How to pick the best certification and study plan for you

Do you want to earn more professional certifications but aren’t sure where to start?

Turns out part of making the process doable is planning in advance. The International Information System Security Certification Consortium, or (ISC)², has some suggestions on how to organize and get started.

Know your wants and needs

Narrow down what exactly you’re looking for. There are plenty of certifications and classes out there.

Then, ask yourself: Why that particular certification? Is it to benefit your team or stay on top of changing technologies your company is looking to invest in? Are you pursuing it to advance your career path?

Answering these questions truthfully will make sure you’re not wasting time later on, as well as help you narrow your search to certifications that are actually relevant to you. Knowing why you’re interested will also help to justify any company expenses and time.

Practice makes perfect

You’ll need more than studying to get through, and there are programs that have your back. Most certifications offer practice exams as well as study guides. Make sure you take advantage of both.

You’re not going to be the first person to take the class, so be sure to reach out to past-test takers and see what they did to ace the cert. There are online forums dedicated to specific, tough certifications that you can find and join that will provide you a strong support network as you prepare for the test yourself.

Identify your weaknesses

It may be difficult to identify where you’re falling short, but it’s important to recognize what skills or knowledge areas you may be lacking in. Reach out to friends and family, managers and users to see what areas you might be able to improve on. If you time it right, you can link a request to pursue a certification with the company to your performance review.

Sometimes the best way to help your users is to admit you just don’t know the answer. But what’s important is you’re willing to find out.

Stick to a training schedule

Find a study guide that offers real examples and meets your needs. It’s like being back in school again, but now you also have a full-time job and social obligations to support on top trying to study for the test.

That’s why it’s important, when you have the certification you want lined up, to set up your study plan and stick to it.

You’ll need to balance both work and life to get your hard-earned reward.