Why Keep Those Certifications Current?

Recently, on the MCSETutor.com bulletin board , I found an interesting discussion thread about the certification and recertification process. The topic that launched the discussion— when to stop certifying—drew many responses about when the benefits of seeking additional certifications run out. In response, here are several reasons to keep your certifications current:

  • Employers like degrees and certifications. One of the best ways to insulate yourself from losing a job you like is to keep your certifications current. Employers who need to reduce headcounts must determine which employees they can't live without. If your employer perceives you as someone who adds value to the team and who can take things to the next level—attributes that current certifications can help demonstrate—you'll survive any cuts.
  • Your employment status will change. According to the Department of Labor, the average US worker holds nine different jobs in the short period between the ages of 18 and 34. Recently, corporate mergers and acquisitions and an economic slowdown have resulted in layoffs for companies large and small, and IT departments haven't been spared. Change is inevitable, and it's important that you keep your certification status current. Complacency is a dangerous game, given today's volatile employment picture. The certifications that helped you land your job can help you keep it—if those certifications are current.
  • Certification and training can give you good exposure. If you become the "go-to" person for new technology research and implementation, you can gain positive visibility with upper
  • management—which can help you survive layoffs and even put you in a good position for advancement.

  • Don't look back—they're gaining on you. Freeway driving and certification are similar: If you slam on the brakes, someone will run over you. Remember, many people are working hard and becoming certified, and they're gaining on you. Those people are applying for jobs at your company. In fact, they might already be working in your IT department, hoping and planning to take your place.
  • It's hard to start over. Imagine if you find yourself suddenly and unexpectedly thrust back into the job market. If your certifications have lapsed, how difficult would it be for you to spend time studying when you know that you should be out looking for work? Could you justify spending the money for tests and study materials? Could you stand the pressure of renewing those certifications quickly while searching for a job? Anyone who has taken a break from college can tell you how difficult it is to regain your focus and momentum. If you take an extended break from the certification process, you'll need to work hard to get back up to speed.
  • Current certifications can help your resume find its way to the top of the pile. Human Resources staff sometimes see hundreds of applicants for one position, and the first page of your resume is often all they read. The information you place on that first page— including your certifications—often determines whether you make it to the next round.
  • Inch by inch, it's a cinch; yard by yard, it's hard. Once you're in the study and certification mode, keeping your certifications current is relatively painless. Imagine the difficulty that a Windows NT 3.51 MCSE would have trying to jump to Windows 2000 certification. Schedule the certification tests you want to pursue. Spread out your exam dates, study at a comfortable but consistent pace, and enjoy the material instead of cramming it in. You'll probably see your retention, your pass rate, and your enjoyment increase.
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