| career | career progression - Josh Burnett
5 Reasons Why Now is a Great Time to Train
Unless you've been rafting in the Grand Canyon for a month, you've certainly been inundated with news about COVID-19, more commonly referred to as coronavirus. Many of us are currently in social isolation, staying home from the office, school, and leisure activities — whether we want to or not.
While it's easy to focus on the negatives right now, it's important to recognize the opportunities this situation affords us as well. For example, for IT pros, this may be a perfect time to hunker down, get online, and study for their next IT certification.
1. You May Have More Down Time
California has already issued a stay-at-home mandate for all residents — and other states could soon follow. Depending on how the covid-19 pandemic progresses, most people can expect to be hunkered down at home until the end of April — at the very least. That would provide you, at the time of this writing, nearly a month and half to really commit to training.
This is plenty of time to prepare for virtually any certification. Most online training courses, like those offered by CBT Nuggets, can be completed in 24 hours or less, making them easy to spread out over the next four weeks or so. Studying for a couple of hours per day allows you plenty of leisure time, while providing the mental and emotional boost you get from a sense of accomplishment.
While having lots of free time can be enjoyable, it can also lead to feelings of cabin fever if you don't implement some structure in your day. For the first few days, it isn't an issue. After that, it can get annoying, and within a few weeks, it can be downright detrimental to your mental health. This an extreme example but think Jack Torrance in The Shining.
For most people, earning an IT certification requires sticking to a study plan. Not only do they help you stay focused and on track, they break training into manageable chunks. This allows you to set a schedule and create a routine, which is important to have during chaotic times like now. Build your own study plan here.
2. You Can Train Remotely
While virtually all schools, colleges, and universities across the United States are temporarily closed, staying for an IT certification can be done exclusively online. You don't have to risk exposing yourself to a potentially deadly virus or an obnoxious neighbor who wants to tell you that we're all going to die, or that everything the government and media are telling you is a hoax.
Although textbooks and study guides have their advantages, a well-rounded educational approach can benefit learners. Generally speaking, using multiple media formats is shown to improve learning effectively.
Online video training like CBT Nuggets appeals more to our visual and auditory senses. It can also be comforting to hear and see other people talk, providing a nice departure from those who you may be hunkered down with.
You can use this time to leverage social media and form study groups. The CBT Nuggets Learner Community connects learners via Slack, allowing like-minded professionals to ask questions, get career advice, and join trainer-led study groups.
So, even though you're training online and remotely, working toward certification can become a valuable social outlet if you use it correctly.
3. Certifications Make You More Employable
One of the more frightening aspects of the coronavirus is how it can affect (and already is affecting) the economy. In just two days, nearly 11,000 unemployment claims were filed in Colorado alone, compared to 400 on the same days a week prior. This was just a drop in the bucket compared to Pennsylvania, which received 120,000 requests for unemployment benefits in a 48-hour period. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin caused quite a stir when he warned that, unless drastic action was taken, national unemployment rates could skyrocket from 3.5 percent to a whopping 20 percent.
Although we hope and expect reality to fall short of the worst-case scenario, it's easy to see that an economic downturn is coming. In fact, it's already started. So, investing in IT certifications now can provide you with three key advantages during this time of uncertainty.
First, it can help with job retention. Let's say your company has to scale back its operations due to the pandemic. Keeping your skills sharp by studying for certification can help you stand out from your peers, which could be the difference between keeping a job or being unemployed.Regardless of whether it pulls you back from the edge of an occupational precipice, investing in training certainly won't hurt.
Second, in the worst-case scenario of losing your job, a new certification makes you more employable. Gaining an edge in a potentially sizable candidate pool is always a good thing. Or even if the job market is tight for a while, having a cutting-edge cert could help you emerge from the top of the pack.
Finally, spending your free time investing in your career demonstrates that you have the self-discipline to thrive within flexible work options. Having the ability to work from anywhere isn't just an advantage when it comes to leisure time and the ability to travel; in situations like we're experiencing now, it could make the difference between having a paycheck and missing out.
4. A Quicker Way to Increase Your Income
Two-thirds of IT professionals report receiving a raise or bonus after earning a new certification. With these accreditations, they earn an average of $8,400 more than their peers, a difference of more than 11 percent. Taking all costs into consideration, from training and study materials to exam fees, certification exams easily pay for themselves.
This isn't just a short-term benefit, either. Certifications nearly always provide a measurable career boost, whether that's accelerating your current professional path — or allowing you to branch out into an area that interests you. Information technology is a rapidly evolving field, and demonstrating that you're advancing with the industry shows employers how committed you are.
5. Certifications Validate Skills Better than Degrees
Four-year degrees cover a broad base of information. A computer science degree introduces you to numerous fields, from network administration to cybersecurity. The downside is that degrees typically trade depth of knowledge for breadth of experience. Certifications do the opposite: they validate your abilities in a highly specific area, and they do so in a much shorter time frame.
Additionally, they're typically administered by neutral third parties that have a greater interest in protecting their cert's reputation by only awarding them to those who demonstrate the required knowledge and skills.
Certs can also help you define your career path in two ways. They can affirm the direction you're currently headed, validating your interest in a given area. With such a broad range of IT career options available, sometimes it's difficult to know whether you're in the right spot unless you continue to develop your skill sets in that field.
On the other side of the equation, pursuing a cert that is outside of your current specialization can create options, opening doors to other opportunities that might be a better fit than where you currently are. Even if you decide not to continue branching out in that direction, you've gotten a firm answer regarding whether cloud computing or network engineering is right for you, all while increasing your value in your current position.
Why Not Start Today?
This is the perfect time to begin working toward a new certification. You're likely at home with extra free time, and setting a goal can help stave off boredom and keep you happier and more productive. Instead of focusing solely on the negativity that's flooding news, use this time to train more — and further your career.