A couple of years ago I was asked, “How much is an industry designation — such as CMP, CMM, CSEP — worth?” My answer is just as complicated now as it was then.
Over the years, as I have traded business cards and swapped e-mails at industry events, I’ve never ceased to be amazed by all the industry designations and certifications that crop up behind people’s names. Some I understand, some I don’t and some, to me, seem a little self-serving.
But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself; let me give you a little background on my experience and explain why I chose to get certified.
When I took the Certified Meeting Professional exam in 1990, there were not many of us CMPs around. At the time, the term “meeting planner” was not even recognized by the Department of Labor, and many of those in the profession had not aspired to, but had grown into, the position within their company or organization. So, I felt becoming a CMP was necessary for several reasons. My No. 1 reason was to earn credibility and upward mobility within my Fortune-100 company and within the association(s) where I held membership. I also had entrepreneurial aspirations, and knew certification would differentiate me from others who had not taken the time to earn it as well as from those less experienced than I.
In 1994, while serving on MPI’s International Board of Directors, there was a significant cloud brewing around the support of a “new” certification — Certification in Meeting Management (CMM). During many board and council meetings, we heatedly debated whether or not it would dilute or diminish the CMP. At the same time, a new organization popped up, offering to confer a designation of RMP — Registered Meeting Planner (Professional) — for a slight membership fee. Other designations (notice I did not say certifications) soon appeared, and it became commonplace for people to have several designations, many of which could be bought for a few days in class and a hefty fee.
That was then; this is now. Becoming a full-time meeting planner is no longer something you have to dream about; today it is a coveted and highly respected and sought-after position. In fact, US News & World Report recently named “Meeting Planner” one of the Best Careers for 2011. “Employment of meeting and convention planners, who hold 56,600 jobs nationwide in 2008, is expected to grow faster than the average for all professions over the next decade or so,” reported the Dec. 6, 2010, article. “The Labor Department projects that the number of meeting planner jobs will jump 16 percent, thanks to the growing importance of meetings to increasingly global companies.”
In this writer’s opinion, I think that in the long run, if you have talent and experience, any certification (not designation) that you have is an exclamation point. It further illustrates your passion for the industry, for the knowledge that you share and the professionalism that you exude. However, if you have a designation without the previously mentioned attributes, prospects, clients and peers will soon see through any effort that’s unsupported by the necessary skills and experience.
An individual does not need a certification or designation to be successful or be viewed as successful. And you’ll find many old-school meeting planners with decades of experience who don’t feel it’s necessary to get certified. Their actions speak for themselves. But, for the many who have worked for years and achieved the right to put those three letters behind their name, myself included, they wear their certification/designation with pride and with respect for the others that also share their passion.
Make any quest for certifying your skills a well thought out part of your long-term career plan. Whether it is the CMP, CMM, CAE, or any other hospitality-oriented certification, you’ll need to make a commitment to yourself to fulfill the prerequisites, study and prepare for the exam, and maintain your knowledge through staying active in the industry. By doing so, you’ll lay the groundwork for those that will engage you as a professional, a mentor or an associate.
So, take a moment. Get inspired. Make a difference.