Students often ask me if gaining a certification like the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate is enough to get them a job. The short answer is that an AWS certification alone will not get you a job. There are several other attributes that play an essential part in kick-starting your AWS career.
So does that mean that certifications are not worth attaining? Absolutely not! Certifications are extremely useful – if not essential to getting a good IT job and AWS careers can be extremely rewarding. The thing is, it takes much more than the certification: You also need experience that’s relevant to the position you’re applying for and to be very “employable” (more on that shortly).
I think it’s also fair to say that AWS certifications are almost prerequisites, rather than differentiators today. Unless you have several AWS certifications, this is usually the case. Everyone seems to have their Solutions Architect Associate certification so that’s not going to make you stand out when applying for an AWS Solution Architect job. In fact, from an employer’s perspective, it will be expected that you have a couple of AWS certs – and if you don’t you won’t get noticed.
I recommend at least doing all of the AWS associate certifications and preferably at least one professional level or specialty. Try and line up the certifications with your own experience and choose certifications that are relevant to the job roles you want. The cloud practitioner is also an easy starting point and an extra certification to have on your CV – so it’s worth doing that too.
It’s useful to put yourself into the shoes of the employer and think about what they’re looking for when they hire. From that perspective, you can then work out what you need to do to get an edge over others in your quest to find a role working in cloud. So, what does an employer look for?
- Someone who has relevant skills for the position
- Someone who has experience and can start producing quickly
- Someone who can communicate well
- Someone who works well within a team
- Someone who is self-motivated and can work with limited guidance
- Someone who is dependable and has a positive attitude
Relevant skills – try to focus on applying for jobs where you have skills that are closely matched to the job description. Work on your resume for each position you apply for to highlight the skills the employer is looking for. For instance, if you’re going for an AWS Cloud Architect role vs. an AWS Engineer role the skills and experience requirements will be different.
Unfortunately, employers (and especially recruiters) often post job descriptions with vast skill requirements that it would realistically take a whole team to fulfill. Try and work out the core focus of the advertised job and ensure your skills align.
Also, the description for AWS jobs is rarely just going to ask for AWS skills. There’s always going to be additional skill sets required such as operating system administration skills (Linux and/or Windows), database skills, programming languages, CI/CD tools, and automation and configuration management tools to name just a few. Check out what’s most in-demand today and make sure you add these skills to your training plan.
Experience – it’s really hard to find any work without having relevant experience. This is difficult when you’re starting out – as you may not have any industry experience, or you could be transitioning from another area of IT and not have direct cloud experience. This can be a challenging problem to solve and if you’re in this position, here are a few tips to help you out:
- Do a training course with lots of practice activities. Get as much hands-on experience as possible. Be aware that if you get to a technical interview you may be asked questions that test your practical experience
- Take it further with sample projects and code such as AWS tutorials, Medium.com tutorials, and Github projects
- Think up your own projects and build something you can show off to an employer
- Volunteer for a non-profit or startup to get some on-the-job experience
- Offer your services for AWS jobs on websites such as Freelancer.com or Upwork.com. Go in with a low rate to get some projects to work on, and make sure you only take work you can complete successfully
Communication – Starting with communication, make sure your CV is well written, your emails are well structured, and that you communicate clearly and simply at all stages of the recruitment process (and at all times thereafter!).
Teamwork – Prepare for common interview questions such as “Describe a team project you worked on” or “Why would you consider yourself a team player?”. Ensure you highlight how you’ve worked well within a team to reach a shared goal.
Self-motivation – Though it’s essential to be able to work well within a team, employers also desire employees who are self-motivated. Earning certifications, writing a blog, creating your own projects, and providing examples of how you achieved goals through your own initiative all show self-motivation (and passion for the technology).
Dependability and positivity – Last but not least it’s essential to demonstrate to an employer that they can depend on you. A good story of how you stepped up and went above and beyond when you were needed is useful. Ensure you articulate professionalism, dedication, commitment and a positive outlook in every communication you have with employers. Make sure your social media accounts reflect this too!
Let me be clear that I deeply believe in the value of AWS certifications (and any IT certification for that matter). They are a fantastic way to both learn technologies and to demonstrate expertise to employers and will absolutely help you with your career goals. They’re also a great way to stay relevant even if you stay with the same employer. In fact, I’ve been continually certifying for the last 20+ years and it’s really helped my career and kept things interesting.
The key point I want to make is that there’s a lot more than a certification required to land your dream AWS job and it takes commitment and continual effort to get there. It’s my mission to support you on this journey and help you achieve your career goals. Check out the training resources from digital cloud training and leave a comment to let me know what else you need help with.
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