The anti-obsolescence formula: Certification keeps you (and your résumé) fresh
Attention all computer science majors and recent graduates! Attention sysadmins and tech support professionals, application developers and web designers, and anybody else reading this article! The next three words could save your career. Are you ready?
Don't get comfortable.
A carpenter, plumber or electrician can afford to settle into the status quo because chances are good nobody is going to come up with a revolutionary new way to frame a door or turn a wrench — but for those of us in IT, advances happen almost weekly, and the pace of change doesn't show any signs of slowing. So here's the question you should ask yourself: Is my mindset future-proof? Is my skillset being constantly updated and improved? If not, it's becoming obsolete.
While the short-term benefits of IT certification are obvious, the long-term benefits can sometimes be completely overlooked. Listed below are four ways getting certified can help you future-proof your career.
Remember "don't get comfortable?" Very few things can knock you out of the rut of the day-to-day grind like shooting for a new certification. Most vendors are careful to keep their certification programs up-to-date and relevant, and it's also in the vendors' best interest to make sure that each certification covers the given subject broadly — if YOU know your stuff, it reflects well on THEM. So, whether you're interested in a topic in another field or are just interested in broadening your knowledge of your current vocation, choosing and obtaining a new certification can give you a feel for where the bandwagon's heading.
Don't be another cog in the machine. A tech who is too specialized runs a much higher risk of becoming obsolete than does one with a broad, in-depth knowledge of many aspects of their field. Not only will certifying help you gain a more-rounded knowledge base, it will open doors to positions that could help you gain experience in your field. When big shifts happen, the person who can usher in and integrate new technologies will be in high demand. The guy who maintains the widget stamper gets sacked.
You know what looks good on a résumé? Long lists of certifications. Not old certifications that are mostly or completely obsolete, but old certifications underneath new certifications underneath hot-off-the-press certifications. A potential employer who sees that you've quickly certified for the job will probably be impressed, but they'll be more impressed when they see that you've been involved and certified since you first dipped your toes in the IT-flavored water. You can have such a résumé, and there's no better time to start in on it than now.
Just like they say; it's not what you know, but who you know. With certifications, it's both. Beside the immediate and perishable information that comes with certifying is the community that you gain access to. Some vendors, like Microsoft, have websites and forums full of resources that are restricted to those who hold their certifications. This puts you in contact with many other like-minded individuals who can help you out in a pinch. Most importantly, you can't prepare for changes you don't know are coming, so it's a good idea to have access to a certification grapevine.