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Communication and Design The Chang School

How Taking a Certificate Can Build Out Your Professional Network

During your job search, you may have heard an iteration of this phrase before: it’s who you know, not what you know. That’s why so many professionals participate in networking events, attend industry talks, and maintain LinkedIn relationships with people they’ve met in passing. You never know which hand you shake could help get you your dream job or, at least, a foot in the door. 

Jodi Litvin, a Publishing student currently working in sales at University of Toronto Press, exemplifies the perfect balance between who you know and what you know. When beginning the Certificate in Publishing at The Chang School, she quickly learned through two introductory courses (Overview of Trade Industry and Overview of Educational Publishing) “how little [she] knew about the publishing industry” prior to her enrolment in the certificate. 

When building out your professional network, the emphasis tends to fall on the connections you make. But, finding the balance between who you know and what you know may be what you need to stand out. 

What you know  

Prior to beginning a new learning experience — whether it be a certificate, a course, or a bootcamp — many enter it wanting to gain new knowledge. It’s evident that the world is constantly changing, and with it, it’s important to reskill to remain competitive in your industry. 

Companies and industries at large can continue to operate traditionally, but as the world changes that may mean sacrificing things like efficiency, morale, and employee retention. Harvard Business Law Review calls this “active inertia,” explaining: “Active inertia is an organization’s tendency to follow established patterns of behavior—even in response to dramatic environmental shifts.” This, HBLR claims, is the downfall of many large businesses. 

So, maybe the what-you-know part is just as important as who you know. 

Who you know 

The beauty of reskilling or upskilling by taking a certificate is that you aren’t doing it alone. Even during the shift from in-person to online and virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, students and instructors were still finding ways to connect via online discussion boards, Zoom meetings, and more.

When taking the Certificate in Publishing, Jodi appreciated the career help she received from instructors. “The instructors have been a highlight for me. I have not taken a course yet where the instructor was not genuinely invested in my career,” she said. “The commitment of the instructors is what makes this program special.”

So how can both build out your professional network? 

Building out your professional network

When thinking about building out your professional network, you may immediately consider how many LinkedIn connections you have, maybe even how many people follow you on Twitter. But, to have a strong network means having professionals, like your instructors, who can vouch for what you know to other professionals they have existing, trusted relationships with. “They not only have a wealth of knowledge they are excited to share, but their willingness to support and encourage students is genuine. An essential combination of insight and generosity,” Jodi shared about her relationships with many of her instructors.  

And it’s not only your instructors. When taking a certificate you can learn alongside established professionals in your industry because, like we said, there is importance in what you know (no matter how established you are in your profession). Your peers may be from all around the world, providing each other with different perspectives, connections, and insights that you otherwise never would’ve known or considered.

Although we operate in a mostly online world these days, Jodi was able to virtually connect with other students in her classes through student-created networking groups, drop-in class sessions, and discussion boards. In spite of an online format, there are still plenty of ways to meet new people interested in the same industry as you. 

These connections, paired with an ability to articulate what you’ve learned, are invaluable to your professional career and development. Who you know is a large part of career building, but it’s not the only part. When reskilling with a certificate, you’re able to update your knowledge and bring an added level of assurance to any space you might enter. 


So, really, what you know and who you know are synergistic and not mutually exclusive to creating a strong professional network to help you grow your career.