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Straight Talk From ACFREs

October 16, 2013

So are you perhaps a little interested in attaining the ACFRE? Some words of wisdom from those who have gone the distance may be helpful.

1. Just do it! Start. Take the first step. Take another step. The important thing is to start the process. It may sound simple but everything happens once you actually start the process.

2. Get really organized from the start.

  • Build a detailed curriculum vitae, and keep it up to date with everything (work-related or volunteer) you do professionally.
  • Keep everything in one place. (You’ll need a box or an ample file drawer, where you can organize your application materials and notes.)
  • Take really good notes during all ACFRE-qualified sessions you attend. Save all your conference brochures and official session descriptions, and add your notes to them. (This one step alone will save you considerable grief.)
  • Keep an Excel spreadsheet listing the ACFRE-qualified sessions you have attended (or taught), along with the dates, locations, hours, presenters and the areas (management, leadership or ethics) for which each session qualifies for credit. I believe AFP now provides a spreadsheet that contains all the sessions already pre-approved for credit, so one option is simply to add your columns to that spreadsheet. However, please note that many sessions qualify for credit in two areas. In the end, you will have more than enough credits in some areas and too few in others. Those sessions that count in two areas will be your saving grace. Build a detailed curriculum vitae and keep it up to date.

3. Eat the elephant one bite at a time. Download the application form, and begin by filling in everything you can. As you add relevant items to your experience, add them to the application form. That way, you will complete the application form gradually rather than trying to pull everything together at once.

4. Engage two or three ACFREs as mentors and encouragers. If you’re as lucky as I was, one of your mentors will have mastered the art of the gentle nudge. Because I had lots of respect for my “nudger” and I wanted to impress him, his gentle monthly email inquiries about my progress really spurred me to action.

5. Don’t waste your time. Just jump in and move through the process as quickly as possible.

6. Don’t get trapped in the multiple-choice syndrome of letting yourself get stuck on a few questions in the exam. If you don’t know the answers, move on. It’s all about how many you get right, not how many you get wrong.

7. Remember what Tom Peters said:

  • “Hang in there long after others have gotten bored and given up.”
  • “Refuse to leave well enough alone. … “
  • “Stick your neck out, daring to give your best shot and working beyond … limits.”

8. Secure the support of your employer.

9. Develop a plan over several years of deadlines for the various components.

10. Focus on reading and studying in the areas you consider your weakest.

11. Reach out if you need help.

12. Read through the materials on each step in the process before you do the written application. Make sure you are at a point where you can complete each step. If you don’t have the items required for your portfolio, apply later.

13. Get advice from others who have already earned the ACFRE credential.

14. Work the timelines backwards.

15. Make a calendar showing what will you do by when.

16. Appreciate the process, and think about what you are doing. When it comes to the portfolio, you simply cannot put a bunch of materials in a FedEx box and consider it complete.

17. It is important to read the literature, and that is why starting the process after a graduate program process is so fluid and helpful.

18. If reviewing the literature, determine how many books you need to review each month. Read as many of the books on the suggested reading list as possible.

19. One ACFRE said that the hardest thing was working on the ACFRE and the CFRE renewal at almost the same time. Don’t do that. Complete your CFRE renewal at a different time, if possible.

20. On the other hand, another ACFRE suggested doing the ACFRE application at the same time as the CFRE renewal because it made the written application process fairly straightforward.

21. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t let any part of the process hold you back. If something is not accepted, just work on it, and do it again.

22. You are doing this for yourself and the profession—and both matter!

23. Relax! Let yourself enjoy the process. You will go through it only once in your life.

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