In today’s fast-paced, always-evolving business world, where time-honored professions get usurped by the latest technologies and career paths follow arcs of increasing unpredictability, the role played by certificate programs has never been more essential to the success and career fulfillment of many professionals.
Whether it involves embarking on a new career or diving deeper into an area that’s already familiar, the skills working professionals develop through intense and relatively short periods of study can have a transformational impact on their career possibilities and life options.
Just ask Anna Kendall, a tech editor and writing coach at the aviation consultancy Ricondo & Associates, Inc., who has completed three certificate programs through University of Chicago Professional Education (UCPE).
“The quality of the education at the University of Chicago is just so high,” she says. “Starting with the Editing certificate, each of the programs has opened up so many wonderful educational and professional opportunities for me—not to mention the opportunity for personal growth. I’m really grateful to the University and its programs.”
Kendall discovered the Editing certificate at a point of transition in her career. With a master’s in writing pedagogy and several years of writing and editing work under her belt—including authoring a book about writing—she wanted to take on more.
After testing the waters of freelance editing, she was immediately drawn to the challenge of taking on large editing assignments and saw the value of significantly ramping up her skills in the area.
“I really wanted a deep dive into editing and a program that was specifically focused just on that,” she says. “Once I found the Editing certificate at UChicago, I knew that was the route for me. After all, not only is the University of Chicago a top school that looks great on your resume and LinkedIn, the University publishes the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS).”
Through the certificate, she acquired editing skills in all the different areas of editing, a deeper confidence and fluency when using the CMOS, and even a new bag of tricks when it came to editing with Microsoft Word through the Editing Electronically course.
The experience proved sufficiently valuable that, three years later, finding herself with some free time during the pandemic, she saw an opportunity to refine her editing skills further.
With a longstanding interest in health and medicine, Kendall had ideas about possibly re-orienting her writing and editing focus in that direction someday. After looking into the Medical Writing and Editing certificate, she saw that the skills she’d learn would amplify her career no matter what her future held.
“The technical focus and precision required in medical editing had an immediate impact on the work I was doing for the aviation consultancy,” she says. “Plus, through my growing network in medical communication, I was invited to present at the American Medical Writers Association–Greater Chicago Area Chapter Conference. Even though I’m a tech editor in aviation, the conference committee was interested in having a speaker who had completed the Medical Writing and Editing certificate.”
While the first two certificates equipped Kendall with a rock-solid foundation as an editor, she nevertheless began to feel—both personally and career-wise—that she was missing something. Comfortable in her role at the consulting firm, she wondered if there was room to expand and possibly do more.
“At that point, I’d learned all those hard skills and taken them pretty far, but I’d never been trained in how organizations work, or how teams work—I’d never formally studied interpersonal skills,” she says. “That’s when I came across the Conscious Leadership and Team Management certificate. After reading the description, I immediately thought, ‘Oh, wow, this is it. This is what I’ve been missing.’”
Almost immediately upon starting, Kendall says she began noticing changes in herself.
“The first part of the online leadership course is really about looking inward and trying to understand your leadership style and how you operate as a professional,” she says. “I took what we were learning very seriously and evaluated myself and tried to make the important changes.”
By the time the program’s second course started, which focuses on managing and leading teams, as well as coaching other professionals, Kendall realized—to her surprise—that her hard work was already paying off. She was taking the lead role in a new initiative at the consultancy to improve internal communications, and she was also developing a formal coaching program for the consultants.
“I took the lead on developing a firm-wide newsletter and just rolled with it,” she says. “I formed a cross-departmental team comprising the firm’s directors and developed a layout. Now I’m the managing editor of this newsletter and I oversee all the contributors. That’s a brand new role that had never existed.”
“There’s a definite perceptible difference when it comes to my confidence,” she adds. “In fact, all the certificates that I’ve taken—along with the community I’ve discovered around them—have been such great springboards for me and what I’m doing now. I'm definitely interested in taking additional courses, and maybe I'll go for a four-peat with another certificate.”
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