HR Certification and the Nontraditional Career Path

I use my expertise in workplace law to expand knowledge resources for the HR profession

By Margaret M. Clark, J.D., SHRM-SCP February 18, 2021
HR Certification and the Nontraditional Career Path

​Margaret M. Clark, J.D., SHRM-SCP

​I earned my first HR certification 20 years ago and have been certified ever since. But I have never been a "traditional" HR professional. You might ask, "How?" and "Why?"

The "how" is straightforward. I have spent my entire professional life specializing in workplace issues while working in occupations that met the relevant eligibility criteria for HR certification.

The "why" is evident in the story of my varied career. I practiced as an employment lawyer for several years, then worked as a business journalist focusing on HR and employment issues, first for an international news organization and then for SHRM. Although HR certification was not required for my role in publications, I seized the opportunity to earn my first HR credential at that point.

After several years as a lawyer-editor, freelance writer and consultant, I transitioned into the more comprehensive role of HR knowledge manager, serving as a cataloger, curator and coordinator of SHRM's huge body of HR information on workplace law.

If I had not already been certified, I might not have been hired for my later roles. I certainly would have been required to obtain HR certification in short order.

Among the highlights of my time at SHRM were creating the workplace law content area on the website, creating the HR toolkit product, setting up the system that powers the SHRM HR Knowledge Center and producing the first SHRM Live virtual conference. I continued to use my experience as a journalist for SHRM publications—including those I helped launch, such as the former Workplace Law Bulletin and e‑newsletters on state laws—to report on and analyze federal and state legal and regulatory developments.

When SHRM certification became available, I secured my SHRM-SCP credential. By then my role at SHRM involved creating virtual professional development programs for HR professionals.

Professional development is key to keeping up my HR certification. I am now the sole proprietor and principal consultant of a content and knowledge management enterprise, and maintaining my SHRM credential definitely brings in writing assignments and other work dealing with HR trends and workplace law developments.

There really is no excuse not to recertify one's credential. SHRM members have access to plenty of free webcasts, and many other organizations offer free or low-cost opportunities to earn credits. The only way to make the recertification process painful is to leave it until the last minute!

You never know what the future might hold or what twists and turns your professional life might take. It pays to maintain your SHRM certification, even if it's not required for a particular role.
Margaret M. Clark, J.D., SHRM-SCP, is sole proprietor and principal consultant of Neathridge KnowledgeWorks in Arlington, Va.



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