Stephen Covey advises us to put “First Things First”
But, when it comes to our careers or jobs figuring that out or prioritizing the most important things proves to be a surprising challenge for many IT Workers!
For example, while some believe that certifications are required for getting a job, others put more value on hands-on skills and experience!
So, the question is, which comes first in your career, “your hands-on skills & experience” or “your certifications”?
What Comes First In Your Career, Certification Or Skills & Handson Experience?
Is Hands-On Experience Required Before Certifications?
Nowadays, more certification providers are requiring lots of hands on experience (3, 4 , 5 or more years) before you are allowed to sit for their certification exams.
They’re realizing that there isn’t much value in pursuing certifications until you’ve actually worked in an industry for a number of years or gained valuable hands-on job experience.
In addition, hiring managers realize that job seekers are abusing the certification process, by cramming or cheating their way through the certification exams!
For example, if you are taking a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) exam, there are websites where you can get real exam questions for the sole purpose of cramming or cheating your way towards the MCP certification.
The challenge that IT hiring managers are facing is that job candidates who get certified for the sole purpose of getting a job may not be able to perform on the job!
The prevailing wisdom now is, you cannot perform on the job, despite your certifications, if you lack practical skills or hands-on job experience!
So, to avoid hiring certified incompetent professionals, IT managers are looking to hire or retain professionals who have hands-on experience, practical skills and in-depth industry knowledge.
In addition, certification providers are asking for a number of years of verifiable hands on experience and real-world, practical skills before you are allowed to sit for a certification exam.
For example, the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification requires 3 to 5 years of verifiable hands-on, real world project management experience.
Are Certifications A Replacement For Hands-On Experience Or Practical Skills?
The goal of any certification program is not to get you into a job or to shortcut the requirement for hands-on experience but to add more value to your career.
That is why in the Information Technology (IT) Industry, certifications are not substituted for hands-on experience or real-world career based skills.
You develop practical skills by performing a task repetitively. For example, you may read about Use Cases from a book or study and pass a Use Case certification, but unless you have used Use Cases in solving a business analysis problem, you really don’t have Use Case skills.
Also, you may learn about database design from reading a book but unless you have actually modeled or designed a relational database several times, you really can’t add it to your resume or claim that you have relational database design skills.
So, the goal of IT certification programs is not to provide you with practical skills or the hands-on experience required by hiring managers but to more value to your professional career or increase your knowledge / understanding of the profession after you’ve gained strong hands-on experience or practical skills!
IT Managers Hire And Retain For Hands-On Experience, Practical Skills and In-Depth Knowledge
The IT industry works differently from other professional careers.
For example, in the medical and legal careers, you need to have a professional medical or law degree before you are allowed to practice.
The Information Technology (IT) Industry (business analysis, software development, project management, etc.) is remarkably different because you are not required to have a professional degree or certification to get a job!
On the other hand, their are no professional certification requirements in the IT Industry.
The only real requirement is an expectation that you have hands-on experience, practical skills and in-depth knowledge before you are hired or perform on your job to stay hired!
So, keep in mind that IT managers are hiring for the practical skills and hands-on experience on your resume and your performance on the job after you are hired!
Your ability to “get hired” or succeed in a business analysis, data analysis, SQL / database, software development or project management career, is driven more by your skills, experience and on-the-job performance than anything else …
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