When Certification Fails to Deliver Career Transformation

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Dear CertMag: I recently took a class that promised to get me my MCSE, with tutors, videos and online courses. They advertised that I would get a job without any experience. I still don’t have a job and haven’t been able to get my money back because I took the courses. Am I the only one?

Ken Wagner responds:
First of all, the MCSE is aimed at IT professionals who have one to two years of experience in designing, installing, configuring and troubleshooting network systems and is not an entry-level qualification or a substitute for experience.

Second of all, no, you are not the only one. Just do a search online or check out certification forums; there are many threads stating: “This company promised this,” “This company promised that.” However, when it boils down to it, there is always something in the small print of the agreement or contract that a person signs to say that if a certain condition isn’t met (such as if the exams aren’t passed in a set time period, if the person doesn’t accept a job 200 miles away, or if the person is not actively looking for a job) then the person breaks the terms and conditions of the agreement or contract and in turn moves the responsibilities of job hunting away from the training company. If it was really that simple to do a course and be guaranteed a job straight after, everyone would be doing that.

I’m not a lawyer, so I will not be able to delve into the nitty-gritty of the legal system of any country. However, if you feel like the contract or agreement was broken by the training company (please read the contract first) or that you were fraudulently sold the course, then I would recommend two things:

1.    Contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau, or an equivalent legal assistance program in your country, to find out where you stand legally.

2.    Write a formal letter to the training company in question, explaining the situation you find yourself in, to find out what they’re willing to do on your behalf and if alternative arrangements can be made.

One last thing that I add is that while there are still jobs out there, because of this recession it is a lot harder to get your foot in the door, especially if your competition is experienced and qualified IT professionals who have lost their jobs.

Wayne Anderson responds:
As an experienced Microsoft consultant holding three MCSEs as well as numerous MCITP credentials based on the technologies that I work with and now teach, I can tell you that in my experience no single legal (read: non-brain dump) product or course has been singularly responsible for my passing a single exam. To prepare for an exam, whether by Microsoft or anyone else, offered training complements your experience with the product and may not be sufficient standing on its own.

Further, once you earn the credential, if you present yourself to have a given credential but a hiring manager sees no evidence that you have ever worked with the underlying technology, should that hiring manager really make the business decision to choose you when there may be other candidates with experience? Probably not. Thus, even the best purveyors of successful experience-based training cannot guarantee a job; they can only indicate to you that having a given credential could make you more attractive or could place you in a position to be in demand. Some training vendors may provide application or placement assistance, depending on the length and expense of the provided training.

Unfortunately, you are not alone, snared by the idea of a steady income without experience. Such offers are generally too good to be true. Work to build yourself into an asset a company would like to hire, shoring up your credentials with experience by volunteering and internships if you have the opportunity. The initial income will probably be lower than your expectations going into this training program; however, the experience that you gain should assist in developing you into a more suitable candidate to complement an employer’s business needs.

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Wayne Anderson


Wayne Anderson (@NoCo_Architect) is a Service Management Architect with Avanade, a company that helps customers realize results in a digital world through business technology solutions and managed services that combine insight, innovation and expertise focused on Microsoft® technologies. He holds the Certified IT Architect – Professional credential from IASA and has completed more than 30 Microsoft certifications in his career alongside credentials from CompTIA and other industry vendors.

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