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Journey to Getting My GPC

The Journey to Getting My GPC, by Rosie Brennan, GPC

I have been eligible for my GPC for over a year now, but I finally took the exam last month and (spoiler alert!) it turns out I passed! Wow! I still can’t believe it!

When I first heard about the opportunity to gain a GPC credential, I was intrigued but altogether too busy to look into it. As a grants consultant and mom of two with #3 on the way, I couldn’t seem to find the time to comprehend the steps involved, let alone find the time to study for the exam. That all changed when our local GPA chapter hosted a study group for anyone interested in taking the GPC exam. My company was supportive and actually paid me while I attended the study group! This was the perfect opportunity for me to gain some understanding of the content and to do it while children were out of my house during the workday!

The study group met electronically over Zoom once a week for nine weeks. Each week we heard from different guest speakers who covered one of the nine core competencies. I already knew most of the content, but the topics that were less familiar to me worried me. I just kept thinking, I am not ready to take this exam at all until I learn more about x, y, and z. When was that going to happen?

At the conclusion of the study group, my supervisor asked me when I would take the exam? My first answer to her was probably later this Spring. Then she asked me again toward the end of the Spring… probably this summer. I felt like each conversation this topic was going to keep coming up! How long could I keep playing dodgeball with this question? I finally took an honest look at the requirements and submitted my eligibility packet. With a new baby arriving in September I knew I had to get this done beforehand. After having two kids already, I know your brain turns to oatmeal while you are on maternity leave!

I finally scheduled the exam for a couple weeks out in what I thought would be an ideal time. As it turned out, my originally ideal time ended up being right in the middle of a federal grant, a series of annoying doctor’s appointments, and my child’s summer camp (which required an hour of driving twice per day). It was also right before I was leaving on vacation, so I needed to have everything crossed off my to do list! There is never a good time, but this seemed to be the worst time ever.

All of this busy-ness increased my worries about the exam. I hadn’t taken an exam at all in a couple of years. What if I failed? How embarrassing! I studied as much as I could that last couple of days, but with all I had to do this studying didn’t seem too focused!

At last the day of the exam came. I drove to this weird testing center in a tremendous downpour. I got completely soaked just racing with an umbrella from the car to the door. I stepped inside worrying about how cold I was going to be in the air conditioning with wet feet and realized the lights were off. The entire building had lost electricity in the storm! Oh my goodness, I felt doomed! Here I was ramped up to take this exam, or rather stressing beyond stressing about it, and as it turned out I couldn’t even take the exam that day! The testing center was kind in calling me later that day to reschedule, but for a minute there, I thought I was going to have a heart attack!

The next day after confirming the testing center did indeed have electricity, I calmly arrived to take the test. It was like a complete “do over” from the day before. I knew where I was going, I knew what I had to do, and I was ready to get this exam over with! I kept thinking about how good I would feel when it was over.

After the exam however, I did not feel good! I was 100% certain I had failed. I couldn’t even bring myself to call my supervisor, even though I know she was wondering how it went. I hid like a dog with its tail between its legs the rest of the day! I was so embarrassed and so sure I failed! I tried not to think about it. I had plenty of urgent work that had to be done anyway. I focused on finishing up everything before my vacation, and then while on vacation I refused to think about it!

Once I returned from vacation, I had an email in my inbox from GPCI. I read it at least five times because I could not figure out what it was saying. I couldn’t find the part where they said I failed and here’s all the hoops you have to jump through to reschedule. I kept reading it over and over. I forwarded it to my supervisor with the note… “Is this saying I passed?” She wrote back, “Congratulations!” I was beyond shocked and thrilled!

For me, this GPC process has been a difficult one, not because the requirements of eligibility, or the complex application, or even the studying and taking the exam. Mostly it was just difficult squeezing all this in an already busy job and personal life. Was it worth it? YES!

I can honestly say I feel so much more pride about this accomplishment and confidence in my work than I thought I would. Looking back, the whole process was kind of like a really hard grant proposal, one that seems impossible but in the end you turn it in, and then a couple weeks later the grant is awarded. That successful feeling is what keeps me going in grant writing, and the GPC process feels a little this way.

I feel so proud of myself for obtaining the GPC and proud of the work that has brought me to this level. I know it wasn’t exactly like being lucky and winning. Rather, you really have to have had the experience to understand the questions on the exam and get them right. Getting the GPC has not changed my experience or knowledge level, but I feel like it brings some street cred among my colleagues and I feel more confidence now going into big projects and tell myself, “You’re a GPC! You got this!”