Career / Career Progression

Using Certifications to Elevate Your IT Career

by Karin Klinger
Using Certifications to Elevate Your IT Career picture: A
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Published on June 21, 2016

There may be no faster way to advance your IT career than earning industry certifications. But don't fall into the trap of thinking that certifications are easy!

CBT Nuggets trainer Jeremy Cioara believes certifications are the best way to advance your career. "Certifications are a focused, immersive, and intensive dive into a specific technology," Jeremy said. "The more motivated you are, the more certifications can work for you."

IT certifications allow you to explore new technologies, discover new professional challenges, and open new job opportunities. Still, certifications ultimately exist to make you more effective and efficient in your work, which requires effort and commitment.

Trainer Steve Caseley agrees that certifications are essential in elevating your career, "Certifications provide solid, verifiable proof that you know your stuff!"

Trainer Simona Millham also commented, "[Certifications] differ from real-world experience, but they give potential employers a kind of benchmark by which to judge your skills." She said, "IT certification provides a structured way to increase your skills, complete with recognition of your achievement. What's not to love?!"

Certifications are often the baseline against which all job applicants are measured. Human Resources team members will glance at your resume, looking to make sure you have a particular certification (or two, or three, or ten!). If you do, you just made the first cut. If you don't, your application materials are in the recycling bin.

Use Certifications On the Job Hunt

If you're pursuing new career opportunities, highlighting your certifications is always a sound strategy. Trainer Michael Watkins feels that IT certifications were the starting point for his career. "IT certifications allow an IT professional to demonstrate both their knowledge and dedication to their profession."

Michael said, "Oftentimes, knowledge and dedication will help a candidate stand out from other applicants when seeking a new job or differentiate themselves from their peers when competing for a promotion."

Consider using these practical, certification-related tips to take your career to the next level:

Craft your resume and cover letter well!

Your cover letter should be specific to the needs of the job for which you are applying, including how your certifications meet the organization's needs. Your certifications must be listed and made easy to find for those reviewing your materials.

Let your certifications do some of the talking!

Your interviewer(s) have your resume, so there's no need to run through the long list of certifications you've earned. Trust that your interviewer(s) did their homework and know what you've accomplished. Use your interview time for your interview to discuss how your certifications have equipped you for this job. Talk about how your skills and abilities fit the organization well.

Connect your certifications to real-world experiences!

Earning a certification is impressive. But achieving certification and meaningfully applying the knowledge and skills that came out of that certification is even better! Be prepared to give examples of how your training paid off in production environments, on the network, etc.

Trainer Michael Watkins tends to agree. "It's not enough for [a candidate] to simply say they have a certification. The candidate must link that [certification] to why they will be successful in the role for which they are applying."

Consider your certifications the starting point!

Most vendors require you to renew your certifications every 2-3 years for good reason. Technology changes fast! Be sure to discuss with your interviewer(s) how you plan to continue learning and demonstrate your commitment to staying ahead of technological advances.

Diversify your learning!

IT certifications are effective because they demonstrate mastery of specific technology, devices, services, etc. To be the best candidate possible, work to diversify your certifications by earning credentials from a variety of vendors and on a variety of topics.

Be prepared for the "gotcha" questions!

It's critical that you be prepared to answer technical questions. Your interviewer(s) will likely have a few (or many!) questions designed to put you off balance. "The interview is about your ability to think fast on your feet," Jeremy said. "The interview will ask pointed questions that only someone with your certification(s) would be able to answer."

Take advantage of the great resources available to help you identify what kinds of technical questions might come up in your interview (i.e.,,, and

Practice makes perfect!

It might seem a little childish, but take the time to practice your interview! Ask a colleague to be your interviewer and practice how you want to frame your experience, certifications, etc. Think of it like taking practice exams before your certification exams. The better you practice, the more relaxed you will be for the real thing!


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