How to Use Digital Credentials to Build Your Career

Key Takeaways:

  • Digital credentials represent knowledge, skills, and achievements, all verified by a third-party.
  • They offer value for job seekers as well as at your current job by showing colleagues, bosses, and clients your new skills.
  • ELI’s new Certified Event Pro Directory, an online listing of people who have earned certifications by completing online professional development courses, is a way for event professionals to tout their skills to potential clients and hiring managers.

Digital credentials—a tool used across industries as diverse as cybersecurity to nursing to meetings and events—represent a common standard of quality and give people a chance to share their professional story.

The Event Leadership Institute awards digital credentials to people who have completed professional development certificate courses.

Now there’s a new resource, ELI’s Certified Event Pro Directory, an online listing of people who have earned certifications completing online professional development courses. The directory—which includes badges from completed courses, a bio, and more—is a way for event professionals to tout their skills to potential clients and hiring managers.

Jonathan E. Finkelstein is CEO and founder of Credly, which manages ELI’s digital credentials and whose Credly platform is powering the new directory. Finkelstein recently spoke with ELI to explain what a digital credential is, how they serve as social and professional capital, and the best practices for sharing them.

Let’s start with a basic definition. What is a digital credential?
A digital credential is a verified representation of what somebody actually knows and can do. The easiest way to think about it is to think about what results in you earning a paper certificate and hanging it on a wall. This is a digital evolution of what used to be paper-based recognition. As with most things digital, it has added benefits over what it replaced. It connects to job opportunities, helps people discover you, it’s rich with information about specific skills and competencies you have.

Who offers them?
Virtually every type of organization across the labor market is now involved in issuing credentials. Some of the most obvious organizations are educational institutions and training providers. You also have nonprofits and associations. Then when you look at the corporate environment, you have businesses of all sizes that use credentials for internal and external stakeholders. For external, the largest and most popular tech companies issue credentials as certifications. They have a common currency for describing skills and achievements. People can identify the skills you bring to an opportunity.

What’s the value of a digital credential?
To a person who has earned it, a digital credential is a fantastic way of marketing their newly verified skills and abilities in a trusted way. Many people will share to LinkedIn or an online profile, or in ELI’s case, it is available in a directory where others are searching for people with specific skills. It makes you more marketable and discoverable. It brings trust and credibility in a professional setting.

Sadly, we’re in a world where people can self-report skills. Now that digital credentials are more ubiquitous, people are expecting to see you have a verified credential. Especially when it comes to choosing between two individuals. Do you go with the person who has verification or the individual who just says they have those skills? For those actively looking for jobs or work, it places you into a dynamic ecosystem where people are searching for specific skills and talent.

Has that changed since the pandemic?
This last year has seen a tremendous year-over-year doubling in growth in demand and the issuing of credentials. It was already trending up, but the pandemic brought more attention. For some people, they are looking for job security and a way to differentiate themselves. Whether they’re self-employed or at a company, there’s never been a better time to build skills. It reminds people of the value you bring. It also helps people make transitions and find opportunities that they might not be connected to otherwise.

In the last year, it has been particularly inspiring and exciting to see something else. As people think more about diversity and inclusion in the workforce and at events and representation of people who have been underrepresented, credentials for short-form learning are inherently more inclusive. Credentials democratize access to opportunity by allowing anyone to earn a credential or certificate that leads to a positive outcome. Two people who completed the same program, regardless of their age, sex, race, or sexual orientation, have the same artifact to show for it.

Is this just a tool for people looking for a new job?
For those currently employed, it’s a great way of showing colleagues at your current job that you’re certified. A lot of times, colleagues think of you as the same person when you started at your job. It’s a great reminder to your current manager or colleague that you’ve grown and increased your skills.

It’s a powerful representation to clients too. You can tout your certification to show that you have the most current knowledge in the craft and that the art and science of event planning is constantly changing. Don’t you want the person who has the latest knowledge and experience? It speaks to customer trust and customer discovery. We have people at smaller companies where the credential is a way to market themselves or reengage prior relationships. It says we have some new things to bring to the table.

It’s important from a social and professional capital perspective. It’s a nice way of reminding people close to you that you bring something of value without having to brag about it yourself. People share credentials on social media to great applause and kudos. Because it’s coming from a third party—Oracle, ELI, IBM—it’s them giving it to you, not you bragging about yourself.

What else can a digital credential communicate?
When you look at a credential that you’ve earned or someone looks at your credential, you will see a range of information. You will see who issued it to you, when was it issued, does it expire? You will see a description in readable terms that people will understand — whether they’re familiar with event space or not.

You will see skills, or skill tags, of knowledge areas that people who have completed this certificate have learned or earned. When you earn an ELI credential, you can connect to places that are asking for or looking for your skills. It can link to a curriculum or evidence of work product—photographs of an event you’ve planned or designed or videos of people enjoying an activity or webinar. It can link to industry standards.

It conveys a deep understanding of the rigor, skill sets, the timeliness and the trust that this was truly earned. There is a trusted third party that backs it.

What’s the best practice on how to share a digital credential?
Each person has their own digital footprint in terms of what channels they use. For folks who are trying to build their reputation as a thought leader or who do social marketing through places like Twitter, it’s a great place to garner recognition or applause. For people who are in jobs where LinkedIn is a useful network for searching and discovering talent, that platform is a great place to share.

Having a talent directory is also a great place to opt-in and make sure you’re discoverable. So when people are searching for people with your skills, they find you.

Other people will put it in their email signature. It’s a subtle but professional way that you’ve been certified. We have people who send it to an academic institution since many colleges will accept industry learning for credit.

Those are a few of the ways that people might use a credential. You can do all of them, or you can do them at the right time. People’s needs and likes change, so it is owned by them and they can choose when and how to use it.

ELI was an early adopter. How has Credly changed or grown since ELI first started working with you?
When we were first started with this crazy concept that people should be able to own the evidence of their achievements and connect people to new opportunities, we saw this as a movement. In order for it to be accepted, credentials needed to be seen as a currency. If credentials represent skills and the skills are the currency by which companies make human capital decisions, everyone needed to be in on it.

Everyone is now aligning on a common way of recognizing skills. At this point it would be exceedingly rare to find an organization who wants to start their own digital recognition program. There is a standard way of doing this now. That opens all sorts of possibilities for people earning skills. You can walk into a new environment, have the credentials precede you, and have people understand what that means. It has become a lot more ubiquitous. The footprint is undeniable. Most people will find that their credential is valued and understood.

Credentials are valuable to the organizations that issue them, too, because they help in marketing themselves as the standard setter in the domain. They market the people who earned because it delivers ROI and value to the people certified. It helps them communicate to the world what they value: A credential says as much about what the standards and what ELI values as much as what they have earned.

Explore the ELI Certified Event Pro Directory to discover event leaders who have added new skills through professional development certification.