Advancing Your Career: Certifications, School, or Climb the Ladder

To certify or not certify, that is the question. Certifications, go back to school for Masters degree, work ungodly hours until I climb the ladder, there are so many choices and it’s difficult to tell if you’re making the right choice. It’s been weeks and weeks and I’m still suffering from the aftermath of trying to decide what to do.

Which Certifications Should I Take?

Do you even need certifications? There’s a certification for everything. In HR alone, there are 7-8 different certifications not counting the semi-borderline certifications which cover a specific branch of HR.

There’s the PHR, the SHRM-CP, the CEBS, the aPHR, the GPHR… you get the point. And that’s just HR, I haven’t mentioned APTD and CPLP which are offered by the Association for Talent Development Association (which can be great for HR professionals too).

I will have a separate post just on the certifications and a breakdown of what they are for. But the way I look at certificates is the same way I look at school now. What is the best ROI (return on investment)?

If I spend $1000 on a certification (prep, books, certifying) and another $250 every other year after to maintain the certification ($2500 over twenty years), then I better make sure I earn an extra $3500 over the next 20 years to pay for that certification!

And the more I can make using that certification, the more valuable that certification is to me.

Take the Certification that Pertains to You

If you’re an expert in HR, take a certification in HR. Certifications are great ways to break into an industry or transfer your experience from another profession into HR.

Sometimes a certification will establish your expertise in a particular field. Say you have 5 years of experience and a Bachelors degree in a different field from HR, it would be great for you to have a certification in your career path of choice to show your dedication.

Don’t Take Random Certifications

Don’t take every certification just to have every certification after your name. Take the ones that will really make a difference. Like the levels in a Super Mario game, certifications can be addicting to take. But you want to make sure that you’re not taking more and more certifications without getting some return on your investment.

Certifications cost money. And unless your certifications are going to really help you in your career, there’s no reason to waste money on something you don’t need.

The only exception to this rule is if you want to show off your certification like your latest consumer purchase. In which case, knock yourself out!

John Smith, MA, MPH, MBA, PsyD, Ph.D., etc…

There are a million different programs for higher education and a lot of reasons to continue studying. Higher education is a big decision. But deciding to go back to school for additional education just to earn more money is not always the correct way.

Don’t Go to College Without An End in Mind

I grew up in a family where going to college was a requirement. But the problem with being eighteen and going to college is you don’t know what you want to do with life. A lot of us were thrown into college with no end in mind and just majored in whatever was most interesting to us at the moment.

If you’re going to college, make sure you know why you’re going to school. Go to school for something that you are really interested in and that will pertain to what you’re doing in the future.

Calculate the Costs

Make sure to calculate the costs of an advanced degree. With people going millions into debt for a degree, make sure that you calculate the ROI on a degree. A certification might put you a few thousand dollars into debt, but an advanced degree could put you tens of thousands into debt.

Think carefully. If being a Professor in college teaching Philosophy is your lifelong dream, maybe a Ph.D. in Philosophy is the way to go. However, if your end goal is to be an HR Director in a SAAS Company, a Ph.D. in Philosophy may not be the best way to go.

Climbing the Corporate Ladder

Sometimes a certification or degree is not necessary to advance your career. It really depends. Maybe your career path is dependent on working on the extra hours and learning how to lead the extra projects. Or maybe your career is dependent on public speaking…

No Career is the Same

Every career path is different. Some career paths require extra certifications or education. Some really require for you to put the time at work, working the long hours.


Every person who climbs the career ladder will advance for different reasons. A good rule of thumb is to figure out what is missing at your Company. How do you make the Company more money or save the Company more money?

Maybe you can make a process more efficient. Or you can cut down on expenses by obtaining supplies more efficiently. Perhaps you can make the most sales of the year.

How About None of These?

That’s a choice that’s been made many times before too. If you are happy where you are in your career and don’t want to have more responsibilities, it’s not always necessary to get a degree, a certification, or try to climb.

