various career-focused certificate programs offered in the Bay Area, and I remembered that the City College of San Francisco offered a free, 72-hour certificate program for persons interested in owning and operating small businesses, so I gave it a try.
As I prepare to complete the program, I appreciate just how much I have been able to accomplish in such a short period of time: I developed a business plan, I built a website and started this blog, I registered my business with my county Clerk Recorder, and I extended my professional and personal networks and now have mentors to support my continued growth and development as an entrepreneur.
In addition to the small business certificate program, I have earned other certificates, and each one has been similarly useful in helping me to cultivate new skills and open doors to new opportunities, so I wanted to take some time and share a couple of reasons why I think you should consider acquiring a certificate too.
1. They are Highly Specialized
One of the main deterrents of young people continuing their education after high school is the thought of more general education. I have heard on numerous occasions how young people are jaded by twelve years of compulsory education and lack the desire to take more courses on topics that lack a direct application in the world of work.
Moreover, some of my close friends have realized that the jobs they really want require highly specialized skill sets and know-how that weren’t offered in their undergraduate programs.
For both situations, a certificate is a great solution. A major benefit of certificates is that they offer a high degree of specialization, which means you only take those courses that are directly related to your chosen discipline, and many programs don’t require high GPAs, test scores, or prerequisite courses to start.
2. They Don’t Take Long to Complete
“I don’t want to be in school forever…I want to get a job,” or, “I am too busy and don’t have time to take classes,” are the most common reasons people give me for choosing to discontinue their formal education.
What’s so wonderful about certificates is they are created to provide a fast-track into a desired career, and many certificates are designed to fit the schedules of working professionals and non-traditional students. Many of the certificates that I have looked into take less than a year to complete (and some take less than 6 months!), plus many of the programs are offered in the evening or online making them compatible with virtually any schedule.
3. They are Affordable
It’s no secret that school can get expensive, and student loan debt is arguably the defining financial crisis of our times; however, that shouldn’t deter you from looking into earning a certificate.
While the cost of a certificate can vary depending on where you get it and you want to pay close attention to the accreditation and reputation of a program, chances are there is a certificate available at the right price for you.
If you are currently working, it might be worth it contact your Human Resource Department or speak with your manager/supervisor to find out if your company has any money set aside for professional development because you might be able to earn a job-related certification for free.
If you are not working, check out the course catalog at your local community college and see what the school has to offer. Community college programs are generally industry approved, and they offer some of the most affordable rates on the market – my program was free!
4. You Meet New People
Unless your chosen program is entirely online, you are going to get to work with lots of new people. These people will come in the forms of professors, experts, and peers – as you may already be aware, sometimes who you know is just as important as what you know.
Increasing your network is powerful because the more people you meaningfully connect with in your field means more potential opportunity. As you begin the process of looking for jobs, knowing people in your field becomes an advantage and can translate into higher quality recommendations and referrals.
In addition to expanding your network, new people have the potential to inspire creativity because you are exposing yourself to new and different ways of thinking. This exposure will help you to stretch yourself and become a more critical thinker.
5. You Build Your Resume
Lastly, certificates are a great way to build up your resume and transform yourself into a more marketable candidate for employment.
Whether you are fresh out of high school and just embarking on your career journey, or you are a seasoned professional, certificates are a great way to spruce up your resume and demonstrate to a potential employer that you are intellectually dexterous and committed to learning and growing professionally.
Certificates offer a big bang for the buck! A short investment in time and finances can turn out to produce big returns in work satisfaction and future earnings.
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