Certifications ruin your resume but they’re great for your kids

Certification is messed up. People in their middle-age are most likely to pay for certification in a career-related skill. But kids are the ones who will most benefit from professional certifications.

Certification is an announcement you believe you need to learn a particular skill to make yourself valuable in the workforce. For a middle-aged person listing a certificate program on your resume highlights a lack of self-confidence – a good resume writer can show you how to rewrite your resume to get the job without the certification. (Seriously. If all you needed is the certification you can get the job now.)

A young person, on the other hand, looks like a go-getter if they are learning work-related skills before it’s time to work. This means the kid is thinking ahead, making, executing a plan, and taking initiative in a way that most people don’t. The adult taking a certificate program is playing catch up.

Certificate programs are about learning new skills and gathering ideas. That’s the best part of work. That’s why adults like to do those programs instead of job hunt. And that’s why kids should make career certification programs part of a regular, alternative k-12 education.

I don’t know if I would have pushed my kids to work on the farm if we had not been living with the farmer. He had generations of farmers behind him – so much knowledge about farming that every day was like a certificate program on that farm. In my mind the certificate is not the important part, it’s the vocational skill. The experience of knowing as a kid you are learning something that is useful to society and understanding how society values work and knowledge.

That’s really different than, say, the kids learning alongside me when I was learning how to garden. Self-directed learning without an expert guide is really inefficient. And part of teaching kids about self-directed learning is teaching efficiency. The skill of reaching out to experts for help is something most people don’t feel comfortable doing until middle-age. But that is probably 90% of the lesson of learning to learn as a kid.

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