I earned Accreditation in Public Relations in January.
Since then, I’ve been offered nine huge raises and four executive-level jobs. I have been upgraded to first class on every flight I’ve taken except one (I was upgraded to the pilot on that one). People have told me I’m taller and better looking, and my health has improved so much my doctor thinks I’m reverse-aging, like Benjamin Button.
Of course none of that is true.
But naturally, I didn’t expect any of that. I didn’t do it for any of those reasons.
I did it to add flair to my email signature block and eat some of that embarrassing white space on my business card.
Wait, that’s not right either.
Let me take this from another angle.
My boss spent her 30-year Navy career as a nurse and hospital administrator, and now serves in the federal government’s senior executive service as the director of a VA healthcare system.
There are five professional designations after her name on her business card. 20 characters in all. That’s a lot.
Now, what the heck it all means is probably beyond most people. Of course the internet knows, but the average person is probably just going to see a bunch of letters and assume it means something important.
But that’s not why she earned those professional designations, or why they appear on her business card. They’re impressive, sure, but there’s more to it than that. Each of those designations tells a story. Each represents a journey. Along the way to earning each one, she gained knowledge, skills and experience and came to understand things in a new way — a way that someone who didn’t follow that path isn’t likely to.
In the same way, my Accreditation was about the journey.
Not everyone seems to understand this. Comments like, “the APR designation won’t necessarily earn me more money,” and, “many employers don’t understand what that means anyway,” suggest they’re looking at this differently than I am.
If this is your perspective, I would say you’re probably correct, and I would encourage you not to pursue the APR.
On the other hand if you’re a lifelong learner committed to your craft, you probably understand there’s more value in the journey than at the finish line.
And what a journey mine was. The path I took to APR was about twelve years long. I wasn’t pursuing Accreditation that entire time, but from the time I became interested in the process to the time I earned the APR spans well over a decade.
That was my path. Sure, I could have done it more quickly, but I learned a tremendous amount along the way.
The experience changed me. It refined the way I think about many things (and not just PR issues). It evolved the way I approach and solve problems. It improved my ability to advise executives about critical business decisions.
When I earned the APR, colleagues from a wide range of professional disciplines congratulated me. They respect the credential (even if they’ve not heard of it before) — perhaps largely because professional credentials are so important to clinicians and healthcare administrators. However, I didn’t get a raise, a new job, a bigger office, or anything like that. Writing “APR” after my name didn’t suddenly change these things for me.
The journey is what changed me, and that’s why it’s where the real value is.