Every so often, something happens to remind you that you're not the spring chicken that you used to be. Everybody out there raise your hands if the last high school reunion that somebody told you about had a double-digit number assigned to it. Time passes all of us by, and usually this is right about the moment in discussions of this nature that we start to hear the opening chords of Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days" spewing from our mental jukebox.
Believe it or not, even Bruce Springsteen, who's now an AARP-worthy 67, was already moving into a reflective phase of life when he wrote and recorded "Glory Days," which was spurred by an actual encounter at a bar with a former baseball teammate. (You won't believe it if you check out the vintage music video for "Glory Days" on YouTube. That is one baby-faced Boss.)
Unlike baseball and head-turning high school girls, however, certification isn't something to look back on and chuckle fondly about. If your career involves information technology, then certification is a natural and logical means of staying current. IT professionals tend to be lifelong learners already: If you don't keep pace with changes to technology, then you won't have an employable skill set for very long. And that's why certification just makes sense.
The organizations and IT vendors that curate certification programs are looking our for your interests. They want you to have solid, employable skills, because the job performance of certified individuals is a direct reflection on them. If the employees who claim their certifications don't provide value, then the entire certification program looks bad. And if it's a program attached to a major IT vendor, such as Microsoft or Cisco, then image problems are simply compounded.
Many certifications even come with a built-in timetable for renewing and refreshing your skill set. You can only continue to claim the credential if you keep up. So don't get that far-off look in your eyes the next time that someone starts talking about certification. Certification is part of the present, not something that you left behind with memorized locker combinations and school dances.