5 Certification Resolutions You’ll Want to Keep

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Every year, as Father Time is pushed aside by the New Year baby, people in every field of IT tell themselves, “This year, I’ll do things better. I’ll look away from the screen every few minutes as recommended to rest my eyes. I’ll do the exercises on WebMD.com to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. I’ll spend less time on e-mail, forgo that third helping of turkey and dressing or sweet potato pie, and I’ll drink less eggnog.” That one’s especially important since it’s no easy feat getting eggnog after Christmas is over!

For certified IT professionals, the top resolution is probably some variation of, “I will absolutely research and begin to formulate a certification plan for my cert of choice by New Year’s.” Stop laughing. This year, you can make it happen. If you’re flexible and count the first quarter of 2005 as New Year’s, you’ve still got a shot at keeping one out of, let’s see here, 10 or 12 resolutions over the course of a year… Oh well! Not to worry, the following certification resolutions are both easy to keep and beneficial for the future.

Get Organized
Nothing waylays your resolution-keeping skills more than a mess. So goal number one for the New Year is uncover the desk. Yep, uncover means to throw out! Think feng shui with a serious attitude and no plants. Unless, of course, you like plants. Then go nuts. First, buy yourself some office supplies. Fun, hey? Nothing beats a trip to Office Depot to allay the winter blues. There’s all those bright, cheery colors and cool pens, and assorted gadgets (with and without electricity) to play with. Think of it as a post-Christmas present and buy folders, labels, stackable organizer trays and holders for everything that needs holding: pens, pencils, pocket protectors, whatever. Toss all old printouts, e-mail and anything not immediately recognizable as valuable. If you’re skittish about tossing papers because you feel you may (yeah right) actually need them later, use one of your new stackable trays as a catchall. If you have not delved back into the tray before the next calendar holiday, out it goes. Next, make files for your piles. If you’re thinking of pursuing more than one certification this year, an easy filing system could mean labeled folders and a few tabs to separate areas of interest around each certification. If you’re really jazzy, you’ll get some three-ring binders with the colored tabs.

Do Research
What could be simpler than sitting in front of your trusty computer rattling through various search engines for the latest and greatest info on the certification of your choice? Start with the certification vendor’s site, as it will have the most up-to-date and complete information available. Generally, it’s a good idea to go straight to the source, since they can and frequently do point you in the direction of study aides, prices, financing, test scheduling, etc. Just make sure you don’t go print crazy and clutter up your clean desk. Next, research what resources are available in your neighborhood or within a reasonable commuting distance. Of course, there are always online options, chat study groups, forums, etc. Compile all of the information you’ll need regarding test requirements, locations, etc. and organize it reasonably using your newly purchased office supplies.

Plan Your Certification Route
This falls into the research resolution, but throws a bit of subjectivity in with the facts. What will you need to get the certification? How long will it take from start to finish? Employ your skills of foresight here. How much money will it cost? What is your budget? How long will it take to pass the certification test? Be realistic yet optimistic and estimate, using test dates as a guideline. Find out what Web sites will provide the most comprehensive, trustworthy information and resources for your particular certification besides the product site. What support classes/boot camps are available? When can you attend? How do study and classes fit into your current work schedule? Do they fit at all? Be sure to include your free-lance obligations in time calculations.

Ask For Some Money
What better way to start off the New Year than a supplemental check from the boss to ease your certification pursuit fees? And, surprise surprise—the first few resolutions will come in handy here as the information you uncover will go over fabulously when you approach the big guy/gal with hat in hand. Many companies will agree to subsidize all or part of your testing costs if you can illustrate clearly what the benefit is for them. Benefits could include more efficient work habits, which increase productivity and efficiency, increased product knowledge or new and advanced skills that will enable you to accept additional responsibilities along with your fat new raise once your new certification’s in hand. Since you are asking for money, it might not be a bad idea to tell the boss that you have no plans to take the money, get certified and run off to a better job elsewhere.

Stick to a Study Schedule
Repeat, stick to the schedule! Create one in detail with days and times clearly blocked off. Be smart and make the times easy to stick to. For example, studying right before your favorite TV program is a better idea than during. Planning to study while you’re usually sleeping is probably not the best idea. Schedule times that you’ll have a viable shot at keeping. Include time for breaks, snacks, potty, etc., and specify what you’ll be studying when. For instance, Tuesdays and Thursdays, product manuals for an hour, flash cards for 30 minutes. Let your family or housemate(s) know about the schedule so you don’t have to deal with unnecessary interruptions. Note: “Baby, I need to study” is an excellent excuse to avoid going on undesirable outings. Just make sure your significant other doesn’t get smart on you, memorize the study schedule and plan expeditions to the ballet or quilting bee convention during your free periods. Next, post the schedule somewhere visible and impose penalties on yourself every time you miss a study session or skimp on the time established. Make the punishments something dismal like cleaning the bathroom or the stove or taking your aged mother-in-law (insert other wretched relatives here where appropriate) for a Sunday drive.

If you keep these five resolutions, your chances of passing your chosen certification exam are extremely high. If you miss one or two, don’t feel too bad. Resolutions are made to be broken, and at least you learned something. There’s always next year!

Kellye Whitney is associate editor for Certification Magazine. She can be reached at kellyew@certmag.com.


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