Marko Djakovic realized that having a formal technical degree could help his career. He finished the AWS course and earned the certification that accompanies it, but that was only the first step. “I planned to take more courses and become a cloud engineer,” says Djakovic, who works as a digital project manager at Best Response Media. “This way, I will become the only one in the company who has this knowledge.”
But there was a problem: after starting this path, he realized that he did not like where he was going. He says, “As it turns out, to become a cloud engineer, I have to change my job to include more coding, which I don’t want to do. So I’m not using the knowledge I’ve gained, and probably never will.”
Djakovic is certainly not the only IT professional who has experienced employer regrets about getting a tech degree. With an amazing array of testimonials, all of which promise to make your resume shine and boost your salary, it’s no surprise that some people make the wrong choices. We spoke to a number of IT professionals for information on what to avoid in pursuit of certification.
1. Start your certification journey without a goal in mind
Oftentimes, people think of certifications as something they “must” get in the summary, but they don’t have a plan for what specific certifications will actually mean for their career. To avoid this pitfall, you need to ask thorough questions about how certification aligns with your goals.
That was Djakovic’s mistake. “Don’t just think about certification — or even the cost and time you need to complete it,” he says. Ask yourself: Do I really need this? How can this help me be better in my role? Ask your supervisor for their opinion.
To avoid falling into the trap, you need to define your career goals and look for certifications that will bring you closer to them. Christopher Filmes, Senior Technical Marketing Engineer at NetBrain, suggests some potential purposes a degree might serve in your career:
- Helping you understand a technology or solution you use every day, so you can improve your current job role
- Pick out a new and popular skill set (for example, public cloud) so you can stay current in the industry
- Change of professional orientation or specialization
Knowing your goal will help you determine the potential return on investment and gauge the worthiness of many certification endeavors, says Willemes.
2. Bite off more than you can chew
If you’ve never sought certification before, or if you’ve mostly collected entry-level certifications, you may not be prepared for the level of commitment required to make certification worthwhile, especially if you’re trekking above your current work responsibilities.
“Many of the certifications are expensive and demanding, and some require continuing education or regular re-examination after you earn the certification,” Filmes says. “IT professionals should ensure that they understand the full scope of certifications, have an accurate idea of how they will apply what they have learned, and have a clear view of any ongoing learning responsibilities.”
3. Not finding the right training resources
Part of the job of getting certified involves finding the best resources you can learn from while preparing. You can’t simply search for the degree name in Google and take the first course that pops up.
“There are a large number of companies that offer exercises, materials, and study guides, and there is a wide range of how good these courses are,” says Filmes. “Some are really poor and unhelpful, while others are great. Look for well-known sellers that have good reputations from consumers and with good test success rates by their students.”
This tip doubles when it comes to certifications that require certified training prior to completion. Be sure to ensure that any courses you enroll in are conducted by teachers or institutions that are recognized by the certification body.
Furthermore, some certifications require that you have access to resources other than simple coursework or study guides.
“More and more certifications, such as those offered by leading public cloud providers, are evaluating applicability through practical tests that often require participants to have access to the lab,” says Steve Bomberger, Head of IT Services at SEI.
Make sure you can meet these criteria before you dedicate too much time and resources to your degree search.
4. Rely on outdated materials
Many people are specifically certified to prove that they are aware of the latest innovations in the industry. To keep up with this, certification institutions regularly update the core materials for their certifications – and this leads to another potential pitfall.
“Certificate paths change periodically, and this leads to changes in study materials and exams every time that happens,” NetBrain’s Villemez explains. “This can be very frustrating if the material changes halfway through the study over a few months, sometimes with entirely new sets of things to know and other things now neglected.”
Filmies recommends researching the history of a particular certification path to help anticipate such issues. “For example, if you find that the CCIE Security exam changes on average every three years, then starting to prepare for the exam two and a half years after the current track may not be a good idea,” he says.
5. Pay when you don’t have to
Many certifications are not cheap, usually amounting to hundreds or even thousands of dollars. But even if you get sticker shock when you find out how much your preferred degree costs, don’t lose hope.
“If you are already employed, make sure your current employer will pay and support you to get a new degree,” says Scott Hirsch, co-founder and chief technology officer at Talent Marketplace. “There are often internships available to employers that can help support this.”
6. Not getting specific information
A long list of certifications may seem like a worthwhile goal to endorse your skills, but the time and energy invested in this pursuit may not necessarily send the message you think.
“While certifications provide great opportunities, we have seen employees spread themselves very sparingly and try to learn multiple skills at once,” says Anu Subramanian, CTO of CloudCheckr. “Instead of choosing multiple courses for different certifications, what often works best is to target your curriculum. For example, they can choose to take certain specialized certifications such as security, cloud management, artificial intelligence, automation, etc., or they can choose to target Platform – There are certificates for AWS and Azure.”
Depending on your career path, you may want to make sure that the content of the certifications you hold is specific to your goals. “When hiring, we look primarily at product skills and not so much at Scrum, Prince2, ITIL, etc.,” says Lovisa Stenbäcken Stjernlöf, Okta lead at Devoteam Cloud Services, a Swedish IT consultancy. “These generic certifications are so common that they don’t stand out on a resume, and they are usually not difficult to obtain if needed for a project or client. The methodology also varies a lot in different projects; product skills from day one are more valuable.”
This tip is for project managers and more hands-on technical staff, as she says: “If you want to become a project manager with Salesforce, Salesforce skills are more important. To excel in your job search, decide which product you want to work on, rather than trying to be IT General Project Manager.
Furthermore, seller and product testimonials may not clash as much as you think. FileMiz from NetBrain shows Cisco as an example.
“Cisco certifications, while promoting their own solutions, still have wide enough recognition to demonstrate knowledge that can be passed on to other vendor’s network platforms in terms of fundamentals,” he says. “I can work at 100% Juniper Network and they will still be happy to know that an engineer on the team has a Cisco certification.”
Employers can make certification errors too
CIOs and other IT leaders can also fall into traps when it comes to certifications—and certification desires—of employees or potential hires. Here are some tips our experts give IT leaders on encouraging the pursuit of certifications and the true value of industry credentials.
Don’t trust testimonials blindly. While it is fine to believe that anyone certified in a technology or skill set can apply that knowledge in the real world, difficult experience shows that this is not always the case.
“It’s important for employers to be aware of potential talent,” says SEI’s Bomberger. “Employers should not assume that applicants are qualified because they have great testimonials. To make sure candidates can apply what they have learned, hiring managers should investigate general questions to ensure they know the material but can also provide specific examples of how it applies to real-world scenarios” .
Ensuring opportunities for those who seek to improve themselves. Ultimately, people seek degrees to enhance their skill levels and improve their career prospects. If one of your employees goes this route, those career prospects can be with your company — or with someone else.
“Organizations must ensure that career advancement opportunities are available to those who successfully pursue certification,” CloudCheckr’s Subramanian says. “You want to avoid a scenario in which a company hones its employees only to watch them leave for a competitor. By investing in the continued financial and career success of your employees through IT certification opportunities, companies can ultimately help close the skills gap and improve talent acquisition and retention. it out”.
This is a win-win scenario.