Trophy Case

Professional credentials are an adult's trophy case. Gone are the days of winning actual trophies from competitions. Instead, the do-gooders and over-achievers, of which I consider myself one, rack up degrees and certificates and maintain them well past their useful life.

While acknowledging that is an important step, I still haven't been able to change my status-seeking behavior. In fact, weeks after finishing the Envision Sustainability Professional, I'm already onto the next challenge to prove my bona fides -- even though I'm no longer a practicing planner.

AICP was my primary goal for years. Immediately after beginning my transit planning career in 2015, I created a spreadsheet that calculated the days until I reached the four-year mark, the minimum number of years I needed to apply to take the exam as a non-planning degree holder.

As milestone approached, I was already involved in three other professional development activities, with a fourth one upcoming, and adding AICP felt like a burden rather than an opportunity. I reasoned that I would work in the public sector as a planner for years, and there was no motivation to rush to gain another certificate.

2020 changed the world and my plans to pursue AICP. Then, I moved to West Palm Beach, delaying my goals once again. With a new job in a new area, and an opportunity to become a director, the planning certification became less attractive.

As time passed at Palm Tran, I knew the public sector was not going to be forever. Plus, I had my years of experience. No matter which direction I chose, I could always apply for the exam.

Now, I'm working in the private sector with no line of sight on the public sector or another planning job. Yet, in November 2023, I will sit for the AICP exam. Dues will likely cost me upwards of $500 a year. Of course, the test will be another few hundred dollars. Preparation for the exam will likely cost another $300; lacking a formal education in urban planning has worked out in many ways, but is probably not playing in my favor when it comes to urban planning history, theory, or law.

I imagine some time in 2024, I'll forget a sizable portion of the information I learned to obtain a credential that could benefit me in the future. That's the central point of this professional development cycle: hypothetical benefits. AICP could show my value. AICP could help me build my network. AICP could open another door.

One thousand dollars and unknown hours, and I'll earn another trophy.

by @jlevimccollum

🚍 πŸ—ΊοΈ πŸ“Š Geographer working to build better government.