The hospitality industry, like many others is full of certifications. Sometimes it seems as though it’s a veritable alphabet soup of certifications – are they necessary? Are they meaningful? The short answer is yes – and no. It depends on who you are and what your goals are.
Like many in this industry, I didn’t have any formal training. “Back in the day” when I was looking at colleges, I didn’t know that meeting planning was a career choice, much less a major. I had heard of Hotel Management majors at Cornell and Johnson & Wales, but they weren’t on my radar. Ruling out engineering, medicine & liberal arts, I chose management/marketing as a major. Like many other college students, I quickly realized the money I had saved over summers was not going to pay for my books, phone bill and pizza fund – so I got a job in the cafeteria. I rose through the ranks and was fortunate to become a student manager, in charge of catering functions on campus. So began my introduction into the hospitality and meetings field.
Upon graduation, I kept my focus on marketing as again, I didn’t realize that meeting planning was a career option and working in a hotel wasn’t of interest to me. While I was concentrating on competitive analysis and product development, some of my colleagues were working on customer events and trade shows. I soon found out that was the area for me and slowly made changes to make it happen. Without formal education in this field, I relied on ‘on the job training’ and joined MPI to expand my network and education base. After a few years, I was eager to learn more and set my sites on the CMP (Certified Meeting Professional). Studying for that certification helped expand my knowledge into areas of planning I hadn’t yet delved into and reinforced my certainty that this was the field for me. Years later, after honing my craft and wanting to further my industry education, I went for my CMM (Certificate in Meeting Management). Whereas the CMP had more of a tactical focus, the CMM was more strategic in nature. For me, these certifications work – they forced me to assess my career direction and fed my need for knowledge. My thirst for education has not stopped – more certifications or new degrees might be on the horizon.
Certification was right for me, but not for everyone. Some feel that “letters after your name” are just that, others feel that degrees are more valid than certifications. Some don’t see the value in more testing once they’ve graduated, some don’t have the time or support from employers. My challenge to you is to never stop learning – whether it’s formal or informal, credentialed or not. You’re never too old to learn something new – and you never know where it might take you.