The IT job market has changed. When I began my career, applicants usually needed a degree filled with years of courses built to teach the ins and outs of code, security, hardware, software, and so much more. But as this industry continued to expand and technology boomed alongside understanding and application, IT became a career for anyone—not just college grads.
Today, a great number of the experts on our site and many I work alongside are self-taught. They combined a desire to learn with a passion for this industry and devoted time to practicing and mastering their craft outside the traditional classroom.
But passion alone isn’t enough to make these self-taught individuals marketable to hiring managers. Hiring processes these days largely rely on searching resumes and cover letters for keywords before human resources will even take a look at an applicant. For those companies that still thumb through each application, seeing a lack of solid professional education can be a red flag. What’s the solution? Pad your resume with certifications. Why is this important?
1. Traditional Education Methods Have Gone By the Wayside
To give some perspective on how this career path has changed, consider in simple form the way society used to approach new technology. People would receive (or buy) a new gadget and carefully take their time to read instructions for a thorough understanding before they use the tool. These days, we dive in, head first. We rip open the packaging, toss the instructions aside, and begin exploring the tool’s capabilities, choosing to experiment through use instead of instructional learning. The same transition can be seen in the current technology workforce. This industry is teeming with individuals who have the drive and the ability to dive head first into new technologies and products, exploring along the way toward useful application of a technology.
When you bought a smartphone the first time, chances are the sales clerk told you to go home and play with the new phone. Only by spending time exploring apps and playing around with commands can you get a true feeling for how some technologies really work.
This approach is even more critical in certain avenues of the technology industry, like security. By exploring vulnerabilities in programs and products and testing penetration of databases through hands-on applications, an individual can gain a well-rounded and effective knowledge of best security practices. Simply writing “Self-taught security expert” on your resume, however, is not enough. It may be impressive that you taught yourself, but you need to provide hiring managers with a bit more information. Completing certifications that highlight your knowledge is the best way to showcase your abilities.
2. Clout and Physical Proof for Job Applications are Vital
If you show up for a job interview and your resume doesn’t have the educational background to support your expertise in this position or a list of certifications, I’ll likely put it in the “No” pile. The certifications provide a starting ground for evaluation and conversation to test where you really excel and what you know how to do. Yes, past experiences matter, but if you’re knowledgeable of technologies that aren’t listed under past job descriptions, that skill set goes unnoticed.
Armed with a wide variety of certifications, today’s technology applicants can walk confidently into job interviews with a laundry list of experience and capabilities written down on paper. When asked, they’ll also be equipped with the know-how to demonstrate the skills behind these certifications.
3. Continue Learning While Growing Your Network
To stay competitive in this industry, you need to always be learning. If you show up for a job interview with a large gap in continued education, the prospective employer may not believe that you’re interested enough to stay up to date with the latest technologies and practices. Invest in your continued education and expand your knowledgebase to prove just how dedicated you are to maintaining your expert status.
E-learning courses, certification prep, and certification exams can also help expand your network of tech professionals. No need for happy hour mixers, where you have to wear name tags and make small talk. Through online courses and training that push you toward certifications, you automatically rub virtual elbows with others in the industry interested in the same topics who may have similar roles, similar tech questions, and can provide you with technology help when you need it most.
Curious where to get started with certification courses? Check back with me Monday for a list of some of our most popular certification courses, built to help further your career.
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