IT Career Development 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: 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?