In 1984, playwright and filmmaker David Mamet wrote a Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning play about the cutthroat world of real estate sales. Eight years later, in 1992, the play, Glengarry Glen Ross, was turned into a film with an all-star cast: Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Kevin Spacey and Alec Baldwin. Baldwin pops up only briefly, appearing in a single eight-minute scene as a top sales agent who delivers a lacerating speech to three struggling peers intended to light a bonfire of fear and desperation in their hearts and spur them to better sales performance.
Baldwin’s famous harangue includes his invocation of the sales office catchphrase “ABC — Always Be Closing.” The message to the down-at-the-heels trio is plain: Whatever they do to plan their on-the-job activities from day to day, everything thought and every action should be directed toward the ultimate goal of closing real estate sales. A separate scene in the film illustrates the point as Pacino’s character, the top salesman in the office, drifts through a series of dime-store philosophies and earthy observations while speaking with a potential client in a bar. His rambling ultimately wins the trust of his unsuspecting mark and results in a sale.
IT certification doesn’t generally have much to do with sales (although sales credentials that train individuals to sell various tech products do account for a small slice of the IT certification pie). The idea of being guided in your actions by an overarching goal, however, does have broad application in certification. Certification requires knowledge, ideally practical, hands-on knowledge, of a particular IT skill or product. It’s possible, in some instances, to read a study guide, or watch through a series of training videos, and pass a certification exam.
Truly effective certification, however, shouldn’t just be confined to memorization and test taking. As you pursue your IT career, every hour of your workday should be advancing you along the path to your next certification. The skills learned and practiced on the job should be preparing you for your next certification exam. For you, ABC means Always Be Certifying. You career and your certification efforts should never be viewed separately: When I’m at work, I’m at work; when I have time to study, I’m certifying. Each should synergistically inform and strengthen the other.
Remember, first prize is a Cadillac. Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired! Don’t let your IT career go off the rails. ABC — Always Be Certifying.