Does certificaion really help you find a job?
January 30, 2008 2:05 AM   Subscribe

Would getting certification help in finding a more rewarding job while I'm working on the major?

The tuition would be fairly cheap and the courses are all fairly easy compared to my current work load. At the moment though I'm just a computer science major for the time being at Columbus State University (CSU) which is accredited by The University System of Georgia Institution. I plan on finishing my degree and graduating within the next three years.

I've worked since I was 15 and have held about 6 jobs at different intervals through that time. These jobs have ranged from bread baker, cashier, janitorial, pizza delivery, and being a waiter. I'd really like to find a job with more respect and that could actually add to my repertoire of skills.

My dream job would be working with computers, diagnostics,and networking. I'd be just as happy managing a store (with all of my past leadership experiences BSA Eagle Scout and jROTC company commander) and just a passionate work ethic.

Should I take the cheap the education and just opt for "A+ and Network+ Certification" or become a "Certified Customer Service Specialist" from Columbus Technical College which is accredited by The Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools I'm mainly worried about just wasting time and money working towards something at a technical school and then having a bachelors of science from a major university.

Any other training programs or tips to help me get rid of this blue collar would be lovely.
posted by isopropyl to Education (5 answers total)
Don't do a program because the classes are easier. If you are doing it for that reason, so are some other people and it waters down the perception of that training when those other guys who might not be as motivated as you hit the job market and do less than dazzle their future employers. Call some employers you'd like to work for and ask them what they think of that training program you are considering. Do they hire the graduates? Do the graduates actually know what they are doing? Are employers generally happy with the people they've already hired from that training institute?

If you are at a university now, you have a wonderful free resource at your disposal called the Career Center or something similar. This office exists solely to make you more employable and help you find jobs and internships. They solicit local businesses for job postings and they are in touch with alumni for job and internship opportunities. See if they can help you get a paid internship. They can help you with your resume, they can help you develop interview skills and anticipate job application hurdles. Some schools will also maintain a file of recommendation letters from your professors so it is available at a moments notice to send to employers. If you have a good relationship with a particular professor, pick their brain about job prospects and opportunities and ask them for a letter of recommendation. The best way to get a good job is to develop a network, and you can do that with a good internship and by cultivating professors, the career center, and others who are connected with the current job market or market trends. Good luck!
posted by 45moore45 at 5:27 AM on January 30, 2008

Just finish your degree. No one cares that you were a break-baker as you completed your thesis or whatever. They will care about accomplishments, and work ethic. A good chunk of this is how you present your self in interviews.
posted by metaldark at 7:03 AM on January 30, 2008

If you are already taking a computer science major, it really shouldn't be that hard to get an entry level position for the career path you would like to take. What I did was take some college, grab a entry job, complete a few certificates A+ and Net+. Positions are now opening up for me due to a little experience in the field and willingness to pay for the certifications for my own self improvement. I would definitely go for a little variety in your education and try to actually learn the material and be able to apply your knowledge to everyday situations. I have seen people approaching their masters that have no real technical experience and could not troubleshoot a pc without google and helping hands.

About the actual testing for A+ and Net+ you dont HAVE to take a course to take the tests. You can self learn and just pay the testing fees 100-200 dollars a test at a Comptia testing facility. The only reason I took the week long course myself was the entry level job I had was willing to pay for it and pay me my usual pay during the class (sweet). They did not however pay for the tests. I was glad to pay for the test though after they spotted the money for a week long retreat.

Be prepared to answer hands on questions at interviews! Be confident in your skills. Be proud of your accomplishments. Absorb all you can even from interviews and I'm sure someone will give you a shot. Good luck!!

-Coming from a former waiter, cook, prison guard.
posted by Mardigan at 8:54 AM on January 30, 2008

I'm going to take a slightly different angle here and suggest you review your university's computer science curriculum and determine if what they're teaching is in line with what you want to do. Computer science is typically a major geared for people looking to become developers (programmer, whatever they call themselves these days). The kid of job you describe is an admin position, and despite what a developer might tell you, the skillsets are fairly incompatible. In the last 21 years of working in IT, I've only met two developers who were also competent admins, and only one admin who wrote good code.

I took a quick peek at the CSU page, and it looks like they offer a concentration in Systems, but the language used in the major description...well, it's English...but it doesn't really say anything. :) Again, you should really review the courses and see if they're talking about programming systems or maintaining them.

Now, certs. Unless you're applying for a job with a vendor's "partner" (like a reseller of MS products), certs are good for one thing only: getting you past the HR drones. Managers will give a list of certs they'd like to see (good managers say they're a "plus", bad ones require them) so the HR department has a checklist they can compare against your resume to see if they should even bother sending you on to the hiring manager. The hiring manager in almost every case will ignore them because they're so easy to get. Pretty much anyone can pass them with just a week's preparation. They are not valued at all by actual IT professionals. So, they have their uses, but if you haven't got the skills necessary to back them up, you most likely won't get past the first interview. My rule of thumb is this: if you need to study for a cert test, you shouldn't take it. All you're doing is lying on your resume if you do. And, as I said, "partner" companies will require you to have them because their vendor requires them in order to maintain their partner status. In those cases especially, you better have the skills to back them up, though.

Yes, I'm cranky and bitter. I've been in this industry for the last 20+ years and have seen a steady decline in the quality of people coming into it. You get nimrods who've never even seen a computer getting their certs from state-funded papermill schools while they're unemployed and they somehow manage to con their way into a job. By the time the manager figures out their level of incompetence, they've already got a year's "experience" to go along with that paper, so they actually look MORE valuable to the next schlub that gets stuck with them. You end up with people like the guy I interviewed last week who's got a list of certs a mile long, 10 years experience...and he couldn't tell me how to get to a "Run" dialog without using the Start button. It's a vicious little cycle, and I've made it my mission to try and break it if I can. :)
posted by Spoonman at 9:11 AM on January 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Spoonman- I can see your point about certs versus actual skills, kinda... I guess the difference I see is the actual person behind the certification. I took mine shortly after getting an IT job, because it was offered to people in our shop for free (minus testing fee). I did learn a few things and yes I bought a book to study with for the actual testing. I just think of people's certifications as "they understand the basics" of whatever they have covered. We have a older tech that has been with the same department for 20ish years and is very set in his ways. He actually was furious at the idea of someone sending him to "tech school" for so a fake paper... I still shut his machine down remotely from time to time and most of us get a good chuckle out of it.

This dude is a lot like you described yourself... cranky, bitter, worried about entry level type people, even when his own job is secure. He also feels and is very open with the fact he likes to break the newbies etc. Whatever. =)
posted by Mardigan at 1:35 PM on February 27, 2008

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