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Author  Adam McCullough – Principal ITSM Architect

July 6, 2022 |

 8 min read

  • Blog
  • ITIL

Learning is a lifelong process and in a fast-progressing digital age, particularly post-pandemic, we’re now presented with more agile ways of working.

Technology is changing so frequently and so often, and we now have more opportunities than ever before to learn and to grow. With the expansion of choice, it’s important to decide what is important to you and what will have the greatest impact on your career.

Selecting the right courses and certifications

Personally, I do online search at least twice a year to assess the current, top certifications based on demand and salary, and to see what’s coming up. I recommend others do this and to also look at job sites to see if positions of interest specify certifications. These usually include cyber security certifications while ITIL is always on the list along with Scrum Master and Product Owner.

It’s important to prioritize longevity and invest in the right certifications that will still be relevant to your career in the future. Think strategically about where you want your career to go and then you can narrow down certifications based on this.

Getting the specialist balance right

Generalists thrive in a specialized world, and it can be easy to fall down the rabbit hole of different training and certifications (while losing your sense of direction along the way).

I think that when it comes to experience, a good mix of depth and breadth for longevity is completely sensible, unless you are passionate about, and committed to, a specific area (like with myself and ITIL).

If, for instance, you focus only on getting certified in one form of technology and becoming the de facto expert (without obtaining other skills) the rug can get pulled out from underneath of you. Think of being a Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) administrator. At one time, having those skills were highly sought after – now, not so much, like being invested in largely outdated technology such as portable DVD players or similar hardware.

Technology moves rapidly and will be good to know where trends are heading. As a parallel example, Beanie babies were once so highly sought after that many customers were willing to spend lots of money on them; now you can buy them on eBay for a significant markdown (which I advise against).

Adding new certifications to your knowledge bank

In January each year I restart my career development plan and decide what I want to achieve in the next 1-5 years, including the skills and certifications I would like to acquire. I schedule them in, and this keeps me motivated. Planning early affords the time to liaise with, and get input from, mentors and management where help with funding may be needed.

I advise my mentees to think about agile certifications and to do something for their future careers that they will thank themselves for. ITIL for IT service management and PRINCE2 for project management, for example, can be pivotal for IT professionals, who will usually be focused on “tech, tech, tech”.

But, learning in general is always encouraged and whatever it is, it will support all future learning you undertake and give you a stronger foundation for your long-term career.

Maximising the benefits of newly certified knowledge

Upskilling and certifications have been life-changing for me. They can open doors you weren’t previously aware of. I believe any new certification is a milestone event and should be celebrated, for example by posting on social media channels, so others can acknowledge and celebrate your success with you; you never know what opportunities this might lead to.

Then it’s time to think practically about how your newly acquired skills can be applied in your current job. I encourage my mentees to get the support of their leadership when applying new certifications to current projects or stretch assignments.

I also highly recommend mentoring relationships and believe that one of the best ways to retain knowledge is by passing it on to others.

Learning really is a lifelong journey. You must learn, unlearn, and relearn constantly and you need the right mindset to be able to do this. You’re never done learning because it’s a task that can never be completed.