President’s Message – Leah Jaramillo

Public Participation is not something you just start doing. It is a process, honed over time and aided by experience. As practitioners I think we intuitively know when things are working and areas where we can improve. Despite nearly 15 years in practice, I still seek training annually to make sure I am up to speed or to address areas where I feel I need some help. So I was a bit apprehensive when I began the application process for certification. I know I can do it…but what will my peers think? Pulling back the veil, so to speak, can feel pretty intimidating. 

Congratulations to my new fellow Certified Public Participation Professionals (CP3s) Wendy Lowe and Catherine Smith!

I’ll be honest, this was not an easy process. But, I don’t think it should be. Public Participation is not something you just start doing. It is a process, honed over time and aided by experience. As practitioners I think we intuitively know when things are working and areas where we can improve. Despite nearly 15 years in practice, I still seek training annually to make sure I am up to speed or to address areas where I feel I need some help. So, I was a bit apprehensive when I began the application process for certification. I know I can do it…but what will my peers think? Pulling back the veil, so to speak, can feel pretty intimidating.

So, is the certification process rigorous? Absolutely, but I would add that isn’t outside the everyday realm of my work. As a consultant, it felt very much like proposing on a large project. Perhaps, if you are a process owner or work for the decision-maker, thinking about it as pitching a project to your leadership might be equivalent. Thinking of certification as a pursuit helped me focus and also made it feel more manageable by making it more familiar.

If you are thinking about becoming certified, and you should, here are a few take-aways I learned from my experience.

  1.      Take the opportunity to really think about your portfolio! The majority of my clients only want to hear about projects in the last 5 years (at most). Building the portfolio and verifying that I did, in fact, address the Core Competencies was a time-consuming effort, but well worth it. I rarely have the time to write more than a few sentences about past projects, so I appreciated that this endeavor allowed me to take a retrospective look at my career, track progress and remember old successes that have since faded.
  2.      Consider the case-study like a proposal. You are effectively pitching a project approach during the case study…but you get to make stuff up! Take the opportunity to design your ideal scenario given the specifics of the case. Make it relevant, appropriate and meaningful, but also have some fun!
  3.      The assessment center is less a test and more like a final check. The assessors have already read your portfolio and case-study. This is really an opportunity for them to verify that you have the in-person communication and people skills needed to do this kind of work. It is NOT a competition between you and the other candidates.
  4.      This process takes time! Literally, plan at least 20 hours to complete the portfolio and at least another 15 for the case study, plus the in-person assessment center. Yes, it is a lot of time, but it is absolutely worth it.
  5.      It is worth it! Certainly, becoming a CP3 gives me the endorsement of IAP2 USA, which is a great credential to add to my resume. On a more personal level though, it also gave me the opportunity to receive real feedback from the assessors – all of whom I look up to and consider true leaders in the field. I also got to witness the presentations of my co-applicants and learned from them as well.

Overall, I feel that I truly gained from the certification process – not just in gaining the CP3 credential – I also gained some insight into my practice and an additional measure of confidence in my abilities as a professional practitioner.  If you are thinking about it, take the plunge! I don’t think you’ll regret it.

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