Teamwork, Persistence Help Overcome Obstacles on the Way to Certification

SHRM supports Army friends on their joint journey to earning their SHRM-CP credentials

By Patrick Burnish, SHRM-CP September 17, 2020
Teamwork, Persistence Help Overcome Obstacles on the Way to Certification

​This is a story of dedication, teamwork and persistence.

I've had 14 years of HR experience in the military, holding many roles ranging from HR generalist to a specialist in recruiting. To support my eventual transition out of the service, I decided to earn an HR certification that would demonstrate my foundational knowledge. I asked a longtime friend who had recently transitioned out of the U.S. Army, where he had been a career counselor, to join me on my journey to earn a SHRM certification.

We knew we would need help passing such a difficult exam. We did research into getting that help and found that the best way would be through a preparation course offered by SHRM. We decided to take the in-person class closest to us, offered by the Atlanta chapter of SHRM.

In-Person Class Goes Virtual

My friend and I applied for and were accepted into the SHRM cert prep course, and we were committed to seeing it through. One week in, however, a challenge arose and I could not continue to take the class in Atlanta. I needed to find a different path to completing my studies. 

National SHRM wasn't going to let me down. They gave me the support I needed to complete my preparation on schedule. Andrew Morton, SHRM's director of veterans and certification affairs, notified me that a seven-week virtual course would be starting soon. I enrolled in it and was still able to study on the same timeline as my friend. 

As an active-duty soldier, I applied for funding assistance through the Army Credentialing Opportunities Online (COOL) program to pay for my course, study materials and registration fees for the SHRM-CP exam. COOL initiatives began in 2002 across all service branches to promote members' career development, including access to relevant industry credentials and certifications.

Supportive Instructor

Our cert prep course instructor used the SHRM Learning System. In teaching the material, she consistently made it clear to us how the HR competencies applied in our everyday work environment, especially Leadership & Navigation and Critical Evaluation. She was also there to answer any questions we had. 

One of the highlights of her support was scheduling time to speak with each student before the exam. Most of our conversations were about building our confidence that we knew the material. After the exam, she e-mailed each of us to see how we performed. 

When the time came to schedule the exam, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. SHRM was determined not to let this block candidates from completing the exam and offered a new option for remote proctoring. Again, SHRM didn't let us down. My friend and I readjusted our schedules to take the exam from our respective homes on the same day.

Technical Challenges, then Success 

I was ready. I had studied and prepared thoroughly. I logged in to the exam, but partway through, significant Internet issues arose. I notified SHRM. After seven hours with the technical team and having answered only 60 questions, I got word that I would need to reschedule the exam. 

Once more, SHRM was not going to let me down. I was rescheduled for remote proctoring the following week. On this second attempt, when technical issues came up, I thought, "This could not be happening again!" But I was able to finish the exam this time, and passed. 

I am pleased that I earned my SHRM-CP and I can move forward with my career planning. Even though I experienced difficulties along the way, I pushed forward to achieve my goal.

Several people helped make this success possible. Thanks to Mike Redmon, SHRM-CP, my friend; Andrew Morton, Lt. Col., U.S. Army (Ret.), SHRM's director of veterans and certification affairs; Trisha Zulic, SHRM-SCP, my cert prep course instructor; and the Army COOL program.

Patrick Burnish, SHRM-CP, is senior manager, Talent Acquisition, with the U.S. Army 7th Signal Command, Fort Gordon, Ga. He held the same position at the Cyber Center of Excellence at Fort Gordon. He will be relocating soon to Orlando, Fla., after his transition from the service.

For more information on SHRM certification and today's military community, visit the Military Eligibility page or connect with us at



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