Setting goals is one of the keys to being successful – not just in IT – but in life. Once we set goals, it’s essential that we follow through in completing them, but sometimes that’s not always the case – especially when it comes to training and pursuing IT certifications.
In an ideal situation we study for the exam, cram days before even, then sit for the exam and knock it out right!? Wrong. Many times, and in most situations, we have prior commitments, work projects, or the most important factor, some of us face is we have families and our kiddos who come first and foremost! So, you know how to prepare yourself, but now how do you create your own strategies to successfully reach those goals? Let me share with you some strategies I’ve used, and new ones I’ve implemented in my study journey towards my CCNA. This plan can help you for any IT certification or any other goal you may have as well.
Create Your Plan Then Execute
First things first. Create a plan that works around your life and schedule. I’m sure for most of us things can get crazy at times. We have deadlines due, projects that need to be completed and then our own personal commitments. But like anything in life, if it’s important to you no matter what you’ll always make time for it.
Certifications are no different. Continuing education and certifications are vital to our continued success in the industry. First thing I would say with any exam is to look at the exam blueprint then you’ll know exactly what to expect and review.
One key when studying is to set aside a few hours throughout the week for uninterrupted studying. Even if it’s an hour or two, set aside some time to absorb whatever topics or concepts you’re studying. Then review over the weekend and lab them to apply them hands-on to fully understand them. Everyone learns different and has different schedules so I’m not saying to adhere to them strictly when life or work gets in the way. But be prepared to tweak your schedule to what works best for you. For me during the week, I’ll commit an hour or two and then on the weekends 3 to 4 hours reviewing the material I’ve studied and then lab it up.
Setting A Schedule And Sticking To It
This can sometimes have its challenges as things arise that we never anticipate. But for the most part setting a schedule and trying your best to stick to it every day will become routine in your training and certification journey. For me with 4 children and our fifth on the way, time is something rare to come by. But by changing my schedule, I’ve created a routine that works for me and aligns with what works for my family as well. Here’s my schedule that I follow to help me in preparing for my exam that might be helpful for you as well:
- Wake Up – 5 AM
- Study – 6-7:30 AM
- Breakfast – 7:30-8:30 AM
- Work – 8:30 AM- 5 PM
- Dinner/ Family Time- 6-9 PM
- Study Review – 9-10 PM
- Bed – 10-11 PM
It’s A Marathon, Not A Sprint
I’m sure we’ve all heard this said at one point or another, and it holds just as true for our certification paths. Simply put it’s an endurance test. When focusing on a certification, there are so many different strategies and techniques to apply, but here are some of my experiences I want to share with you. Just as it states above the process is a marathon not a sprint. In a marathon, most start out full of energy and burn out quicky because they haven’t paced themselves. We do the same thing at times when studying or even taking an exam. We’ll cram a ton of topics in and hope for the best. One thing to always remember to do is to pace ourselves. Take your time and truly understand the topics you’re focusing on before moving on to the next one.
Book Your Exam Once You’re Ready
As you get closer towards the end of your studying and feel confident, book your exam and lock in that date. Some do it before they begin their study journey for that extra motivation. But everyone has a different approach and that’s alright. Once you’ve taken a few practice exams, review areas you might be struggling in right up until test day. Whether it’s onsite or in a virtual environment, the more practice you have the better.
Practice Exams and Labs For Days
The days leading up to the exam, especially the 60 days leading up to the exam are crucial as they are your last opportunities to lab and review any concepts you may be unsure of on the exam. You don’t have to go it alone. There are a ton of resources online and you can always schedule authorized training for your certification.
No one said obtaining these certifications was an easy task, and if they were so easy, everyone would pass. But the reality is the failures are just as important on the journey to the top as the successes. Getting there doesn’t have to be a struggle. With the right strategies, tools and techniques applied, you’ll be right on your way to learning new skills and climbing that IT ladder to success.
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