It came down to fear really.
First it was fear of the unknown. (“My degree isn’t in communication – I don’t think I meet the requirements.”)
Followed by the fear of failure. (“I will either know the answers or I won’t. But I’ve always been an over-preparer.”)
Then of course the fear of embarrassment. (“What if I failed while serving as chair of an IABC region? How embarrassing would that be!”)
Those were the three big three reasons that held me back from the SCMP for months and months.
So, what changed? The application turned out to be the easiest thing to overcome. The form is incredibly straight forward. For my SCMP mentee/pro-bono letter, having volunteered on an IABC board meant a letter from its president or chair would fulfil the requirement.
The fear of embarrassment and failure were trickier. At first, last year, I delayed sitting for the exam. On the one hand, 2020 needs no explanation, but even as my country eased out of the first wave of lockdown and offices opened, I stalled. Finally, because of an upcoming house move, it was now or never.
Thankfully, the Global Communication Certification Council (GCCC) allows for an exam to be scheduled, even if it is just for one candidate. For taking the exam, my chapter booked a co-working space close to my home and, by projecting the laptop screen to a TV during the exam, we were able to comply with safety measures and social distancing.
When it came to dealing with the fear of failure, what helped was hearing the vice chair of the GCCC say that certification is a journey, and we need to treat it as such. It’s an opportunity to measure ourselves and see where we may need to improve. If one does fail, the GCCC lists the various domains and the overall score for each, so the examinee can more closely study those sections next time.
In almost every other professional exam that I know of, failure is completely normal. I have friends pursuing chartered exams and if they fail, it’s a matter of learning from it and re-taking it. Yet, despite this knowledge, we put so much pressure on ourselves to pass the CMP/SCMP at the first sitting.
So, I prepared myself to fail.
I accepted that it may happen and that what was important was to learn from it. Then, realizing how much pressure others are probably feeling as well, I shared my fears on Twitter to the IABC community. The best way for me to overcome those fears was to face them head on. I publicly committed to the exam and to retaking it if I failed.
If you’re preparing for the CMP or SCMP exam, here are some resource I recommend diving into:
- Watch the Certification Webinar and Q&A by Sia Papageorgiou, FRSA, SCMP.
- Use the Job Task Analysis (JTA) to identify any areas you need to read up on. Then research best practices, case studies and models that address them.
- Gold Quill case studies are immensely helpful because they tackle a variety of challenges across industries and disciplines. Read each one with a questioning mind: “Why did they choose this approach? What else can be measured? What more can be done?”
- Check out the IABC Academy to see if any of the short courses may be available based on your JTA areas. I enjoyed them and also found some to be great refreshers.
- Live and breathe the IABC Code of Ethics.
- Keep up to date on industry reports and developments (some examples include the Barcelona Principles, Global Communication Report, etc.).
- If you need more resources, reach out to The Hub and ask for suggestions.
By the grace of God, I passed the exam.
The moment I got my results was unexpectedly bittersweet — on one hand, I was glad (really glad) I didn’t have to prepare for a resit. On the other hand, I wondered if when I try to reassure the next person like me (who is convinced that they may not pass) that it is a journey and it’s okay to fail, it may come across a little hollow.
What was unexpectedly great about this process?
Preparing had me actively reviewing materials from different industries and disciplines — and some of the Gold Quill cases blew me away with their innovative thinking. This helped me catch up on areas that aren’t part of my daily work and will invariably make me a better communicator.
If you have been considering certification and if it would help to chat please reach out. I look forward to hearing of you embarking on your own journey, and not holding back.
Kristy Christie, SCMP
Kristy Christie, SCMP, is a technical director at TheMalaysian.com, a cloud application development agency. She advises corporations on how tech can assist their teams in achieving busines goals and outcomes. She works with department heads to design and implement cost-effective ways of automating and streamlining their internal processes, so that they can focus less on the tech and more on achieving objectives.
Christie speaks on topics such as artificial intelligence and automation, digital PR and communication, leadership and online business. She currently serves as IABC Asia Pacific Region Chair and is IABC Malaysia Immediate Past President (for which she was recognized as the 2019 IABC Chapter Leader of the Year).