Get Qualified, Not Certified

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cer·ti·fy \ˈsər-tə-ˌfī\ verb 1: to attest authoritatively  2: to officially recognize or vouch for someone or something as meeting specific standards

qual·i·fy \ˈkwä-lə-ˌfī\ verb 1: to have the necessary knowledge or to demonstrate required ability  2: to have the qualifications to do something


Power adapters are certified to meet certain government standards. Electrical cables are certified to ensure compatibility with ISO standards. And electricians get certified to make sure they understand all standard safety protocols.

Is certification the best approach to encourage self-development of employees?

Professional athletes try to get qualified to participate in the Olympics. This year, Rotterdam will receive artists from all over Europe who qualified for the Eurovision Song Contest. And recruiters look for people who are qualified to do specific jobs.

Certification is something we do with objects, or people who work with those objects, to ensure compliance with a norm or standard.

Qualification is something we only do with people because it requires the validation of an ability to perform at a certain level of competence.

As a book author, I qualified to have my books published by large publishers. Nobody certified me. And as a public speaker, I qualified as a keynote speaker at many large conferences. Again, nobody certified me.

Maybe, as a first step, it makes sense to certify people to make sure that they meet some common international standards. But for real competence development, maybe people should stop certifying and start qualifying. To perform at a truly professional level, and to play among the best in the industry, it makes sense to become qualified, not just certified.


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