A few days ago, Patrick Richard posted an interesting question on his blog, The Hard-Nosed PM. “I’m seeing more and more job offers where the description requires the applicant to be PMP (or even PgMP) certified. Is this really warranted?” To some degree, the PMP is being used by recruiters and hiring managers as a proxy for management skills, as opposed to technical skills. But as Patrick points out, “The PMP should command a salary premium. If you insist on hiring a PMP, you may be insisting on overpaying for the position.” And while PMI’s salary surveys would seem to bear this out, it appears that recruiters don’t see it that way.
Although it was once a distinguishing asset on a resume, the PMP is on its way to becoming a check box item for all but the most basic management position. There are now nearly half a million people with the PMP credential, so some organizations are willing to use it as a filter in the application process, just as they use a bachelor’s degree. There are enough potential applicants, even as the economy recovers, that employers feel they can be extremely selective. And while PM salaries have increased over the last couple of years, there is still quite a broad range. The perception is that even companies that don’t want to pay above the 50th percentile can get highly qualified people, if they wait long enough. And this is why so many requisitions stay out on the job boards for months at a time, even after getting a flood of resumes in the first 48 hours. The basic accounting concept of opportunity cost doesn’t seem to apply here; the project manager is seen as a commodity, so they hold out for the best quality at the lowest price. And demand that the new hires hit the ground running at a four-minute mile pace.
In order to sit for the PMP exam, PMI requires 4,500 hours of experience leading and directing projects, if you have a four year degree; if not, they require 7,500 hours. In his book, “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell posited the idea that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery of a particular skill. In response, Seth Godin noted that the 10,000 hours is “necessary, but not sufficient,” and offered the example of bar bands in his native Buffalo, who played just as many gigs as the Beatles but were never able to quit their day jobs. There’s something else required: a desire for personal excellence and performance at a high standard. For some of us, that PMP credential was an opportunity to test ourselves against a high standard. But like the four-minute mile, it’s no longer as impressive, once enough people can do it. A mile is still 5,280 feet, and four minutes is still 240 seconds, but somehow, even those of us who can’t run a mile in seven minutes aren’t going to get excited unless it’s a family member.
So, that PMP I earned over nine years ago isn’t a differentiator any more. And neither is my other professional credential, Senior Professional in Human Resources. Over 50,000 people now hold the SPHR; another 70,000 hold the more junior PHR credential. But fewer than 1,500 people hold the Global Professional in Human Resources credential. And just over 1,800 hold the PMI-ACP credential. I have far more than enough professional experience hours for each of them, so this year, I’m upgrading. I have the Official GPHR Certification Guide, and Mike Griffiths’s “PMI-ACP Exam Prep.” I’m going to sit for the GPHR exam in May, and for the PMI-ACP exam when I’m ready, likely during the third quarter. And I’m going to develop a plan, with milestones, and get buy-in from my primary stakeholder, Lien, who needs to accept the selfish reasons why I’m not spending as much time with her.
No, I’m not doing this to get a better job. I’m simply taking the next step in my quest for personal excellence. But you can count on one thing: I’ll do it at a sustainable pace.