The importance of industry certifications for an employee

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In my previous post, I talked about the importance of industry certifications for a business trying to attract clients. Now, we’ll talk about the importance of certifications when it comes to being an employee.

If you’re applying to work at a large entity, whether it be a governmental organization, a large corporation or a non-profit, you’re most likely going to be dealing with an HR (Human Resources) department. 99 times out of 100, you’re going to be submitting your resume and doing your first interview with someone from this department, who is not a technical person (because if they were, they probably wouldn’t be in HR). Because of this, these HR staff will generally have guidelines on what they’re looking for on resumes. Sometimes this will be as simple as “look for certifications, the more the better”. Sometimes it will be more specific, “MCSE is worth more points than anything from CompTIA”. In these circumstances, I would argue that the more certifications you have, the better.

As an HR person, if I see a resume with two dozen certifications, among them MCSE, I’m going to value that higher up than someone who has just an MCSE and maybe a CCNP. The second candidate, with the MCSE and CCNP, might be more skilled than the person with two dozen entry-level certifications and the MCSE, but the sheer volume of certifications will make me think differently. This is simply because I don’t know how the tech industry works, or what I should or shouldn’t be looking for. Again, the most you can probably expect from an HR department is that they have a list of ‘higher thumbs up’ certifications, like MCSE, maybe something from VMware, maybe something from Cisco.

As a prospective employee, I would recommend getting as many certifications as you can, starting with the most valuable. Even once you get an employment position, keep upgrading and keep attaining more certifications. The more you have, the more attractive you become as an employee. Keep in mind though, there ARE certifications that are worth more than others. MCSE is worth more, much much more, than A+. So if you’re on a budget and you’re looking to get your first ‘real’ job in IT, then go for the certifications that actually mean the most, first. Having A+ on its own won’t land you a job, where-as having MCSE on its own might. Then, once you have a stable job, work on whatever you can find and whatever you can get your hands on. Most larger companies even have employee training programs and allowances, so you may even get some of this training paid for.

Just so you guys know, I practice what I preach. Every few months, I go for another certification (and perhaps applicable training course). I never know how my business will turn out, and while I work hard at it, the industry could shift rapidly in a very short period of time and I might find myself looking for employment as an employee someday. Should that ever occur, I plan to be a promising looking candidate.

Author

Martin Lehner

Martin Lehner is an technology professional working for an IT services firm in Whitehorse, Yukon (Canada). He has been working in the technology field for over a decade. With a degree in Business Admin and numerous industry certifications, Martin leads a team of IT professionals that provide third party support for clients. Originally starting a company to offer web development services, Martin quickly realized that clients wanted the entire spectrum of technology services. When Martin is not at work (which is not often, since his company offers 24/7 support), he is busy at home spending time with his family.

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3 Comments

  1. Jeff Newman August 22, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    Here’s a trick that worked for me.

    Become a consultant. But not an independent one.

    There are many, many small companies around that staff for specialties such as IT. Each of these companies has a client list, very often containing some prestigious names. They place you, negotiate your pay and manage your contract. They pay you, withhold taxes and do all the necessary accounting. Their compensation is a bit of what they bill you out for off the top. When your contract runs out, if they have nothing else for you at the moment, hop to another company. Hop again when you have to.

    Find a job with one of them and you’ll never, ever have to deal with HR again.

    I’ve been working this way since 2006 and have landed at some very recognizable firms, names that look good on a resume.

  2. Martin Lehner August 24, 2014 at 11:10 am

    Interesting! Here, staffing firms aren’t really that big of a thing, so it’s something I hadn’t thought about.

  3. Jeff Newman August 24, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    I’m in New York. The firm that employs me is in Boca Raton, Florida. Prior employers were in New Jersey, LA and one in NY. These firms work outside their area. You need to be found by them (don’t worry about reaching out yourself).

    Being found is the topic of another conversation, I will say LinkedIn is a great asset to those seeking employment.

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