Why Certifications Can Only Get You A Job But Can't Make You An Expert

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My first job was while I was in 300 level (3rd year) at Federal University of Technology Akure. There was a long ASUU (lecturers at government universities) strike that year and I spent the better part of the 5 months doing CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Network+. When the strike was called off and school resumed, I looked for a part-time job and got one as a CyberCafe assistant administrator. I had the confidence to go for the job because I did CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Network+ training.

By the time I was in my 5th and final year at university, I was Oracle 10g Database Administration Associate certified (OCA 10g) and Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA). And again, we had another long ASUU strike that made the university postpone our convocation by a year and made us miss the NYSC batch we should have followed. That period, I got my second job: as a CCNA instructor at a computer training institute. I got the job because of my CCNA certification.

During my NYSC, I continued as an independent CCNA instructor and even got what would have become my third job had I not declined the job offer. I had applied to NIIT in Bayelsa for a trainer's position but the facility owner had rebranded and built an ICT focused polytechnic there. They found my CV very impressive and gave me a job role as the head of the networking and (something something) department. But I wanted to go back to Lagos after my NYSC, not wanting any job role that would tie me down in Bayelsa. So I didn't show up for the job/resumption.

My first full-time job, I got considered for the interview because I had CCNA. 

You'll agree with me that my certifications have gotten me jobs, even when I was still a student. And that is the end of the first part of this post. Certifications do help you to get a job.

The moment you get the job your certifications have no use. I studied more as a CCNA instructor than while preparing for the tough CCNA exam. I re-read everything at least twice and did a lot more simulations. In fact, I would have performed the same on the job if I didn't have the CCNA certification. And it was same with every job role the certification gave me a huge edge in getting. Even in my first full-time job, we didn't do anything my CCNA was useful for. I had to learn from scratch what I needed on the job. I guess they also expected that as the first months were for academic styled training and then I was attached to a senior engineer to shadow.

Did I mention that I also have CCNA Voice certification too? Well, the day I finally got the opportunity to configure a Cisco Unified Communications Network and set up a VoIP enterprise network, the CCNA voice was useless. I was sweating and closing late at nights without making any significant progress. I thank God for Google.

Today, I am not a expert at networking or database administration. The very fields I have certifications in. I am an expert at business data analysis and Microsoft Excel. Fields I didn't study at university nor did a professional certification in. And why?

image: parttimeaudiophile.com

Only one thing can make you an expert, and it is lots of on the job experience. Not certifications. Not even reading. Not attending training classes. And not watching hours of training videos. You just have to get your hands dirty, and get real world experience solving issues for other people. That was how I learned Microsoft Excel and Business Data Analysis. I simply dived in, made other people's problems my own and used Google as my study guide. I solved very many work and real world (not textbook) issues and ended up as an expert.


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