Expert Opinion: Should I Get Certified?
You may have heard this one before: Why should I get certified?
Great question! It depends on who you are, what you do, and what the job market is looking for. Let’s take a look from several different vantage points.
While Attending College or University
Many colleges are adding vendor-sponsored certification programs to their degree pathways. Whenever you encounter such an opportunity, pounce on it! This will also help you make connections in the real world.
Employers are looking for good people and one of the best ways to tell them your story is through professional or personal references. Being a part of IT certification study groups and participating in school programs expands your personal network. As you follow your career path, you will find it is quite often who you know that can make the difference in where you go.
Fresh Out of University or College
Your degree will help you get in the door at an IT company or a company looking for IT people. From there, picking up credentials gives you both momentum and increased confidence in your ability to do your job.
Your manager is likely to have a good idea as to which IT certs you should to pursue. They may also be looking for a guinea pigs to go into a new area. If that’s the case, then jump on it!
Another good option for finding a solid certification opportunity is to align yourself with partner organizations. If your employer is taking on a new practice, and there is a company/partner agreement involved, then pursue any credential they might offer.
Certification can also be a life preserver in the event of a layoff. If an employer is eyeing a group of people who are equally talented in every way, and some folks took the time to get certified while others didn’t … the initiative shown by those who are certified will likely have a bearing on who stays or goes.
Remember, always be preparing for your next job. Any good manager will help you grow in order to get there, and that includes supporting your efforts to get certified.
Looking for Career Advancement
There’s never a better career move in a competitive job market than to go get a certification. Certification Magazine puts out an annual list of top credentials from its Salary Survey every year in January. Give it a look. This can help you formulate a good idea of some high-profile certs that may could align with your career goals.
You can also look outside your comfort zone. Software companies need to grow their ecosystems and frequently attempt to gin up interest with new certification opportunities that are either free or heavily discounted. While it is hard to learn skills and knowledge where you have no experience, you will have a leg up on everyone else if you push through the pain.
Look at where you want to go with your career. Find out which certifications align with your vision for your career and make a goal to add them to your résumé. For added motivation, try to tie your new credential to a potential advancement in job role or title.
There are many ways to build your brand: Go to conferences. Get a speaker slot. Discuss something that you have expertise in, or talk about your professional journey. Get IT credentials at conferences that offer them. Go to prep sessions. Find a mentor.
Looking to Change Your Career
Certifications verify that you possess certain skills and knowledge. But they also demonstrate that you are capable of learning new things, working independently, and finishing what you start.
Good people are hard to find, and character is important. Having the persistence and resilience to needed to get certified and stay certified sends a strong signal in your favor to folks who are looking to hire someone exceptional. Many times it is the credential which separates you from others in competition for a job opening.
Longtime IT Professional
There are many factors in having a long and successful IT career. What floats your boat? Doing something new? Taking on challenges? There are many folks in IT who are hooked on both the challenge factor and the educational factor of achieving new IT certifications.
Having a strong IT certification portfolio can also help you become a Subject Matter Expert in your area of expertise. This provides many benefits, among which are the opportunity be part of a group that creates a high-stakes exam, letting you look at certification from “behind the curtain.”
I actually give out a credential as a Certification Advisory Board Member whenever an SME meets the contribution requirements. For me, that means being part of in-person workshops and making a contribution to the test bank.
One thing that always occurs on the SME front — and I mean always — is that veteran IT professionals come up to me at the end of an exam workshop and gush about how much they enjoyed the weeklong effort AND how much they learned by participating.
Why did you get certified? Let us know your story! It may inspire and help others.