Ten essential steps to plan and achieve your certification goals

I am often asked for tips and advice on how to plan for certifications. Here are my ten essential steps to help you plan for your certification and achieve it. Anyone looking to move to a different domain or to improve their domain knowledge in order to climb the professional ladder could use these steps.

1. Understanding Market demand
The professional requirements of your job will be a key determinant in deciding which certification you should pursue. The best way to assess this is to talk to your peers, managers & do research on internal job portals to see which key certifications/skills are required in the market. Follow job postings on professional platforms like Quora and LinkedIn to see if there is a demand for a particular certification. A simple search in Google (or any other search engine) will reveal all the active job postings in your area.
All of these steps will help you narrow down the options for certification that you have. This is the most important step in your learning journey. Understanding market demand will help you plan your next steps.
2. Know the who, what, when, and how of your dream certification
Based on the results of the previous step you will need to find answers to key questions regarding the certification you are aiming for. Most likely, the website of the certification body will contain the information you need. The following details are expected of an Aspirant.
What is a certification curriculum?
Experience is a prerequisite for obtaining the certification. & how?)
Recommended resources for certification preparation: Courseware, review manual & any other content officially available with certifying authority (how?
Timelines for registering for the exam and the cost of certification (When?
Modes of taking up an exam: remote proctored (or exam center proctored) (how?
Exam structure (how? ), such as number of questions, objective, subjective or objective breaks, and timelines for sharing results with candidates.
The details of the above points will help you to understand your certification and plan your next steps.
3. Utilizing professional networks and seeking assistance from Connections
This is something that most people do every day. However, I do a little bit of research before I reach out to professionals via e-mails or direct messages. I would personally connect you with professionals who have the certification you are interested in. It is important to ask specific questions of the connections during this phase, and not ask them to go through the entire certification. Trust me, many people don’t like to do charity on something they are good at.
My personal experience is that you should be able find at least a few exam reviews online (or on LinkedIn). Pay attention to these reviews and see if your progress is in line with the idea. You may also ask specific questions on Quora if you are unable to find the answers to your queries using your existing resources.
4. Understanding the financial and other benefits of your certifications
This step is my favorite part of your certification journey. You will need to understand the impact of your certification on your professional growth and your salary. You can find the average salary for experts with the same certification by using resources such as Payscale and glass door