Information technology (IT) professionals are key to the operations of many businesses. IT is a field that demands real competence with hands-on problems, but to advance in the field, many IT professionals are turning away from on-the-job experience alone and toward certification in various subfields.
Certification can help you advance your IT career if it is used wisely. Here’s how to get the right certifications in order to expand your career and make your dream employer take a close look at your application:
- Research the certification opportunity. As a rule, the more work you are required to put in to obtain a certain certification, the more valuable it will be. Certification organizations range from those who will hand you a certificate simply for paying a fee to a professional organization to those you must work for several weeks or months with qualified professionals in order to demonstrate your knowledge and experience before receiving official certification. Make sure you’re learning something substantive before you agree to pay for certification training.
- Look at certifications held by people ahead of you on the career ladder. Look at individuals who hold jobs and titles you’d like to work towards. Look these professionals up on LinkedIn or browse their professional websites. Take note of which certifications they possess and where they earned them. Industry groups on LinkedIn can also provide valuable advice on which certifications to pursue from professionals who have already obtained them – for better or worse.
- Check job postings for certification requirements. Both big job boards and company websites can offer job postings that list experience requirements, including any demands or preferences for certain certifications. These will provide a guide to the types of certification that employers are currently demanding, allowing you to tailor your choices to the options that will help you advance in your career.
- Work your way up. With each new certification, focus on working your way up to tougher concepts and more complex demands. Higher-level certifications, especially those that are industry- and position-specific, are more valuable than possessing every low-level certification in every field. Choose a path and follow it, always challenging yourself to learn more and think harder.