CEM pin

Letting my CEM certification expire

CEM pinI’m letting my Certified Emergency Manager certification expire. I even completed all the required parts to renew it for another five years, yet stopped short of clicking “pay and submit”.

Renewing my CEM was really no-brainer since it was easy. Then I got annoyed and had to think about it. IAEM sent me a registered letter where the recipient had to be home to sign for it. That’s very inconvenient. The letter was a formal notice of the CEM expiring.

The middle of the letter carried the loaded phrase about no longer being able to use the CEM designation. This was not a friendly reminder. IAEM just started the legal groundwork to pursue ex-CEMs if they use the CEM trademark. The letter was sent via registered mail so IAEM would have proof of receipt. From an organization that I’ve enjoyed being a member, this felt like a poke in the eye.

The last nail in my decision seems trivial. The letter kindly enough included my username and plain-text password to ease logging in. Every membership letter I’ve received from IAEM had my login information. Here’s the problem: that’s a basic information security violation. A misdirected email puts my information at risk. I’ve complained to IAEM a couple times but no action was taken.

Jumping backwards … Ten years have passed since I made the decision to step up my career. As with any sector, there is a definite hierarchy of skills and experiences needed to level up. I was working in the area of disaster preparedness: getting people ready before a disaster strikes. Supporting people making changes to eliminate, reduce, or mitigate the impact of a disaster. Success there is quiet. It is hard to measure. Despite all the good that preparedness does, it is not as sexy or as influential as responding to the eventual disaster.

The next steps of my career had to bring me closer to the core of the emergency management. Washington DC is a very over-educated area. Having a 4-year degree wasn’t enough. I needed a graduate degree. It took me longer to decide to apply and start at GWU then it took me to get a Master’s degree. If you’re considering a graduate degree; just do it. Think of it as a quick way to expand your connections with like-minded people at a similar point in their career who can give the inside scoop at other organizations.

My career evolved and position changes moved me closer to the core of emergency management. Career experience combined with the recent degree qualified me for the CEM certification. An application and a test later, I received my CEM – it was all bright and shiny. The CEM certification was a good investment for this time in my career.

Time passed and I started seeing more conversations about the value of the CEM certification. The CEM certification is a good way to summarize a twisting and turning resume. It helps an employer set a qualification threshold. A CEM is a third-party validation of what a person claims on a resume. I still recommend pursuing a CEM to people who want a better chance of getting the interview and standing out from the competition.

The value of the CEM for me started to diminish when career changes became less about getting in the door, and more about who you knew on the other side. I finally came to realize that who you work with every day beats out what you do. My lesson learned: Find someone you want to work for and learn from. The roles and titles are secondary.

I will stay a member of IAEM to keep informed of happenings in the emergency management sector. However, I am letting my CEM certification expire on December 31, 2015. The fact I had a CEM will remain on my resume. Now to start removing “CEM” from places so IAEM doesn’t come after me.