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  • Writer's pictureMike Hernandez

On Certification and Experience

How do you think clients judge a Tarot reader? What information do they seek to help them determine whether a Tarot reader is qualified to do a reading for them? Are they looking for certificates on the wall to see if the reader has been certified by some recognized governing body? Or, are they looking for something in the reader’s promo materials that indicates how long they’ve been doing readings?

What do you think? Which is more important, certification or experience? Is one better than the other? Does it have to be either? Could it be a blend of both? Is this really a question for the client?

Let me tell you what I know about both, and then I’ll give you my take on this.

What about certification?

To certify or not to certify – that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler to be of studied skill or trust in the intuition of Spirit. This, then, is the question that marks the arrival of a student to a higher level of consciousness and awareness, which then begs the subsequent question, “What do I really know and how do I know it?”

As I’ve traveled about and both intently listened and enthusiastically participated in discussions about this topic, I find that there are two camps: those who embrace certification as a means of helping to legitimize our profession, and those against certification who see it as a potentially negative, inherently divisive mechanism. Interestingly, both sides have relatively sensible reasons for their positions. I’ll try to summarize them both as succinctly and accurately as my memory will allow.

The position against certification

I commonly find that folks who hold this position don’t necessarily seem to be against certification per se, but rather are more concerned about issues they believe have not been or are not being fully, completely, and transparently addressed by those who are for certification or who currently provide some sort of certification. Here are the typical core questions that I usually hear from this group.

  1. What criteria will you use to certify an individual?

  2. What is your justification for these criteria?

  3. What metrics will you use to determine success?

  4. What is the basis for these metrics?

  5. How do you account for different reading styles?

  6. How do you account for book-based vs intuitive-based card meanings?

  7. Do you take length of experience into consideration?

  8. Who are the people in charge of the certification process and what are their backgrounds?

  9. How is it that they are deemed qualified to do certifications?

  10. How do you plan to avoid or diminish an “Us vs Them” atmosphere between the folks who pass certification and those who don’t?

  11. Why do you believe certification is beneficial?

I think these are all great questions and I have to say that I’ve yet to see anyone or any site answer all of them head-on. Most of what I’ve seen revolves around requirements for certification and levels of certification; obviously, there is also some discussion on the purported benefits.

If I sit back and consolidate and distill the issues these questions raise, I think this group’s two real issues of concern are authenticity and inclusiveness. I think they want to make certain that the certification process they decide to follow is truly authentic, that is, it’s been developed by people who truly know what they’re doing. It should be a process that has been thought through thoroughly, based on a logical and reasonably practical foundation, has success metrics that are fair and attainable, and be administered by people who are definitely qualified to do so and can be easily identified as such. I also think these folks want to ensure that the certification process accounts for people with different reading styles and different philosophical or spiritual perspectives. There is an underlying, almost unspoken fear that this could become a “We have the best Tarot certification” battle, similar to the “We are the true religion” battle that occurs between religions.

A side note: I find that part of the resistance to certification for some people is due to a fear of not passing the certification exam and a slight lack of self-confidence. I understand both quite well and yet I think it’s unfortunate that they’re part of the basis for the resistance.

I’m just plain lousy at taking tests, but, ironically, I learn quickly and can absorb lots of information, which I can then apply to the tasks at hand as the need arises. I was also quite bad at auditions when I was a professional guitarist (although I’m now quite good at them as an actor – go figure). I used to tell prospective band leaders that they should come and hear me play at such and such a gig if they really wanted to know how well I play. I just couldn’t stand the feeling, whether taking an exam or doing an audition, that someone was just waiting for me to make a mistake.

I usually find the self-confidence issue with folks who haven’t been doing readings for very long. Makes sense. Confidence grows with time and experience. That’s true of anything you do in life.

The position for certification

This group appears to be following the lead of professionals in other industries and areas of expertise, and they seem to have sound reasons for promoting certification. They believe that certification

  • shows that the reader is committed to developing and honing his or her skills.

  • affirms a specific level of knowledge and education.

  • asserts a level of expertise

  • insures that a reader can conduct a truly professional reading.

  • helps to legitimize our profession.

  • helps to build public trust.

