A commitment to lifelong learning: Why I got certified

A guest post by Natika Sunstrum, CMP

As a senior communicator with over 20 years of communication expertise, much of my day is focused on aligning organizational communications to business goals and objectives.

And, while every day is different—one day I’m advising leadership on how to engage employees on our internal social platform, the next developing an in-depth communication plan. My commitment to lifelong learning has long been a guiding principle in my career.

To keep myself on track, every January I make the time to set both personal and career goals. This past year, one of my career goals included the Communication Management Professional (CMP) certification offered by the Global Communication Certification Council (GCCC). Here’s why:

Keeping my skills fresh

  • In the day-to-day “busy-ness” of a communicator, professional development can often slide to the bottom of the to-do list. To maintain my certification, I now need to dedicate at least 40 hours a year to my development. This keeps me accountable to my lifelong learning focus.
  • My communication skill set has become more specialized over the years, so I don’t have regular exposure to all aspects of our profession. The certification exam requires a solid understanding of the full breadth of corporate communication functions—from government relations to media relations and more. Preparing for the exam was a great way to refresh my knowledge. (Hint: Studying The IABC Handbook of Organizational Communication was a must.)

Recognition of my expertise

  • Completing the certification application allowed me to reflect back on my career and accomplishments. The process was rigorous, but as I gathered the information, I felt a strong sense of pride. It was a great reminder of how much I’d accomplished over the years.
  • When my colleagues and internal clients learned I’d passed my certification exam, they were incredibly supportive. And it didn’t hurt to have those initials after my name as a reminder that our profession, which at times seems nebulous to those outside of it, has defined international standards that are measurable and comparable.
  • My certification makes me a more desirable hire. Put yourself in the shoes of a hiring or existing manager—what a comfort it is to know that a certified communicator’s education and skills have been pre-screened by an organization of their peers.

If you do decide to get certified, I recommend taking a look at the GCCC registry list to see if there’s a familiar person on the list you can reach out to. I found it worthwhile talking to a friend who’d been certified before I dove into the application. She gave me some guidance on the process and how to prepare for the exam, which helped set me up for success.

I wish you the best of luck in your lifelong learning journey.