However, keep in mind that as AI takes over more and more jobs, a critical part of advancing or keeping a job is being willing to change with the times. In 1975, Apple donated computers to schools. Now, it’s pretty much mandatory for most positions to know how to use some sort of technology.

Technology will keep changing and advancing, in some fields, the methods and advancement will change faster than other industries. However, in order to continue to be a valuable employee or asset to the Company, it’s mandatory that you continue to change with the times.

But what do I know? I’m…

~Just the HR Girl

Filling Out the I-9 – Back to Basics: HR-101

Where does the I-9 form fit in the HR Generalist responsibilities spectrum?

With visas being revoked by the Trump administration, it seems like a fitting time to talk about one of the most responsibilities an HR Generalist may have.

Every HR person has to start from somewhere so I will be writing a series on HR basics for people who are just getting into HR. Stay tuned for the rest of the series!

There’s been a lot of uproar over I-9s lately. AB-450 in California prevented employers from allowing ICE to enter workplace premises without a warrant.

California, in an effort to protect immigrants from being deported, enacted additional laws to protect immigrants.

The state of California is now being sued by Trump’s Justice Department for three sanctuary laws.

What is an I-9 and what does it have to do with HR?

An I-9 is a basic employment form that all employees have to fill out within 3 days of being hired at Company. HR is often the responbile department that has to complete the form.

For example, if an employee gets hired on Tuesday, then they have to have an I-9 filled out by Friday.

What if the employee is hired on Thursday?

If your employee is hired on Thursday and your business days are Monday through Friday, then you should have a form filled out by Tuesday.

Who requires the I-9?

The I-9 is a federal form that is required by the Department of Homeland Security.

My Managers Fill Out the I-9

That’s fine. But as part of the HR department, it’s your job to train your managers on how to fill out the I-9. I will be following with a post and screenshots on different items to look out for.

In the meantime, make sure that you’ve been completely trained so you know what to look out for.

Starting in a New HR Role

If you’re just starting in a new HR role, a good place to start is auditing your current I-9s that are already pre-existing.

When is an I-9 Audit Necessary?

An audit of I-9s is customarily required especially when you are entering a new role.

By doing an audit, you’re making sure one of most basic areas of HR is covered.

Fines for I-9 violations start at $375 and can go up to several thousands of dollars.

Although you can’t change how the I-9 forms were filled out before you arrived, you can show good faith that your company is trying to remain compliant

Things to Remember

If you have only 100 people or less, it is a good idea to do a full audit.

However, if you have more than 100 people, and you don’t have the manpower to do a full audit, it’s a good idea to do a spot check.

If you are doing a random audit, make sure that how you are doing the audit is truly random and not discriminatory.

An easy way to ensure randomness is to pull I-9s by random patterned number of employees (ex: every 12th employee). Do not just do an audit by name.

Where do you start?

Start by making sure that you have a separate pile of terminated employees and employees who are currently active.

  1. Focus on the active employees first. Since I had less than a hundred employees and my employees were already separated between active and non-active, I went through the binder with Post-its.
  2. Look at section 1 and make sure that it’s all filled out. If not, have the employee fill out the section they missed, sign and date their change.
  3. Look at section 2, if any changes in this section need to be made, cross out the incorrect portion and fix it. Make sure to initial and date your change.

What if Section 2 is Completely Blank?

Don’t panic, grab a current I-9, notify the employee and re-certify.

Let the employee know that you’re very sorry that the information was missed and proceed to fill in the new form.

Attach the new form to the old form and a note indicating why a new form was completed.

E-verify: Is it the Same as the I-9 Form?

E-verify is not a replacement for the I-9 form. Instead, it’s a separate system that verified directly with the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration to make sure the data entered is correct.

E-verify has additional requirements and their own training program on their processes.


An I-9 audit can save you a lot of grief in the long run. And the sooner you start, the better!


But what do I know? I’m…

~Just the HR Girl