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Certification Encourages Personal Development

One of the recommendations which I had made in last month’s article was for project managers to apply Stephen Covey’s last habit – Sharpen the Saw.  We might feel that there is nothing new for us to learn to be more effective, but gaining further domain expertise or continuing to hone our soft skills are both of benefit.

This is sometimes easier said than done. 

Many of the project managers I have worked with complain that they have minimal time to plan for personal development and less time to actually take courses or participate in experiential activities which will help them grow.

While I will acknowledge that most of these folks are overworked, I support the principle that if you don’t invest in yourself first, no one else will.  Just as financial advisors recommend that you save on a regular basis via payroll deductions to avoid the temptation of spending before you have saved, I advocate the benefits of blocking off time for personal development as early as possible every year.

However, for those of you who find this practice challenging, if you have earned a certification credential through PMI, a good catalyst to force you to invest effort in our own personal development is the need to earn Professional Development Units (PDUs) to maintain your certification status.

In the case of the PMP certification, to recertify, you need to earn sixty PDUs over a three year period.  Other PMI credentials require fewer PDUs, but there is still an expectation for continued development over the course of the certification period.  Given how much cost and effort is expended in gaining our credentials, few of us would want to run the risk of not meeting this obligation!

For many practitioners, the most common method of earning their PDUs is to claim the time they’ve spent working in the project management domain.  However, this avenue only yields five PDUs per year, so additional sources will be required.

The next most common source for gaining PDUs is through formal education such as attending courses, webinars or conferences.  Depending on the duration of these activities, they can provide an excellent opportunity to secure significant PDUs in one shot as each full day will provide seven to eight PDUs.  In addition, there are no limits on how many PDUs can be claimed over a three year period for participating in valid educational activities.   

However, unless one has the patience to attend a significant number of free webinars (which will usually grant at most a single PDU), most formal education offerings will come at a cost.  With corporate training budgets being slashed, it might be tough to get the necessary approvals.  Beyond the financial commitment, getting approval for the time off required to attend such courses or conferences might be challenging.

This is where the second PDU earning category of Giving Back to the Profession can help.  Beyond the fifteen PDUs you can claim for working in the profession, for those holding a PMP certification you can claim an additional thirty PDUs per three year cycle through one or both of the following categories.

Creating New Project Management Knowledge: I realize that this category sounds daunting, but it can be achieved in a variety of ways including writing articles and blogging, delivering webinars and podcasts or presenting at a conference.  In the latter case, one very simple method is to serve as a subject matter expert on a project management-focused panel.  The benefit of presentations is that you earn PDUs for both developing the content and delivering it.  There are usually no hard costs associated with such activities and the main commitment is your non-working time and creativity.  Beyond earning PDUs and supporting your own personal development, such work can help to differentiate you from other candidates when seeking employment.

Volunteer Service: Many of us already volunteer our time to various causes, but it can be an added bonus to earn PDUs while you are giving back to the community.  You can choose to volunteer for PMI and their Volunteer Relationship Management System (VRMS) is a helpful tool to identify such opportunities.  You could also contact one of the board members from your local PMI chapter to learn about current volunteering opportunities which can range from providing support for a single event to serving as a director.  But don’t feel constrained to just volunteering with PMI – providing project management-focused mentoring to colleagues or others in your network also qualifies, as does providing project management assistance to a community group or charity.

Meeting credential maintenance requirements might seem like an onerous burden, but with proactive planning and leveraging multiple avenues you can both help your personal development and avoid the procrastination panic which arises with having to earn a large number of PDUs at the very end of a recertification cycle!

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