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.