Early in my career, about half of my internal communication colleagues were preparing for the Accredited Business Communicator program. I was too junior and did not have enough work under my belt to join them. That was okay. The first stop on my journey was to realize I wanted it.

I told my manager at the time that I would do it when the time was right.

When the Communication Management Professional certification (CMP) and the Strategic Communication Management Professional (SCMP) were introduced, I still didn’t feel I was ready. This time it wasn’t about the work experience, it was about the process. The application process felt a little daunting and I didn’t know where I would find the time.

The 2019 IABC Leadership Institute changed my perspective. I attended a session on certification, and the ability to ask questions to those who went through the certification experience was invaluable. I was one step closer to saying out loud — and on a development plan — that I wanted to sit for the SCMP exam.

The right time for me was February 2020. I’m in a hotel meeting room in Austin, Texas and I’m nervous. I don’t get along very well with tests. Thankfully, I have a familiar face sitting next to me. Trust me when I say IABC creates community and that helps you get through these types of things. A few hours and 100 questions later, I’m in the hotel lobby feeling a sense of accomplishment just from completing the exam.

Our group received our results fast and after a little bit of internal celebration, I sent a message to my former manager, Brad, to let him know I passed (see the video below for his recap of that moment; Brad also happens to be the current Chair of the Global Communication Certification Council).

About a day or so later, I added the certification to my LinkedIn profile. That made it feel official.

It might have taken me several years to get my act together, but I don’t regret it. My best piece of advice if you are considering CMP or SCMP certification is to attend an information session and then talk to someone who has done it.

I recently received my renewal certificate, which is signed by Brad this year. How awesome is that?

I want to thank Brad for encouraging this path. I also want to thank my employer, CSAA Insurance Group, for the significance it places on development conversations and opportunities.

Certification truly represents experience, education and ongoing development.

Interested in certification? Here are some resources:

Please reach out to me on LinkedIn if you want to know more.

P.S. The California chapters* of IABC have been offering a series of certification-related webinars to help communicators prepare for the exam. Join us March 18 for an important session on strategy, tactics and measurement and April 15 for a session on audience-centric communication.

*IABC Orange County, IABC San Diego, IABC Los Angeles, Silicon Valley IABC, San Francisco IABC

Kristie King, SCMP is executive vice president of the San Francisco chapter of IABC and leads agent communication at CSAA Insurance Group, a AAA Insurer.