The disconnect between employers and employees

* More about being real life certified

Last week I promised I would return to our lively discussion about certifications vs. real life work experience and whether certifications are losing their value in the market. I received responses from two IT pros who both happen to be celebrating 15 years in the industry this year.

David Nikithser, who works as a project manager, believes a disconnect between the employer’s expectation and the certified individual is causing certifications to be misunderstood in the industry. He writes: “The employers see letters after a name that [they] really can’t understand, Googles the certification and gets a rudimentary understanding of the knowledge level of the prospective employee, and makes a large percentage of the hiring decision based on that anecdotal knowledge.

“The techie, who sought the certification as a means of improving his station in this world, is happy to let the employer make that ill-informed decision, and both parties end up disappointed when neither gets the performance they expected.”

This results in the lowering of opinions about certifications. “The truth is, certifications aren’t more important than real-world experience or a college diploma – it is the combination of all of these that proves a technician understands his role in a business, has spent time studying both the technology-specific and industry-specific aspects of his job, and has some time under his belt utilizing those skills.”

Nikithser says it will take time for the perceptions to change. “Until we have higher-ups making technical hiring decisions who have as much technical savvy as they have business knowledge and real-world experience, they will continue to be less than impressed with certified professionals.” He believes that it will be another five to 10 years until the current crop of certified, college-trained, experienced technical professionals have influence over hiring decisions.

Wes Owsley is the other 15-year IT veteran who also wrote in. He says he is “only just starting to consider pursuing industry certifications” in a career that includes being a NASA in-country system administrator in Moscow, Russia for the NASA/MIR and International Space Station Program. He writes: “During that time, I also interfaced with the U.S. Embassy in Moscow's IT Personnel, the White House Communications Agency, and the Russian, Japanese, French, and European Space Agencies. Not once, did I ever meet anyone who was ‘certified’ in something. After my government work and in the consulting world, I began to run into ‘certified’ people.”

He adds: “Here is the thing, when your network is down and everything’s hitting the fan, no amount of certification study is going to prepare you for sticking it out and handling the situation. That takes the experience of having been in the situation before. Employers want someone who they can trust to be there and be relied on. Whether they are certified in something or not.”

This leads me to the age-old question – how do you get the work experience? I received another e-mail from a reader who sent me his resume. He has some certifications and has experience teaching IT and says he wants to break into the business world. But how? How do you go about getting work experience when you’re a little older than someone who can happily take an internship?

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