Testing, Testing, One, Two, Three

As a matter of honesty, I'm historically awful when it comes to test preparation. It's one of those areas that despite knowing the criticality of being at my best, I tend to be lackluster. Give me a project or a team to lead or a strategic challenge and I'm nose down, laser focused, full-on ninja mode. Give me an exam, I start skipping through fields of pretty flowers a la Sound of Music in my head looking for anything to do that isn't test preparation. This bad habit has been with me since high school when I was fortunate to not need extensive prep time for most of my classes, it carried over into college where it caused a few dings in my GPA over the years, it wained a bit during graduate school probably for no other reason than I was genuinely interested in the degrees and the classes that led to those degrees, but I can't make any kind of claim that I put in any great or concerted effort during those years earning an MBA and and MFA other than what was absolutely necessary.

This poor habit has stayed with me - it's one I hope to never instill in my daughters - as an HR professional. When I sat for the PHR I had zero study hours going into exam day coupled with a single practice test the day before - I passed the exam on my first go by what I can only chalk up to as some magical alchemical Harry Potter Robert Johnson crossroads wonder fluke of nature that I can't explain. When I signed up to sit for the SPHR this past October, I told myself this time would be different. I would study. I would prepare. I would do all the things that someone with better test taking and preparation skills would do and tell me to do. Then this past Wednesday came, I downloaded a 2012 PHR/SPHR study guide (apparently the only one in all of downloadable audiobook existence). I listened and listened and listened - I made it about a quarter of the way through before visiting the testing center today and clicking start on my SPHR exam.

And yet I passed.

I'd like to chalk it up to dumb luck, but I know that's not the case, and I don't say this to brag. The thing is, as much as I might say I didn't prepare that is a bit of misnomer. I'm not sure if I've ever prepared for anything so extensively in my life.

I completed an MBA, this gave the business knowledge and insights to understand how HR can serve a strategic role. I completed an MFA, this gave me an edge in understanding and interpreting the questions and the logic behind the exam. I taught management, business ethics, and a litany of HR courses at both 4-year and 2-year colleges and universities over a number of years wherein I found myself gaining a weekly refresher on topics as I taught them to others. I worked my way up through my previous and current organizations since earning my PHR, I took on new roles, went after new challenges, learned from some outstanding HR and organizational leaders, I wrote articles and presented at conferences - I grew and evolved as a professional.

I waited nearly eight years between taking my PHR and taking my SPHR, a period of time during which I undertook what in hindsight was one of the most rigorous exam preparations I could. I learned and worked and reviewed and taught and wrote and became the kind of HR professional worthy of a professional certification. I've heard that the ideal number of hours that should be spent in preparation for the SPHR is one-hundred or more, I'd like to think that may be a bit on the short end of the spectrum depending on what one considers "preparation" and I'd like to think that maybe I'm a bit better at preparing for exams than I'm keen to give myself credit for.

I'd like to think that my career and my approach at growth and learning and development makes me more than the alphabet of letters after my name, that it makes me an exemplar of what it really means to be a Senior Professional in Human Resources.

Header Photo Credit: kenteegardin via Compfight cc

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