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In the Salesforce universe, there is no failing, just more opportunities to learn.

Discover three strong reasons you should lean into your fear and try for that Salesforce Certification, even if it takes multiple retakes to achieve it.

As a 6x Salesforce #CertifiedPro, Lissa is a Trailblazer with more than 14 years of experience working with the Salesforce Platform and is co-founder of the Indianapolis Women in Technology User Group.

It’s happened to a lot of us. We think we’re ready for a Salesforce Certification exam, but we procrastinate getting it on the schedule because we’re afraid we may fail. This is your sign not to put it off any longer! In the Salesforce universe, there is no failing, just more opportunities for learning.

I’d been a full-time Salesforce Administrator for almost 10 years, working for two different companies before I earned my first certification at Dreamforce. My real-world experience was there, but I didn’t exactly feel official because I wasn’t a Certified Administrator yet.

Personal fear of failure

Aside from knowing the inherent value of a Salesforce Certification, I also wanted to challenge myself, to prove to myself and others that I was committed and dedicated to being a Salesforce professional. I knew this would offer me a chance to learn more about the Salesforce Platform, especially those features that I didn’t use often in my daily tasks.

Even with all of these great reasons to get certified, I still kept putting it off and inventing new excuses for not scheduling my exam. (Sound familiar?)

Of course, I realize now that the reason it took me so long to get started was my own fear of failure. What would my boss or my colleagues think about me if I failed? What did it say about my experience with the platform if I couldn’t get a certification? My company offered to pay for the test, but if I failed it, would I have to pay them back? There were too many unknowns.

What I came to realize is that all of these doubts and fears were holding me back, not only in getting certified but also in countless other personal and professional ways.

So here are my top three lessons about dealing with the fear of failure and reasons why you should lean into that fear. I hope they help you as much as they’ve helped me!

Reason 1 — Failure can be an option

I believe that failure should be celebrated. Failing at a task doesn’t make you a failure personally. There’s consistent research to show that employees who are encouraged to take risks (and allowed to fail) are the drivers of innovation. The most successful people you know have failed, many times.

So you’ve got some big, wild, crazy ideas? Cultivate them! Then, give yourself permission to act on them so they don’t waste away, dormant in your mind. If you’ve been telling yourself, “I’ll be a Certified Salesforce Administrator… someday,” then it’s time to make someday today!

Worst-case scenario—you take the test and you fail. Okay, that’s a bummer. But let’s change that thinking around. Failure can be a cause for celebration! Celebrate the fact that you’re a risk-taker. Celebrate the parts you got right. Celebrate that you’re the kind of person who embraces difficult tasks and that this attempt has brought you one step closer to your end goal.

If you really want to drive innovation, go ahead and celebrate your attempt publicly, and let your teammates and fellow Trailblazers in the Trailblazer Community know about it! When we share our struggles, we help create an environment where other people can fail, too. Has one of your co-workers attempted an exam and failed? Cheer for them and for all they’ve learned to get to the point of being ready to take the exam in the first place!

You’re a team, and everyone’s in this together, right? By publicly celebrating team members trying new things and sometimes failing, we help to counteract the fear of failure in those around us. This makes everyone more comfortable with each other and establishes trust. You will all be more likely to share things and take risks in the future.

Someone who took an exam once and passed by one question probably never went back to look at the material. But someone who took the exam five times? They know that content inside and out.

When I was hiring a team of admins, one candidate confessed that it took them five tries to pass their first exam. They shared it as though that was a negative thing—and seemed shocked when I perked up and cheered! FIVE tries!? That’s five times the learning. And they’ve proven to me that they’re a passionate, persistent learner. That’s exactly the kind of employee I want on my team.

Reason 2 — You’re not “wasting” anything if you fail

It’s true! It’s not a waste of time, money, or resources. Really. It may sound slightly counterintuitive, but there’s a lot you will gain by failing a certification exam.

With any attempt, you’ll get to know the exam style and format, and afterward, you’ll get a breakdown that contains detailed, section-level feedback scores. This detailed breakdown means you’ll know precisely which areas to focus on when you prepare to retake the exam.

There’s also a good chance that you’ll remember at least a few questions that stumped you, which gives you a chance to review study guides and documentation to learn more about those specific topics before your next try.

Reason 3 — Your fear of failing stalls learning, innovation, and productivity

I had a teammate who failed her first Admin exam a few years ago. That’s to be expected—it’s a tough exam! But she was so embarrassed about failing that she didn’t feel comfortable asking the company to pay for her second try. She ended up paying for it out of pocket. On the second attempt, she passed, but the experience made her hesitate to attempt the next step—her Advanced Administrator exam.

Later, I was able to share that our manager had offered to pay for not only the exam itself but also any and all exam retakes. My teammate lit up immediately and said she’d start studying for the exam right away. The minute she knew that it was safe to take a risk, she was relieved of any shame or embarrassment about a potential fail. She then set out to spend even more time studying, which inherently led to better learning and more growth.

After a few months of prepping, she’d gained new skills, new ideas, and a new sense of motivation. This increased both her level of productivity and her ability to innovate, even before she took the exam.

And yes, she did pass the Advanced Admin exam later that year!

No limits on retakes

It makes perfect sense for a company to offer a “no limit” policy on taking exams and paying for retakes. No matter how many times it takes for someone to pass the exam—one, three, or 13 attempts—a company that believes in its employees and trusts that they’re giving their all (utilizing Trailhead—Salesforce’s free online learning platform—studying, and putting in the effort) also trusts that company resources are being well-spent on retakes.

Many people are not in the position to pay for multiple retakes themselves. So this is a call-out to all of you managers reading along: This is an opportunity for you to support your team, and embrace a culture of innovation and learning at your company. You can rest easy knowing that valuable learning is happening all along the journey—helping your day-to-day business even before your team attains their certifications!

If you want to create a culture and spirit of innovation and risk-taking, then trust and support your employees to be professional stewards of company resources while advancing their knowledge and expertise.

Don’t just say it, do it

Next on my personal list was the new User Experience Designer exam. You see, I take my own advice, and I continue to push past my fear of failing. I will keep studying and taking exams. Sure, I get nervous, but I persevere, even when I fail along the way. (Spoiler alert… I passed!)

Knowing that failing any particular exam doesn’t make ME a failure is the key. Having the support of a leader who has offered to pay for retakes gives me that extra push of confidence to try now, rather than procrastinate until “someday.”

I’ll continue to challenge myself, grow my knowledge, and learn what I’m truly capable of. I won’t stop at 6x certified—I’m going to keep going. If I fail, I’ll publicly celebrate it, learn from it, and try again (and again!) until I get that magical word, “PASS.”

If you want to take a leap and get started (or build!) on your Salesforce Certification journey, here’s everything you need to know.


Lissa supports the processes, tools, governance, and user experience for the Global Sales teams at Salesforce. She is a 6x Salesforce-certified Trailhead Ranger with more than 14 years of platform experience and 550 public badges. In addition to chasing badges and solving business problems, Lissa is also passionate about emotive photography, cooking, volunteering, and raising her kids to be kind humans.

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