I do hear a lot of practitioners say that being certified does not show that you can run a project. And that is of course true. Just like having a driver's license does not prove that you know how to drive a car (as proven by the %*!&><# who cut me off on I-75 yesterday!). Still... I do prefer that the other drivers around me have licenses. While it does not prove that they are great at what they are doing, I think it improves my odds. And it shows that they care enough about being behind a steering wheel to try to improve.
So maybe the most important part about becoming certified is that it shows that you are certifiable. In other words, it tells me that you have some level of experience (since you could sit for the exam), it shows that you have some training on the subject of your profession, and it shows that you can answer some basic theoretical questions about your job. And it shows potential customers and employers that you care a bit.
So, next time someone tells you that a PMP exam means nothing, ask if they would use a lawyer who flunked the bar exam. Or a doctor who skipped the medical board review. Would they send their kids to unlicensed daycares? Nothing guarantees competence, certainly a PMP title does not, but success is also not guaranteed by bringing on the guy that runs his project on gut feeling and a fly-by-night approach. PMI's way is not the only way. There are other ways to run projects. But PMI's way is "a way," and not a bad way. It is better than "no way." So my recommendation is, if you can get certified, do it; if you can find a mentor, get him or her to support you; if you see an interesting book, read it. In other words, use all means available to improve your skills in your profession. That may be what sets you apart from your competition. And, like it or not, you are in a competition!
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