Certification means something: it means you’ve got verified skills and abilities and shows people you know what you’re doing. An IT certification shows your commitment to the industry and lets hiring managers know you’ve got what it takes to work in technology.
“A technology certification is the industry standard for, ‘Hey, I know how computers work,’” said Logan Murphy, a consultant who helps technology pros navigate the IT landscape. “Once you’ve got it, you can think of ways to get out and use your certification.”
Here are five ways to get more mileage out of your technology certification.
Gain Experience: You can’t get hired for on-the-job experience without having experience first, Murphy said, so sometimes you’ve got to get creative.
“Every town has a local computer repair shop, and sometimes they’ll let you sit in for free or maybe even pay you if you can help them do things,” Murphy said.
Look for a mom-and-pop shop or volunteer to answer IT questions through online programs, like AskIT, and use the experience to see where you like to work. Are you better at tech support, or do you prefer network architecture? Use your time to gain both skills and knowledge in the parts of the business you like best.
Advertise Your Services: Your certification buys you credibility, and gives you permission to tell the world you know about fixing computers. Post an advertisement for work — even if it makes you a little nervous.
“Fix your own computer, fix your friends’ and neighbors’ computers, throw an ad on Craigslist. Maybe you’ll get in over your head, but at least you’ll know when you’re there,” Murphy said. “It’s like learning to run before you walk.”
Updating your online resume counts as advertising, too. Make sure your LinkedIn, Monster and other profiles and online resumes are up to date with the full name and acronym of your certification. You never know who is looking for the skills you have.
“Put it on your resume, put it on your LinkedIn profile and let everyone know you have it,” Murphy said. “There are a lot of searches being done out there that aren’t going to be looking for a specific person, but a specific set of skills. Recruiters say things like ‘This person has A+ and CCNA, so we can look at bringing them in.’”
Apply with Abandon: Certification gives you the green light for job applications. See what you could do with your verified skills, and apply for related jobs posted by recruiting and consulting firms.
Even if you don’t have experience, Murphy noted that it’s okay to apply for entry-level positions that match the certification you earned.
“Apply for anything asking for level one desktop service or analysis,” Murphy said. “Sure, they’d like someone experienced, but that’s not how it works. Those are the jobs you should be applying for.”
Flex Your New Skills: Look for volunteer and internship opportunities where you can do hands-on work and make connections with people in technology.
“There are always going to be local nonprofits and school districts that are understaffed and need help,” Murphy said.
Most school districts do a full desktop refresh over the summer, for example. That’s a whole fleet of computers that need updating, and the job can be done with basic technology skills.
“That sometimes means bringing in family members or summer school students or anybody walking by on the sidewalk,” Murphy said.
Search LinkedIn for people who work in your local school district, and reach out to IT managers and admin staff. Ask if you can help, and be sure to mention your certification.
“It’ll help you build your resume experience,” Murphy said, “And to me, it seems like a really good way to build some relationships for when they need support staff in the future.”
Keep on Learning: Technology is an always-changing field and requires you to stay current with your skills and certifications. Keep up on continuing education programs to keep your certification current and stand out as someone qualified to work in technology.
You can supplement your certification and keep it current with a variety of continuing education activities, including earning another certification.
“Every one of them is a little bit different, and it all comes down to either doing work associated with that certification or giving that certification provider a little more money to remain certified,” Murphy said. “The important thing is that once you’ve got a certification, you’ll want to keep it current.”
Check out CompTIA CertMaster CE to renew CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+ and CompTIA Security+ in one quick step.
Michelle Lange is a writer and designer living in Chicago.