  • is in line with other professional certifications (architects, counselors, public accountants, health care practitioners, psychologists, teachers, etc.)

Given my two long careers and experience in the music industry and computer industry, I have to say that I agree with these points and believe them to be relatively sound.

I’ve often found that the folks in this group are sincerely trying to help their fellow Tarot readers increase and hone their skills, and they find certification to be a great means to do so in an orderly, methodical and structured manner. I’ve never gotten the impression that they are trying to exclude anyone per se, at least I’ve never found anything specifically stating or implying this to be the case. I do get the impression, however, that part of the impetus for trying to get certification accepted in the professional Tarot readers community is to weed out the fakes, charlatans and scam artists that do so much harm to the public’s perception of our profession. I can see how this can be an effective tool to expose these folks until such time that our profession gets some form of legal, public recognition equivalent to those who practice health care, psychology or counseling.

My main concern about certification is that it could fall into the trap of becoming too dogmatic and entrenched in bureaucracy. Although I like the stated reasons for certification, I think the whole process and procedures for certification still bears further inquiry, investigation and study.

What about experience?

Experience seems to go a long way in helping establish a person’s credibility at performing some service, skill or task. (For brevity’s sake, I’ll just refer to “skill” for the remainder of the conversation.) Most people believe that a person who’s worked at a skill for a number of years must be proficient at it by now and can execute that skill with a high degree of quality and expertise. Two questions immediately come to my mind, though:

  1. Is this always the case?

  2. What measurement are people using to determine when someone gets to this point of supposed expertise?

Although I can agree with the notion that people who practice a given skill for a long time do tend to be good at what they do, I also have met people who have been working at some skill for a great length of time and never seem to progress. There are other people I’ve met who have been working on their skills for only a short amount of time, and yet they are incredibly good at what they do. I think length of experience is a good indicator of how much a person’s skills have advanced (or not) within a given amount of time, but I don’t think it’s necessarily the most crucial indicator. Besides, what measurement do you use to determine a given level of expertise? 5 years? 10 years? 12 years?

I’ve focused on length of experience so far because, incredibly, it seems to be a very critical point for most people. It’s unfortunate that they pay only casual attention to two other important aspects of experience – depth and breadth. People don’t seem to be too concerned about how well a person knows her skill or whether she has been trained or educated in what she does. There also seems to be only token interest in the various types of experience she may have had with her skill. This is all very important, when you think about it, but it a lot of folks seem to gloss over this quite easily.

Sadly, many people “buy with their pocketbooks”, especially in this economy. Their main concern is whether you can do the job fast and at a low cost. Fortunately, this attitude doesn’t seem to be as pervasive in our profession (not to me, at least), but there are times when it can seem that clients are trying to wring every last drop of information out of you before the timer buzzes and indicates the end of the session.

Here’s my take on this…

I don’t have the final answers to this dilemma, and I’m certainly not making or inferring that type of claim. I’m just trying to do my part to keep the conversation open and moving forward so that we, the professional Tarot reader community, can come to a reasonable consensus at some point.

I think certification and experience can both play a role in establishing your credibility in the Tarot community and to the public. How beneficial each is to you certainly depends upon how you present them to your clients. Additionally, knowing and understanding your clientele can greatly help you determine what would work best for you.

Let me give you an example from my 24-year career in the computer industry. For about 12 of those years, I was a private and professional database consultant. I never got any type of certification – I didn’t need them. My clientele (small businesses and small departments within medium sized companies) was far more concerned with my experience – how long I’d been developing databases, the types of databases I’d created and deployed, and the feedback from the companies for whom I worked. On the other hand, I certainly would have gotten several certifications if my clientele included the likes of Boeing, Microsoft, AT&T or AllState Insurance. Their Information Technology managers would likely be more inclined to engage my services with the certifications than without.

I haven’t pursued trying to get any Tarot certifications, and I’ve been a professional Tarot reader for over ten years. I’ve never needed any – I’ve commonly been asked about the length of my experience and the types of readings I’ve done, but never about certifications. I think what has always worked for me is my confidence in my skills and abilities, my personal integrity and ethics, and the fact I just have a great time and love what I do.

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