6 Reasons IT Certifications and Credentials are Vital to Your Career Development Strategy

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6 Reasons IT Certifications and Credentials are Vital to Your Career Development Strategy - Cyber Career CoachAs Information Technology management practices change at a faster and faster rate, there is a growing gap between formal education and the technical and management skills required in today’s business environment.  Certification programs are designed to close this gap.  Those who have earned certification and credentials can provide documented, third-party verification of their experience that demonstrates their personal commitment to professional development.  Certifications and Credentials also serve as tangible indicators that you possess the necessary breadth and depth of knowledge and skills in a given technology, platform, or discipline.  Certification demonstrates not only that you possess specific skills and abilities necessary to carry out real work tasks, but that you can integrate industry standard practices into your work environment.  Those capabilities are of great value to employers.

There are many good justifications for the pursuit of IT Certifications, but I believe the following 6 reason are worth discussing in greater detail:

Resume Selection Criteria

The internet has caused the world to shrink exponentially while simultaneously accelerating the speed at which information can be gathered, digested, analyzed, and shared.  The business of hiring has been affected greatly by these changes.  Due to increased competition, which is driven by many factors, Human Resources and Hiring Managers are quite often overwhelmed with resume submissions and job applications.

Standing out in this crowed pool of applicants can be accomplished in a number of ways, some of which I have addressed in other posts, but in many cases your resume must survive several stages of elimination before you even get the opportunity to standout or get noticed, and certification is a dead simple way to eliminate resumes quickly without having to read them all the way through.  For this reason, relevant certifications may be the only reason your resume gets more than a casual glance. Note: Make sure your certifications are clearly listed near the top of your resume so they are not mistakenly overlooked.

Commitment to Professional Development

While employee qualities vary greatly, what makes a good employee is a highly subjective topic.  However, broadly speaking, there are essentially two types of “good” employees.  First, “good” employees add value to the organization, accomplish their tasks on time with a high degree of competence and quality, and require little or no external pressure to get the job the job done.  Some of these “good” employees are content to remain in their current roles.  They have either settled into a routine with which they are very comfortable, or they genuinely enjoy their work and wish to stay right where they are.  If this describes you, that is a perfectly acceptable career strategy.

The other type of “good” employee however, has their eye on the next opportunity.  These employees are constantly working to improve themselves, both professionally and personally.  They are ambitious, and always strive to put their best foot forward.  This is usually indicated by their over-and-above pursuit of education and certification. They generally want to be the expert, and rarely back down from or sidestep a worthwhile challenge or responsibility.

Sometimes there is a perception that management may feel threatened by these employees, but I can assure you that effective managers have no reason to perceive any sort of threat.  Good managers understand that good employees make their job easier, while also making them look good.  These employees should be given credit for the example they set.  Employers want to keep good employees, and effective managers cultivate an environment that encourages this type of employee and makes them want to stay.

Demonstrated Topical Knowledge

As previously stated, obtaining certification provides third-party verification of your knowledge in a given subject area.  Passing a certification exam requires specific knowledge of a given topic.  The concept Authoritative Proof is at play here.  Employers have more than only your word to support your assertion that you are an expert or have knowledge in a given area.  This verification can also be leveraged by your employer to demonstrate a competent workforce, which in turn can help the company grow, and that can benefit everyone.

Increased Competition between employers can lead to Higher Wages

One of the most difficult tasks any company faces, is finding, recruiting, and keeping great employees.  Certifications and credentials increase your worth.  As your expertise becomes a commodity and new opportunities are presented, companies may be willing to enter a bidding war of sorts.  It’s probably not advisable to overuse this strategy because of the potential to create a negative perception of greed, but if you have received an attractive offer from another company, that may provide you with leverage to use with your current employer to ask for an equal or better offer; provided you have adequately demonstrated your value to the company’s continued success.

Authority

Certifications also give you authority with regard to suggestions, changes, process improvements, and recommendations to decision-makers.  Perhaps there is system that could potentially provide a higher level of efficiency that you would like the company to acquire.  Often, these decisions are made well above the work center or managerial level.  Depending on the size of the company, many executive rarely get the opportunity to hear from the “trenches.”  Often, when these ideas are pitched, authority is weighed heavily along with justifications to arrive at these decision.

Which of these two examples demonstrate the most authority? “Bill, from our San Diego IT department, recommended X because Y,” or “Sheila, our ABC Certified Administrator from Columbus, recommended X because of Y.”  It’s quite clear that certifications lend more authority.  This goes back to third-party verification as well.

Exclusivity

Finally, obtaining certifications or credentials makes you an immediate member of an exclusive group of professionals.  Every certification comes with its own set of benefits.  Some include free training, or access to content that is not available to the general public.  Exclusivity can be a marketable asset if you can leverage it to provide tangible benefits for your company.

This exclusivity may also give you an inside track on future opportunities.  These opportunities may manifest in the form of career advancements, training opportunities, or networking opportunities that can be further leveraged to find even greater opportunities.

The Next Step

If you currently hold any certifications, make sure you are getting the maximum benefit from them.  Explore the program benefits and find other ways to take advantage of them.  If you don’t yet have any credentials, conduct research to determine which certifications would benefit you most?  Your decisions should balance current needs with your interests.  For example; if you currently perform network administration and plan to continue in that specialization, then network certifications likely make the most sense.  However, if you want to move towards cyber security, you should explorer certification programs that focus on the cyber and IT security disciplines.  The point is that certifications are an important part of a career development strategy and they should never be overlooked or discounted.

A Personal Note

Thanks for taking the time to read this article, and I hope you choose to leave a comment.  Your feedback is always welcome and desired.  I would also appreciate it if you would take a moment to share this on your favorite social media platforms, or email the link to friends and associates.  I would furthermore like to encourage you to join our mailing list.  In the near future, I will begin offering exclusive content and more personal assistance and advice to active members of the Cyber Career Coach community.  I am currently developing a podcast, and creating video presentations to help our readers enhance their career growth opportunities.  Again, thank you so much for your time.

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