Posted by: Ed Tittel
adult education, advanced degrees, certification ladder, college degrees, continuing education, IT career planning, IT careers, IT certification, job experience, job seeking skills, soft skills
I was just musing on the state of the current job market, where it’s not unfair to say that there are a lot more people chasing jobs than there are jobs chasing people. Once again, I find myself pondering the “Big Three’ ingredients that all employers consider when selecting among multiple applicants for any IT position, as must surely be the case with so many IT professionals pursuing (or trying to remain in) a shrinking pool of jobs:
- Education: In today’s market a bachelor’s is no longer a “nice-to-have” credential. As a gifted but undegreed colleague and occasional co-worker of mine has learned several times to his loss in the last 6 months, a degree of some kind is often required just to be considered for any kind of IT position nowadays. Add points for an MA, more points for an MBA, Masters in Science and Engineering, and still more for any kind of PhD. Going back to school, and adding degrees nearly always results in a payoff, says everybody from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics to compensation specialists like David Foote of Foote and Associates.
- Technical qualifications/Certifications: Though not all technical qualifications result in certification, certs are probably the best-recognized example of this type of “tangible technical training and achievement” category. But in this case, perceived (high) value and distinctness are also important. An MCP, CCNA, any CompTIA cert, and other entry level credentials have become must-have checkbox items for many IT positions. It’s the harder-to-earn and scarcer credentials like CCIE, CISSP, and SAP certs that open eyes–and doors to new positions. Increasingly this means earning entry level certs aggressively, and treating them like the stepping stones they’ve become, then stepping up to higher rungs in cert ladders to earn recognition, increased opportunities, and better pay.
- Experience: This is still the king of the IT job qualification hill. Direct, documented, and substantial experience with the tools and technologies that companies use, need, or wish to invest in still trumps the other two items when employers look for differentiation among otherwise similar candidates.
But the problem with a buyer’s market is that an abundance of candidates to choose from means that employers can become extremely selective about whom they’ll bring on board to fill open positions. Hence my point for this blog (and its title): given the situation, employers want real stars who’ve got depth in all three areas. That means advanced degrees, serious certifications, and lots of direct relevant experience are what it takes to get through the door and on board these days. That means we all have to be looking for ways to address these concerns and to convince prospective employers we’ve got the chops to do the job, whether or not we can claim to max out in all three categories!