Before earning an IT certification, you should ask yourself two questions:

  1. Is the certification appropriate for me?
  2. Which specific certification should I pursue?

These are easy questions, but the devil’s in the details. Fortunately, a single Web site can help you answer both questions, which shouldn’t be taken lightly. While most IT professionals worry most about failing an exam, I have to wonder if more should be concerned about the certification they’re pursuing.

Is certification for you?
Brainbench has been promoting a new personality assessment, which you can take for free on its Web site. Free registration is required if you’re not already a Brainbench member.

Like many, I received an e-mail invitation to try the personality inventory. I gave it a try. It’s short (60 quick questions), and it only took two or three minutes to complete.

All things considered, I was skeptical. How could a free online personality assessment accurately gauge my personality, management style, and interests? It doesn’t take an economics major to determine that building an accurate resource is difficult, and thus expensive.

My skepticism proved unfounded. My Brainbench results closely mirrored those from summer management and leadership courses offered by The Real Learning Company. I attended the company’s Symphony and Conductor training seminars. One segment dealt specifically with the importance of identifying and managing different personalities.

While I found the summer exercise intriguing, I wasn’t sure that it addressed office interactions in the real world. I brought The Real Learning Company’s personality assessment tools back to the office, where each TechProGuild staff member determined his or her own personality style. Lo and behold, the results perfectly explained some of the issues the team had faced.

While Brainbench doesn’t offer the detailed guidance on how to recognize and manage personality differences provided by more expensive training programs, Brainbench may be an effective tool to gauge your own personality. The personality assessment could help you determine whether certification is right for you or even if you’re in the correct field.

Measuring personality traits
Brainbench’s evaluation is broken down into four parts. The Personality Evaluation, which constitutes the first part, summarizes your personality as it relates to:

  • Social boldness
  • Agreeableness
  • Self-control
  • Anxiety level
  • Openness to change (You had better score high here if you wish to stay in IT.)
  • Method of thinking

My Personality Evaluation paralleled the results I received from the paid training back in the summer. Explanatory paragraphs accompanying the report closely matched what I’d heard in the professional management seminars.

The second part consists of an Occupational Preference Evaluation. It provides recommendations on professions you appear well suited to perform. Mine recommended a Social career, as “social people seem to satisfy their needs in teaching or helping situations.” That’s fairly accurate, as I enjoy spending most of my professional time helping create articles and books that describe methods, tips, and tricks for learning and mastering IT systems.

Part three is where Brainbench recommends certain of its certification tests for you. That should be expected, as the company’s bread-and-butter product is online testing. One of the test category recommendations I received was for Computer Software. That’s right on target, too.

Part four is simply a soft, fairly standardized disclaimer. It helps explain some of the assessment’s language and reminds you that scores and descriptions are an approximation.

Once you complete the assessment, you’ll have a better idea about whether you’re working in a field that’s a sure fit. You might also learn a few things about yourself or remind yourself of a few things you once knew but have since forgotten.

Another excellent resource

Check out What Color Is Your Parachute for more information on selecting the best career for you. I’ve found this book helpful in the past, as have others too numerous to count.

Which certification is best for you?
Once you’ve taken the personality assessment and learned a bit about yourself, you can take a more informed approach to certification. You should give serious consideration to the question of which certification you should pursue. Just because everyone around you is earning an MCP doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. Maybe you’re a network administrator who works mostly with routers. Does that mean a CCNA is your best bet? Maybe not.

The trouble with certifications is that there are a ton of them out there. The more there are, the greater the risk of certification inflation. So how about Brainbench certifications? Are they worth it? Brainbench certifications do have their drawbacks. It would be easy to cheat, you could have someone else take your exam, the industry hasn’t exactly embraced Brainbench certs with widespread recognition, and they’re third-party accreditations (as David Davis points out in his article ”Examining the value of Brainbench certifications”). Yet I believe these certifications boast hidden value. In fact, one benefit has more value than I ever imagined.

By tying Brainbench sample tests and certifications to the results of your personality assessment, you can determine whether you would enjoy pursuing a networking certification from Cisco, whether you understand the basics required to administer Windows 2000 servers, or whether you’ve learned enough to try your hand at a Linux certification.

Say you decide that you chose wrong. What are your costs? With Brainbench, the cost is less than $15, the price of a one-month, unlimited subscription.

Choose wrong with a Cisco, Microsoft, Red Hat, Novell, or CompTIA (a respected third-party association itself) authorized training facility, and you could be looking at losing thousands of dollars.

I hadn’t previously stopped to view Brainbench accreditations as a gauge for your career—a test-run, if you will. I’ll forever view them differently now.

Eckel’s take
Should you base your entire career direction on the results of your Brainbench personality assessment? No. Should you take time out of your schedule each year to sit down and review whether you truly enjoy doing what you do professionally? You bet.

Certifications can help play a role in getting where you want to be, too. Just don’t expect Brainbench certifications to take the place of an MCP, MCSE, CCNA, RHCE, A+, or other well-respected and well-known accreditation. Instead, look to Brainbench’s personality assessment to help gauge whether you’re heading down the right career path and look to the site’s exams to ensure that you’re pursuing the proper certification.

When you do earn a Brainbench certification, you can add it to your resume and then build your expertise with a more widely recognized accreditation. You’ll be no worse for the effort. Plus, it could save you a ton of money should you discover a certification area that you thought interested you actually doesn’t.

The time saved and confidence built are sure to lower your anxiety level, which will make you more agreeable. See, my personality assessment is on target; I’m not afraid to speak my mind!

How do you feel about Brainbench certifications?

We look forward to getting your input and hearing your experiences regarding this topic. Post a comment or a question about this article.