5 Steps to Certified Success
Certification is your opportunity to proactively move your IT career forward. The groundwork includes thoroughly researching your desired career path and specialization, identifying the certification requirements, learning the job functions, practicing these functions and preparing for test day. These steps will not only help you achieve a higher score and pass the exam, but if continually refreshed, guarantee you a long and robust IT career.
Step 1: Choosing a Career Path
Some people find that choosing a career direction can be an arduous task. It doesn’t have to be. Explore your interests and skills and decide which subjects you find the most fascinating. Research IT trends and the fields available to you that have the best opportunity for growth and advancement. By keeping in mind what you want and what IT hiring managers are looking for, you will be better equipped to meet their demands by certifying your skill set.
Some questions to ask yourself include: What successes have I appreciated most so far in my career? What part of my skill set played a consistent role in achieving these goals? In what areas do I need further development? For which of my skills and talents have I received the most positive feedback? What do I hope to achieve in the next three years? Five years? Ten years? What opportunities have I missed because I lacked the required skills? The goal of this inner exploration is to identify a career that matches your skills, accomplishments and goals with the most appropriate career opportunities.
Research is critical to understanding the IT careers you want to pursue. Whether interested in a position in technical support, networking, programming or Web technology, a good starting place is the Occupational Outlook Handbook, available at www.bls.gov/oco/home.htm. The handbook includes an overview of various careers or specializations, average salaries and education requirements.
Another wonderful resource can be found at www.course.com. The special “Day in the Life” section includes job descriptions and interviews with experts in a variety of IT fields describing what a typical day in their shoes is like. This information can help you decide if you would enjoy performing that type of work every day. The Delmar Career Guidance Center also provides resources and career guidance tools for IT career planning. Visit www.delmarlearning.com/resources/resources_index.asp to browse this helpful planning solution.
Attending industry conferences is another great way to learn more about your intended career path. These networking opportunities put you face to face with IT professionals and peers who can share their work experiences and give you pointers on yours.
An informed decision is the key to making the right choice in setting career goals and gaining a lucrative IT career. Learning to manage these decisions is a worthwhile and essential skill no matter where your IT career takes you.
If done honestly and thoroughly, this self-assessment will lead to the right IT track for you. And exploring your options to find the best solution will give you more confidence in your job target decision. The hardest part of the preparation process is behind you once you commit to your choice.
A great place to identify the requirements for your ideal job is www.findlearnmeasure.com. This resource offers information on certification paths and where to start. The site also has a special frequently-asked-question section for IT professionals, promotional discounts and industry-related feature articles on subjects such as changing IT career directions, the benefits of certification and resume tips. And registering as a member entitles you to between 25 and 50 percent discounts off of learning materials, the next step in preparing for certification.
Step 2: Selecting Learning Materials
When choosing the right learning solution for you, there are some important factors to consider. Your skill and motivation level, financial constraints and available study time are each important pieces in determining the training model that is right for you. One way to decide how much money and time you need to invest in your learning program is to take a pre-assessment exam to determine your current skill level and your skills gap (the difference between the skills you have and the skills you need).
Categorize the results from your pre-assessment exam into material that you need to spend more time learning and material that you only need to review. (Some experts recommend that you study the material you do not know that well up until four nights before the exam. This gives you three nights to review everything and the night before the exam to do nothing but relax.)
With the wealth of material available in several different formats, finding programs of study will not be a chore. There is a wide variety of learning options available to teach you what you need to know to become certified, including self-study (books and online learning) or classroom training. Identifying the learning program that best matches your needs and planning, implementing and committing to a study action plan virtually guarantees a positive payoff when it comes time for the examination.
If after the pre-assessment exam you believe you need a thorough and controlled learning program, you do have options. You could investigate individual tutoring and formal classroom training. With a tutor, you work one-on-one with a teacher or professional familiar with your chosen career track. Formal classroom training normally includes a group of students with a fixed program of study and training hours.
Another instructor-led option is “boot camp.” These are concentrated and accelerated learning programs available in more than 50 subjects. One company that provides this intense training, Wave, uses a blended-learning-solution approach based on four key points:
- Certification exams are becoming increasingly difficult in order to certify only the people with real skills.
- Cramming the study material is not an effective way to learn or prepare you for the actual job,
- Self-study alone is not normally enough, and IT professionals do not have much time to go to formal classes.
- A blend of self-paced learning and classroom learning increases the student’s chance for a successful transfer of skills.
In the boot camp, you receive a variety of learning materials, products, mentoring and consulting services to help you certify fast, guaranteed. More than 95 percent of Wave boot camp students pass their exam on the first attempt. The few that do not pass the first time immediately receive additional support and training to retake the exam free of charge.
“The CCNA boot camp was an extraordinary experience for me. I particularly enjoyed the trainer’s professionalism, knowledge and the positive atmosphere in the classroom. Without the boot camp, I wouldn’t have had the courage to earn my certification, even though I have been in the IT field for a long time,” said Phillip Tai, Fujitsu Network Communication.
If you have selected the self-study option, including books, software, online resources or a combination of two or more of these tools, find an area or room where you will not have any distractions. Your study materials need to be your only focus. Organize your learning materials so that all the information is in these two categories: need to learn and need only to review.
Look at the time available for you to study. Most experts recommend you reserve 45- to 60-minute study periods, including planned breaks. Set this time aside on a regular b