Career Building Posts

Why IT Pros Lie: A Certification Doesn’t Always Make You Qualified for a Job (And That’s Okay!)

It’s the most open dirty little secret in Information Technology hiring today: the lies we tell to get our foot in the door.

To be sure, they are white lies, subtly bolstering our appeal to hiring managers by insinuating greater experience or a more narrow focus than we might actually have had with a specific project or technology. A couple weeks watching SQL logs while the DBA was on vacation might turn you into a database administrator; fiddling with widget on the company home page means you have experience with JavaScript.

Have you every started an IT job where you knew everything you needed to know the minute you walked in the door? Few people have. Information Technology is a vast and ever-changing field, with many silos of knowledge and few systems which can be relied upon to operate identically from organization to organization. Learning the quirks and foibles of a particular combination of software versions and hardware systems is a skill in and of itself. It is not one that can be easily tested in a lab environment.

Of course, these lies are provoked in some sense by the lies we’re told in the job postings themselves: requests for expertise in wildly disparate technologies which no sane person could specialize in simultaneously, or demands for years of experience with technologies which have only emerged months earlier. The bill of goods that job candidates are selling is matched, in some sense, by the goods that employers claim they are looking for.

The New World of IT Career Development, Part 2: Executing Your Career Plan

Note: This is the second article in a two-part series about navigating the new world of IT career development. The first part was about creating a plan for your IT career. This part delves into how to execute that plan. 


So you have a career plan for the IT industry. You know where you want to go. How do you make it happen? And how do you learn new skills without breaking the bank?


Part 2: Executing Your IT Career Plan


Technical Skills

Start with the inventory of technical skills you need, and identify free or low cost sources that will help teach those skills. Many sources are available!


Books, both in hard copy and e-books

Don’t overlook the classic way to learn a topic. A surprising number of technical topics are available in hard copy and e-formats. For example, there are dozens of books on JavaScript, and they are available in used book stores, on the internet, and even from the larger libraries.   You don’t need the latest and greatest book: a book published several years ago is certainly good enough to learn the basics. Opt for the books that contain practice exercises.


The Internet

The saying “you can’t believe everything you see on the internet” is true, but the internet is a rich source of both introductory and advanced information on IT skills. These sites range from a few screens on the topic to complete courses. A Google or Bing search for “learning JavaScript free” will list hundreds of sites on JavaScript.

Of course, our own predictive testing platform at Skillset provides a good marriage between specific test prep and exploratory career advancement. If you’re not sure how all the skills fit together, or which you need to focus on before seeking a new career, Skillset can be invaluable for finding your way through different assessments for IT skills and beyond.

One interesting site is Code Academy, which has currently free courses on various IT topics, such as JavaScript, HTML, jQuery, Python, CSS, and PHP.

A number of sites offer the first lesson free, but charge for the remainder of the course.One of the premier learning sites is For $25 a month, you have unlimited access to their extensive library of courses.

Consider local colleges and universities. Some offer evening courses that are open to adult non-degree students. Others host free online courses, such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) that are essentially free online courses open to anyone.

Consider YouTube as well. A search for JavaScript shows dozens of videos – and even several courses – on the subject. While the quality varies, YouTube videos are a source for free technical education.


How to Decide: Earn More Work Experience or Get a Certification ?

As technological businesses begin to focus more on IT strategies and the currently available resources to support them, the demand for the most qualified workers continues to increase.

When administrative security and IT infrastructure are a part of a business, that business will require employees with knowledge and expertise in their field to succeed. In many cases, this infrastructure will actually require around-the-clock management to keep all systems safe, organized, and functional. Even the highest-quality hardware and software are only capable of so much without an active, qualified team who can adeptly keep the business on track.

This may lead some business leaders to inquire into what work experience, IT certifications or other qualifications are most important to their strategy and business structure. This frequently asked question is also pondered by IT students or recent graduates who are looking to enter the workforce as a member of the IT industry. Are IT certifications the most important? What about hands-on working experience?


IT Certification vs. Work Experience Statistics


Foote Partners, a Florida-based independent IT benchmark research and advisory firm, recently created an IT skills and Certifications Pay Index Report. This research discovered that in recent years, the pay scale for employees without IT certifications has begun to drop. In some of the years where the rate seemed to be falling for non-certified IT staff, there seemed to be a noticeable trend of employers who showed that they were willing to pay far more for hands-on working experience than for their IT certified counterparts.


Certification Zero: Where to Start on Your Path to a Dream Certification

Any good epidemiologist, or zombie movie aficionado, can tell you that if you want to solve a seemingly overwhelming problem you need to start at the beginning.

With matters that spread throughout a population, “the beginning” is commonly referred to as “patient zero.” Getting high-level certifications can seem as complicated as saving the world from endless hungry hoards—especially when you start to explore what your peers and competitors have already accomplished—but all you need to do is break the pricess up into manageable steps, starting with the beginning.

What you need is your “certification zero”—a starting point to guide you down the path toward your ultimate goals.

Today, we’ll look at a step-by-step approach to build your skills and bring you in the direction of that coveted, career-changing certification.


Getting Started with the CISSP Certification

The Certified Information Systems Security Professional, or CISSP, is a great certification to take the long approach on. It requires five years of related work experience before you can even sit the test. There are, of course, 10 “domains,” or subject areas within the CISSP certification, so the experience required can cover a lot of different job roles.

Many people find the CISSP daunting as a starting point. In that case, your “certification zero” can be an associated certification (or two) that will build toward your ultimate goal.

CompTIA offers several certifications that you might want to start with on your path toward being an IT security guru. Network+ would be a smart choice, because five of the ten domains are directly related to IT Network Security, which makes the Network+ a great place to begin getting the skills, practice, and job experience you will need in order to eventually pass the CISSP exam as well.

The New World of IT Career Development: Not Your Father’s Career Path

A link to for IT career planningInformation Technology is no longer a neatly categorized and stable profession. In the past, website developers were comfortable with a knowledge of HTML, PHP, and JavaScript. And website developers, well, only developed.

That’s not the situation today. Website developers may need to understand or code in C, C++, Java, Python, Perl, and ASP.NET. Next year, it could other languages or tools. And developers are expected to understand web design concepts, and even create web designs themselves.

Once IT professional considered themselves versatile if they understood Oracle and MS SQl Server. Today, hiring managers look for IT staff familiar with MsSQL, Voldemort, HBase, and PostgreSQL. Next year, who knows?


Part I – Creating the Plan


Reliance on a single language, database, tool, or skill set is obsolete. No one knows what their organization will introduce or need next year, and no one knows when they will be forced to look for a new position. Rather than worry or resign oneself to fate, IT professionals need to develop their own career plans. The key to a career development plan is to position yourself as:

  • Marketable
  • Flexible
  • State of the art


Marketable means you are valuable both to your current organization and other companies or agencies in your community. It means you have the exact skills sets they need or skills sets that are obviously close to their specific needs and can be quickly developed.

Flexible implies that you have successfully performed with a variety of tools, languages, approaches, and devices. Flexible also means you are comfortable with learning.

State of the Art classifies you as one who is familiar with current technology.

Your own customized career development plan will help you reach those goals. Don’t wait for your manager or HR department to provide you with a path – it’s your responsibility. How do you start?