Certifications: a new barrier to entry

Recent blog posts indicate that, in at least some market segments, IT certifications are becoming a new barrier to entry: companies require a specific set of certifications in their job offerings and use those requirements to filter the candidates who are invited to the initial interview. Obviously, IT vendors pushing the certifications are getting some real traction. On the other hand, anecdotal evidence indicates that certification holders are sometimes able to memorize vast amounts of information without being able to put it to use (I don’t want to imply that they used other, less honest methods).

You might wonder why someone would use certification as a selection criterion if it’s obvious that some people are cheating their way through the process. Unfortunately, if you’re looking for a job, you’re not in a position to ask the “why” questions; if you want the job, you have to comply with the requirements. If the employer asks for a Bachelor of Science academic degree, you’d better have it, even though you might question its value or applicability to the job. In the case of the networking industry, you have to get one of the required certifications, regardless of what you think about it. However, in the process of getting your certification, you can do yourself and your future employer a favor: don’t just aim for quick results; while you’re studying for your certification, look for knowledge you’ll need in your work. If you cut corners, eventually you’ll be caught, either in the job interview or when you’re handed your first assignments. The money you’ve invested in breaking through the barrier won’t help you to keep your job (unless you’re in one of those countries where employees are better protected than polar bears).

So, you need the certification, and you’ve decided to gain in-depth knowledge in the process. What’s next? Select your preferred learning method and, if you decide to pay for classroom training, be selective. Choose a company whose instructors give you more than what’s already written on the slides; ideally, you should select a company in which instructors do more than just training. Check whether the company offers post-training support and forums; you probably won’t figure out all the questions during the one-week class and will need help afterward. Finally, document your experience. Blog. Help others get the best value for their money.

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