- Oct 21
A Tale of Two Certificants...and Mexican Food, of Course
So there I am sitting in my favorite Mexican restaurant with visiting relatives, my niece Katie and her husband Nick.
They’re both in their 30s, and Nick is a serious foodie. He wasn’t saying much. He was way more focused on his appetizer, a bowl of tortilla soup.
For the past 10 years, Katie has worked in a pulmonary intensive-care unit in Chicago. She’s an RN with a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and two certifications within her area of specialty.
Katie: A Tale of Internal Benefits
I was dying to know something, so I just asked her, “Why did you get certified?”
She gave me sort of a funny look recognizing that I had ordered a right turn in the conversation from gossiping about cousins to talking shop.
“Mmmm…let’s see…because that’s what people do in our unit,” she said.
“But what if you hadn’t gotten a master’s degree and two certifications. How would that have felt?”
“Like I wasn’t keeping up…like I didn’t care about my job.”
“Did a manager drop hints that you were expected to keep investing and growing in your career?”
“No, it was just the culture in the ICU. Nothing was said. You just picked up on it, and you wanted to be part of the team.”
I asked her if the hospital had reimbursed her for the cost of her certification exams. The answer was yes, after a 6-month wait. I asked her if getting certified resulted in a raise or perks or paid parking. You know, external benefits.
Her answers were nope, nope and nope.
“I got certified to keep up with new technology and best practices. I just wanted to offer the best nursing care possible. And I felt good about advancing in my career.”
Nick: A Tale of External Benefits
“That’s not why I got certified,” interrupted Nick, now done with course #1 and ready to engage.
Nick, by the way, also has two degrees and two certifications in his field, computer networking.
“In IT, there’s a culture and an expectation of a pretty-immediate return on newly acquired job skills. A lot of people get certified specifically to get a raise, a promotion, a bonus or a higher-paying job elsewhere. Certification offers tangible, immediate rewards.”
Katie rolled her eyes. “OK, could you sound any more materialistic?”
“Yeah, actually, I could. Because while Chicago freezes, you’re living it up in sunny Arizona helping me spend my year-end bonus...Material Girl.”
At that very moment, Nick’s second course arrived, and marital bliss was saved.
I gracefully guided the conversation back to safer topics like bashing relatives.
Thanks for the story. Not quite sure of the point though.
It would be almost impossible for my conversation with Katie and Nick—which, I assure you, actually happened—to more closely track what we hear so frequently from our Kryterion clients.
Professional associations like Katie’s, for example, report that a candidate’s motivation for paying for and studying for an exam is primarily internal. The rewards cluster around intangible benefits like enhanced self-esteem, pride, empowerment and career momentum.
Candidates for IT/software certifications are more likely to be driven by external benefits like raises, bonuses, perks and promotions. Generally, things you can count.
And the point is…
You’re a storyteller.
Your prospect is telling himself a story about what your certification will do for him. Wouldn’t it be powerful if the story you tell about your certification fueled his story?
You’d probably have more test candidates.
The best way to create that congruence is to speak to the specific benefits that your prospect desires, which, of course, should be the exact benefits your certification bestows.
The story you tell Katie will be vastly different from the story you tell Nick.
My best advice right now is to go read pages 1-17 in How To Market Your Certification Program. See the free download below.
Those pages talk about core desires, perceptions, emotions and stories, all of the things that influence your prospect’s decision-making and behavior.
Well that’s enough Freudian analysis for one day. Plus, I can’t stop thinking about Mexican food. And I can't get that song Material Girl out of my head.
So I’m signing off.
P.S. A while back, we wrote a blog post about the architects who built the Parthenon, the famous temple in Athens. They told a visual story and fooled the entire ancient world. Read about it here.