I’m Certified…Now What?
BackBy Lynn Lawton —1 | 2 |
A marathon runner often trains for years to build the skills and endurance necessary to make it to the finish line.
Once he’s achieved his goal, caught his breath, had some water and treated sore muscles, it’s time for him to focus on his next steps. How will he make the most of his accomplishment? Should he start right back up training for another event or use the skills learned to pursue new activities?
Preparing for and attaining an advanced professional certification is the mental equivalent of training for a marathon. They may not be logging miles on a jogging path, but IT professionals pursuing certifications certainly put in hours of mental training when learning the information, understanding the guidelines for optimal test-taking performance and applying their expertise at work each day.
However, similar to the marathon runner, once an IT professional achieves his goal, he is faced with the question: “Now what?”
Share the News
Many certifying organizations provide newly credentialed individuals with template news releases or similar announcements they can send to local magazine and newspaper reporters; the editors of their organizations’ internal newsletters, intranets and alumni newsletters; and editors of other publications.
Also, all superiors and department leaders should be aware when employees achieve a new designation. Not only can a certification clarify and validate areas of expertise, but it can lead to increased responsibility and leadership opportunities.
In addition, it’s important for an organization to know how many credentialed individuals it employs, because having a heavily certified workforce could bring in more business. For example, IT auditors at many auditing firms are expected to hold the CISA certification, and clients often ask how many CISAs the firm has as part of their preproposal qualification questions. The same applies for other designations such as CompTIA Security+, Certified Systems Professional (CSP), Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) and Project Management Professional (PMP).
Further, IT professionals should make sure to update their profiles on sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn and, if appropriate, alert other members of groups to which they belong. In addition, they should remember to update business cards (print and electronic), e-mail signatures, resumes and profiles on career-related Web sites.
Put It to Use
Earning a certification is not the end of a process, but rather the exciting beginning of an upward path. Challenge the status quo and improve personal contributions, as well as those of the company by coaching colleagues in your own and other departments. It will not only improve their productivity but also enhance your leadership and management skills.
Knowledge gained from pursuing a certification also can be used on a daily basis in the workplace.
“In my audit reports, I usually refer to the knowledge and standards that were required for me to gain my designation,” said George Ataya, CISA, CISM, CGEIT, CISSP, managing partner of ICT Control SA-NV in Brussels, Belgium. “This indicates a level of professionalism of my activity and shows my audience that I really use the rich body of knowledge that I have gained. I also mention my designations in a subtle way so my audience understands that my activity is inspired by structured, not improvised, knowledge.”
Expand Your Network
In addition to updating social media profiles, many certification holders join certification-specific groups on sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook. Ask questions about how others have benefited from attaining this certification, and actively participate in ensuing conversations. This not only provides additional ideas about how to make the most of a certification, but also solidly links your name with your certification.
Attend chapter and national or international events, or — better yet — volunteer as a speaker at these events and share experiences. Many organizations offer continuing professional education (CPE) hours for delivering presentations. In addition to making a positive contribution to the profession, this builds confidence and enhances your reputation among peers.
“After you attend a conference, you build an incredible web of other professionals who will help you at any time,” said Evelyn Susana Anton, CISA, CISM, an independent security consultant in Venezuela. My success is mainly due to my certifications. [For example], I’m helping a large university improve IT physical and logical security using COBIT and Val IT, two valuable international frameworks that I had increased knowledge of because of my certifications.
“[And] before my current position, I worked for 19 years for UTE, the national electricity company in Uruguay,” Anton continued. “I was the IT security manager. While certification was not required, it was extremely helpful in my position. I created and developed the IT security department, and I gained expertise by networking with other members of the professional association that offers certifications and by attending its international conferences.”
Display the Accomplishment
If you have dedicated office space, frame the certificate received from the certifying body and hang it in a prominent position on the office wall. Or find a noticeable place on a credenza or shelf. Some certifying organizations provide pins, and you definitely should wear yours, especially in the workplace and when attending workshops, conferences and training events — both internally and outside the office. After all, you may run into a potential new employer while walking down a hallway or during a meeting, and the pin could start a discussion about your accomplishment.
Consider a Job Search or Raise Request
Studies by independent research firm Foote Partners LLC show that attaining one or more certifications can result in a significant pay premium. Many employers place a high value on well-respected certification programs and are willing to reward employees with bonus pay or salary increases, even as the economic recession continues to exert pressure.
In its “2009 IT Skills and Certifications Pay Index” report, which assessed the pay premiums for 371 skills and certifications, Foote Partners found that while 60 skills and certifications declined in value, 46 increased in value.
Newly certified professionals should check with their employers to see if their accomplishments merit a raise or other compensation. If not, and if you’re in the market for a new position, consider searching by certification on a job-search Web site.
“When I earned the CISA certification, my company gave me access to more complex audit assignments,” said Ataya, who achieved his first certification in 1992 and his most recent in 2008. “After receiving the CISM and CISSP designations, I could develop new lines of services that I offered to clients.
“In addition, we have founded the chamber of IT Expert Witnesses, and to belong to this organization, which assists the Belgian legal system, professionals should have a Certified Internal Auditor (CIA), Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) or Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification,” he said.
Attaining a certification also helped elevate the career of Richard Brisebois, B. COMM, CGA, CISA.
“I had been a financial auditor and generalist performance auditor for more than 20 years when I decided to seek the CISA certification,” Brisebois said. “Even though I always had a keen interest for IT — especially for electronic sampling and data analysis — this certification changed the way I was perceived inside and outside the office. I am convinced that my passion for IT audit and the credibility of the certification helped me get promoted to audit principal leading the IT performance audit practice at the Office of the Auditor General of Canada.”1 | 2 |