It has been almost a year since the phenomenon known as the Great Resignation started appearing in national news. The reports showed millions of U.S. workers leaving their jobs each month to look for something better. This trend, according to the latest news, is not going away.
While labor experts have provided a steady stream of speculation about why people are leaving their jobs, from frustration with pay to fear of COVID-19 to a desire to find positions that are more meaningful, they have yet to arrive at a consensus as to what those who are now out of work are doing with their time.
In the world of IT and tech, it appears that those who joined the Great Resignation are spending their spare time growing their skills and improving their resumes by pursuing tech certifications.
Tech Courses Surge in Popularity in 2021
According to Class Central, a search engine and review site for free online courses, the top online courses for 2021 were tech courses, many of which are offered by Google and provide the type of certifications that look great on a resume. Here are some examples of the top courses:
- Foundations of User Experience (UX) Design, which is the first in a series of seven courses on the topic.
- Data Analysis With R Programming, which provides training on how to “clean, organize, analyze, visualize and report data in new and more powerful ways.”
- AWS Cloud Technical Essentials, which presents the fundamentals of AWS.
- AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials, which explores “fundamental AWS Cloud concepts to help you gain confidence to contribute to your organization’s cloud initiatives.”
Certifications That Pay Dividends
In general, certifications provide a boost to job seekers. They communicate a commitment to professional development as well as provide a reliable catalog of the skills that one will bring to a position. For those looking to stand out, certifications can definitely increase the chances that you’ll get an interview.
However, it is critical to think of the opportunity cost of an individual’s time. While we love free certifications, many of the free certifications are unlikely to help someone start their career. In many cases, after the person spends months achieving these free certifications, they will need to spend additional time getting new certifications to ensure that they have the specific certifications that employers desire. When you consider the salaries some of these tech positions command, spending months on the wrong free certifications can cost someone tens of thousands of dollars in lost earnings.
While the following certifications may be more difficult to achieve and might not be available for free, they definitely make a difference in terms of preparing IT workers for the most desirable jobs:
- Networking – Cisco Certified Internet Expert (CCIE) and Cisco Certified Networking Professional
- Cloud Computing – Azure Expert, AWS Certified Solution Architect Professional and Google Professional Cloud Architect
- Security – Certified Information System Security Professional, Certified Information Security Manager, Certified in Risk and Information Security Control, or CRISC (Note: these certifications required documented experience)
- Cloud DevOps – AWS DevOps Engineer Professional
Adding Soft Skills to Certifications
The certification process can provide the technical skills for which many IT employers are looking. And promoting certifications on your resume can significantly increase the chances that you’ll be called in for an interview. However, in my experience, landing the job is one thing; thriving in it requires a different set of skills that fall outside the realm of IT certifications.
Soft skills are not the skills that allow you to do your job, like coding or engineering. They are the skills that define how you do your job. They include people skills like networking, communication and conflict resolution, as well as creative thinking and time management. When applied to the world of IT, I like to think of them as “certifications plus.”
While IT workers often overlook the value of soft skills, I can assure you that IT employers definitely do not. With the fierce competition that exists for IT work, IT providers need every advantage they can get to acquire and retain clients. If their workers do not have people skills to pair with their tech skills, companies lose that advantage.
For those looking to boost their appeal to employers by acquiring certifications, take some time to get certified in soft skills. The courses exist and they will pay you great dividends both before and after you land the job.
Bringing an End to the Great Resignation
For IT companies, the growing popularity of certification courses may offer some insight on how to bring an end to the Great Resignation, at least within the IT sector.
Recent research showed that IT “resigners” are wrestling with many of the same employment issues as those in other industries, including frustrations with salary and the desire to have more work flexibility. However, tech workers also cited some issues that indicate that certification training, provided before employees resign, might be enough to keep them at their desks.
For example, the top reason cited by workers at tech, IT and software development companies for wanting to leave their job, other than salary and benefits, was limited career progression. In addition, nine out of 10 said they “would like to get more learning and development opportunities from their company.”
For tech workers looking for a job, “skills development” was the second-highest criteria they considered behind salary and benefits when selecting a company. More than 60% also reported that “more learning and training opportunities would make them more motivated at work” and 75% felt that their companies focused more on attracting new employees than they did on investing in existing employees.
Could it be that retaining IT employees and filling the positions left open by the Great Resignation is as simple as making certification training available to employees?