Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Are you ready to go for a credential?

The hardest question about seeking certification (through BCG) or accreditation (through ICAPGen) is the very first one: Am I ready?

Self-evaluation is tough at the best of times, and no measure of readiness is foolproof. So I will suggest several independent measures, from various sources. Each of them has pitfalls, but if they all point the same way, then it's probably time to postpone your procrastination and get into the process. (My examples are BCG-based because that's my experience.)

Measure #1 (from Elissa Scalise Powell): If you've done serious genealogy two or three times a week for seven to ten years, you may be ready. This turns out to be close to the idea of 10,000 hours of practice needed to gain mastery in cognitively demanding fields, popularized in Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers.

Pitfall of this measure: have you really had ten years of experience or only one year's experience ten times over? One way to overcome the pitfall: if you spent your ten years of experience without dealing with any land or probate records, subtract at least five years.

Measure #2: If you can pass the weighted quiz questions on the BCG web site, you may be ready.  

Pitfall: Sometimes we kid ourselves when taking quizzes of this sort.

Measure #3: The easier you find it to read and understand NGSQ articles, the more likely you are to be ready -- especially if you started out not understanding them at all.  

Pitfall: Reading is not always the same as doing.

Measure #4: If you have published in a peer-reviewed journal, you may well be ready.

Pitfall: Sometimes you're not -- especially if you make the plausible but false assumption that an article is the same exact kind of job as the required portfolio materials.

Measure #5: If you cannot stay awake during a lecture by Elizabeth Shown Mills or Thomas W. Jones, then you're definitely not ready. [No pitfall here.]

Measure #6: If everybody you know says you're really good at genealogy, then you might be ready.

Pitfall: The people you know may be extremely polite. Or they may be telling the truth, but have no idea what serious genealogy involves. As in chess, there are more levels of expertise than we can easily imagine.

If you find most of these measures are favorable, then I say go ahead. There is additional generic help available once you are "on the clock."

Don't forget -- some of us learn by doing (which is a polite way of saying that we learned to swim by jumping into the deep end of the pool). As a result, some of us had to go through the process twice in order to succeed. There are worse fates, such as never trying . . . and hence never knowing whether you really had what it takes.

Harold Henderson, "Are you ready to go for a credential?," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 11 December 2013 ( : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]


Unknown said...


I would add one pitfall to #5: Mr. Jones and Ms. Mills have wonderfully soothing voices, especially when heard in those darkened conference rooms. Sometimes no matter how engaging the topic & speaker, the body suddenly at rest takes advantage of free will.

Michael Hait said...

Especially at a conference when that "body suddenly at rest" has been very busy, averaging 4-5 hours of sleep.

leslielawson said...

Another way to test ones self is to take the Advanced Practicum at SLIG. Only you can decide how we'll you achieved the goal.