Will an IT Certification lead me to a job that I will enjoy?

USS Enterprise Flight Deck Certificate
Most people are not satisfied with their jobs and are looking to “move on”. Will getting you a Certification lead to a better job?

Job satisfaction can be based on how much you make, what kind of perks you have, work/life balance or even pride in what you do. Recently Lifehacker posted an article called “Will a Certification Really Help Me Get a Better Job?” where the conclusion was that Certifications could offer you useful knowledge that could one day help lead you to greater things. In order to bring balance to the Force on this topic, let’s propose a different question which is “Will an IT Certification lead me to a job that I will enjoy?” I’m focusing on IT Certs here rather than electrical engineering, architectural or a variety of other Certs as many fields require these Certs – end of. Now that we’ve cleared the air – let’s talk IT.

Here’s 5 minutes of the truth and I’ll jump right to it. This crap is invented by “boards” that spit out new questions on a yearly basis and fool you into taking their Certs and paying hundreds – if not – thousands of dollars to “pass” it. Then…after you pass it…they have the audacity to ask you to stay current and attend seminars, do online classes, attend their boring get-togethers and yada, yada, yada. I can prove it with the PMP as an example where they specifically TELL YOU as you study for it – that you should not answer the questions factually – as you would in the real world, but rather you should answer it based on the PMI’s standards. Right…..real-world here!

I understand, being in IT makes you feel kind of important. I’ve worked in Marketing & IT and I can tell you it’s a huge waste of time. Chances are if you need the Cert – it’s going to be one hell of a boring de-humanizing job. Yes…I said it – dehumanizing. You know, the ones that they expect you to be available for long migrations, sitting at a desk all the time, constantly answering your instant messaging app, giving you a phone!!!, weekend support and all those other things that are “on-call” based (you know…like a doctor, or a cop, or a firefighter – you know – serious life and death stuff).

You’ll struggle really hard to get it. You will eventually get it. Then you’ll take 2 paths:
Path #1: Contractor. Your life will be jumping around year after year. Unstable, unsteady, paycheck commission going to your recruiter, little-to-no benefits, no vacation but hey…you get overtime (who needs vacation?).

Path #2 – Career Lifer. “Where did those 25 years go?” Problem is that if you don’t jump ship from your company after 5 years – guess what – the world has changed big time and you’re still using Lotus Notes and are completely lost asking “What the Hell is Ruby on Rails?” Funniest thing is you probably will have gained a bunch of weight. Sorry buddy, 7 minute workouts with your fellow co-workers ain’t gonna do the job. If you’re sitting 8-10 hours a day – you gotta hustle a bit. And you skinny folks out there that have been skinny your whole life, guess what, you can still die of heart disease packing all those energy / sugary drinks into your system.

What Really Matters

Certificate of Awesomeness

Experience, kids. That’s the only thing that matters. I’ve worked with the top PMPs in my profession and guess what’s one thing most of them lacked – people skills. Hilarious right? They can drill the SDLC down your throat and verify their requirements utilizing a Requirements Matrix. Intuition – zero!

All that work and they still don’t make as much as an accountant, or a lawyer. It’s a sense of self-importance and boasting that offers nothing – really. What I think is most charming about the entire affair is that chances are if you’re in IT and you worked hard to get all those Certs – the decisions are made by Marketing, “the Business” or Execs who have no clue what you’re talking about, could care less about process and want it yesterday without providing more budget or time (so take your triple constraint and shove it).

To provide some background, not only have I worked in and out of fields that required Certs but I also taught at one of these technical colleges for years to help people get jobs. Single-moms, ex-cons, GED-ers, college drop-outs, graduate students, folks with professional careers looking for a new path – you name it. All walks of life. It was my job to convince these people that they needed these Certs to be hirable and if they were lucky it could land them jobs that paid $60K starting. It was my job to tell them that we had a high exit success rate with most of our students being hired shortly after graduation. Were the numbers accurate? Of course not. Was the salary figure real? Again – no. These schools are a business – just like these organizations that offer these Certs. The only way they’re staying in business is by “selling a product” – and that’s what these are – Products.

A Better Job

I understand that there’s this idea that getting a certification will qualify you or lead you to a “better job” – but what’s a “better job”? A higher paying job? If that’s the case then I disagree. You can start a business without a Cert and make more money working for yourself (if your idea is good enough) with it. Hell, you can work in various departments of major Fortune 500 companies without these Certs – from Operations, HR, Marketing, Accounting, Supply Chain – all the way to the CEO. For many of these companies – it doesn’t matter what your Certs are; what matters is your time in the company. 1st year as a Software Engineer in most companies will get you a Contractor’s ID. When the bottom drops – guess what – you’re out the door. Most companies that keep you onboard for 5+ years will hook up those bonuses, vacation time (priceless) and benefits (remember those?).

Truly, it’s all about experience and references. If you work with a recruiter (who most likely has no clue what those certs teach but has the “selling” ability to get you in the door and is kind enough to screw you out of 25% or more of your paycheck to pay for their haircuts) then buddy, you need a lesson in wisdom and you have got to wake up. Get out of your house, drop off your mighty-tomes-of-worthless-limited-timed-knowledge at a nearby homeless shelter to give those people a second chance. Next, use that fancy brain of yours to learn how to adapt to your current job and pick up new skills online, reading books or on the job to move on. Sure, attend networking events, get involved with sports or yoga or something else that helps people bond. Make “connections” because as we all know – it’s not what you know – it’s who you know. Sorry, sad truth…too bad, so sad. Hell, use that time to learn something special and meaningful to you – maybe learn the piano, teach your kid how to hit a ball or use that time for that special road-trip you always wanted to do and find yourself.

Before considering a Cert – y’all should pick up “The Happiness Trap” or “Being Happy”. Look it up, you’ll thank me in 5 years. Hopefully you’ll be in shape, have a weekend and will be enjoying your life.

photo by: JD Hancock