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Certification Mistakes You Don't Have To Make, continued

Error: Choosing A Certification Because It's "Hot"
When Novell first came out with the CNE certification, no one knew what it was. But that quickly flipped around and now you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone in the computer field who hasn't heard of it. Because it was the first vendor-specific certification, and for a while the only vendor-sponsored certification, it was the one everyone wanted. Forums and lunchrooms echoed (and still do, to a lesser extent) with conversations that went something like this:

"I want to get a CNE because that will make me marketable."
"Oh yeah, I've heard of that. Are you a software developer?"
"You administer a LAN then?"
"Well, no."
"Then what do you want a CNE for?"
"Because it's hot! People with CNEs get more money, more respect, and better jobs!"

At this point, a strident logic alarm should start sounding: Error! Error! Error! Because there's a leap in logic here that this CNE wannabe and others like her keep missing. Yes, a CNE was a hot ticket (and still can be), but not in and of itself. The value comes when the CNE caps existing professional experience in the same area. If a certification is totally unrelated to the job you already do or the nature of the experience you have, and isn't at the very least related to an area you want to move in to, it's not going to do a whole lot for you.

Choosing a certification strictly because you hear it's a ticket to a bigger paycheck is a huge mistake. Even if you somehow manage to obtain that top guru designation that you've heard lets you write your own ticket,, the certification alone doesn't guarantee that you'll get the job to go with it. Employers look at the total picture, and certification is just one (potentially very important) part of it.

Certifications currently enjoying "hot ticket" status include Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) and Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE). The Novell fire has cooled, for the moment, although it certainly hasn't gone out. Plenty of other certifications vie for runner-up spots in this status competition.

That said, you should certainly investigate any certification that catches your eye. Maybe a CCIE or MCSE is a good choice for you, but in making that decision, don't depend solely on where the certification ranks in the marketplace. Also consider what you already have in your career arsenal that it will complement.

Today, computer professionals have a broader array of certifications to choose from than they did just five to ten years ago. That means there's probably a close match to what you want to accomplish; all you have to do is uncover it. And because this is a marketplace and not a horse race, there can be more than one winner.

But Do You Like It?
You should really only work in a field that interests you. Some are pursuing the MCSE only because of the potential salary they can achieve, not because of any particular interest or aptitude. This is a professional certification, which means ongoing training, development and certifications are required; you should really only enter this field if you feel it is your calling.
Eric Charbonneau, MCSE + Internet

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