Pursuing Certification Early in Career Pays Off

By Rena Gorlin, J.D. Jul 11, 2016
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Kate Dubrowski, SHRM-CP​

Kate Dubrowski had been an HR generalist for less than a year at the Council on Foundations in Arlington, Va., when her supervisor, after giving her a positive performance review, encouraged her to become certified. 

"My boss wanted to promote me," Dubrowski said, "but felt that I needed the credential, since I didn't have a lot of tenure in the field." She was a psychology major and business minor in college and had, at that time, three years of increasing responsibilities in HR, including jobs at the Council on Foundations and a Washington, D.C., law firm. 

Dubrowski applied for SHRM-CP certification and qualified. SHRM's policy on exempt/nonexempt work allowed her to use her HR experience to establish her eligibility to sit for the exam. 

She prepared for the test using the SHRM Learning System for SHRM-CP/SHRM-SCP. "It was a long four months of studying, but clearly it paid off," Dubrowski said. "The SHRM prep course is absolutely worth the investment.

"I thought the SHRM exam would be easy. My impressions absolutely changed!" she laughed. "The SHRM material was incredibly challenging. This is not a 'wing-it' exam. So I was really proud and excited when I passed. I strongly believe I would not have passed if I tried to study on my own."

After she attained her SHRM credential, she was promoted to her current role as HR manager at the Council on Foundations.

While the training materials helped her succeed on the exam, Dubrowski pointed out that the exam subject matter is "very practical knowledge … relevant to what I do every day at my job and important to know." While an HR professional can absorb "a lot of information through practice," she noted, learning "the SHRM competencies absolutely increased my knowledge and gave me a tremendous amount of confidence."

Now studying for her master's degree in HR management, Dubrowski quipped, "Graduate school seems easier" than preparing for the SHRM certification exam. While the academic study of HR is more in-depth than a certification preparation course, she is pleased to make use of her "familiarity with the terminology, court cases, laws, adverse actions and more. I feel well-primed." 

Dubrowski plans to sit for the SHRM-SCP after she finishes the graduate program.

Several of her classmates have obtained their SHRM credentials, as well. 

"We have had many discussions about the exam, how challenging it was and how proud we are. We feel like we truly earned it." She and her certified cohort also feel the certification sets them apart from their other classmates, detecting a "discrepancy in knowledge [between] those who are SHRM-certified and those who are not." 

Dubrowski has been encouraging others to sit for the SHRM certification exam. "The experience of studying for it will help them tremendously. I think all HR professionals should consider SHRM certification."

On the job, she feels that she has a more strategic mindset and has developed a stronger understanding of her work after studying for and passing the SHRM certification exam. Of all she learned from the SHRM Body of Competency and Knowledge, the U.S. laws and regulation functional area (part of the Workplace Knowledge domain of the HR Expertise technical competency) has proven to be most valuable in her day-to-day duties. "While we outsource legal matters to outside counsel, having the information in the back of your head—specific sections of laws and regulations you wouldn't necessarily have learned on your own, or from your boss—is helpful. In interviews, for instance, [it is good to know] which questions are teetering on the edge [of legality]."

The biggest change for her in the workplace, Dubrowski said, has been "a lot more confidence. I feel sure of myself in my role, and I believe that comes across in my interactions with my staff. Having the SHRM credentials after my name gives me a lot of credibility with my colleagues and people outside of my organization who I work with." SHRM certification, she said, tells the world that "I may be young, but I really do know what I'm doing."

Rena Gorlin, J.D., is an independent writer and editor in Washington, D.C.

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