Don’t stay too long on the bottom rung.

A recent poster on one of the network’s careers forum was asking about methods he might pursue to get back into IT after some time away from the field. His resume included a six year stint on the same helpdesk and an MCP cert in Windows 2000 and XP. He lost his job when it was outsourced. After several months of searching for an IT job he found something else outside IT. To make matters more complicated, after six years, he really did not want to get back on the help desk and was looking for some sort of position involving greater responsibility.

As I have written elsewhere, certifications are a complement to experience. In this particular case, I think he would have been in a much better position if he had earned more certifications during his time on the help desk. Certifying and working can be a drain, especially with a young family – but if you want to get ahead, you need to stand out from your peers. A way to stand out, to show that you are interested in learning about new technologies (which is a core component of any IT professional’s life), is to get and to continue to get certified.

If you have been on the helpdesk for a couple of years, but haven’t picked up any certs since you landed your job, my advice is to knuckle down and start studying. You should have something else to show for your time in a position besides the time you’ve spent in that position. Something to show that you are enthusiastic about continuing to learn as this is part of what being an IT Pro is about. The payoff with this strategy is that with a certification you are giving yourself a better opportunity to land a job if your job is outsourced or you want to move elsewhere. Getting certifications along with your experience does not guarantee that things will always work out for you in your career, but it significantly increases the chances that they will.

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