Monday, July 27, 2009

I'm Certified, Now What?

I saw an article from Certification Magazine recently (via Trainsignal on twitter) with that title. It compared the completion of certification to that of a marathon runner. You've completed a marathon, after all the training, and now what?

I'm not sure that's a great comparison, but it does beg the question of what to do when you've completed your MCITPro, MCSE, or any other certification.

Surprisingly, I found quite a few other articles with that same title, and I thought this one from the MD Dept of Transportation was great. It talks about what companies that get certified to do business with the state should do, and it really lets you know that certification is the first step, not the last one.

Their advice?
  • aggressively market
  • identify possible employers
  • contact them
  • keep inquiring about new opportunities
  • research opportunities
  • network
  • use resources
Is it any different for individual workers? I'd argue that it's not, and you should view a certification as the base step for moving your career forward. Whether you are coming out of college, or a twenty year veteran in your industry, the certification can add to your credentials, but it's just an addition, it isn't the ultimate goal or measure of your value.

I think certifications can help. They force you to learn something, and they help you to focus in certain areas. I'm sure there are plenty of people that just try to memorize topics and answers, but that should still help them. Whether they'll be able to apply those skills in the real world is a separate question, but they still have improved skills.

And that's what you also need to do. In addition to just marketing yourself, and showing off your certification, you also want to show that you've learned a few things. Blog and relate your studying back to your job, or to something in that area. I'd argue you should have been doing this all along, but it's never too late.

Pick up a project of some sort, even if you just duplicate some work of someone else. Show that you have picked up skills and can start to apply them. Make a point of communicating that you can apply your skills.

And if you can't do that, perhaps that's the next step for you. Learn to apply those skills and don't assume that certification will carry you along.

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