Category: International Job Seekers

The One-Two Punch Every Job Search of Today Needs

The One-Two Punch Every Job Search of Today Needs

When I first started in the resume and career document design business, times were good, especially in the tech/IT job market. Online tools, such as job boards, seemed like a long awaited answer to speeding up and making the hiring process more efficient, jobs were plentiful, and even though we now had online tools, the job search process itself had not changed all that much.

Then came 2007 and things began to change.

The recession hit in the U.S., upward mobility in IT/tech jobs stagnated, social media began to insert itself into hiring practices, and companies began demanding more and more automation in the hiring process. For a few years, it was hard to tell which direction things were going to go, as well as what was good and what was bad. All we really knew was things were changing, and the job market was less and less pleasant.

But by the early 2010s, it became apparent that the job search landscape was altered for good.

The online tools that were supposed to make life better for companies and job seekers alike persisted, but it was apparent no one gave much credence to them actually working, especially past the manager level. And those newly automated hiring practices became so wieldy that, frankly, only HR people seemed to like them.

What became obvious to us at ITtechExec was that we needed to do more than just design documents; we needed to help guide professionals through this new job search “zoo” by offering solutions that would help them build momentum using other, more effective methods to create opportunities for themselves.

For the past 8 years, we have been offering our very own “concierge” Job Search support solutions. Our clients would start with the career document design with Stephen Van Vreede, Executive Resume Writer, and then move into our job search strategy development and support solutions with Sue Sacco, our Job Search Agent.

Due to the demand for both types of solutions, we now offer them as part of a comprehensive, month-by-month Document Design and Job Search Membership that walks side by side with you throughout your job search introducing you to recruiters identified just for you, working within our own ITtechExec network to help you build contacts in your industry and target market, and offering support in reaching out across your own network more effectively. We aren’t a replacement for your own search efforts, but we do ease the burden and offer you potential connections that could lead to opportunities in today’s market.

In other words, we provide the “one-two punch” that is often missing in today’s job search approach.

Too many professionals find themselves blindsided by this marketplace when they embark on a job search. They’re still remembering the 1990s or early 2000s, and it is hard for them to orient themselves in today’s market. And although things were a bit simpler back then, it’s not all bad today.

You just have to know how to maneuver through it while having some patience.

To find out how it can work for you, book a free 30-minute “Upcoming Career Move Prep” phone or Skype session with me, your IT/Tech Job Search Strategist & Resume Writer, Stephen Van Vreede.

 

Not Enough Time for Your Next Career Move?

Are you a professional that feels pressure to find job search time? You know it is time to go, but you can’t see how you can get it all done. After all, you likely work 50-60 or more hours per week and have other obligations, like family.

Do you find yourself wondering:

“Where will I fit in job search time to my already crazy schedule? After all I want to find and sustain my work/life balance! It’s important that I watch my kids grow up. But I know it’s time for me to start looking for the next role. So how can I find the time I need to make this next career move?”
As our client Joshua found out, you can have victory over your job search time management. He was aware of a downsizing move coming to his company so he took the time before that happened to prepare for his next IT Director position. While he was getting his résumé designed with us, he participated in our complimentary Job Move Strategy session.
When I first met Joshua, he was stressed out by the idea of making this career move and still having time to be with his family. Like most of us, his life is more than just about work. He has a wife and 3 children that are very active. He commutes over an hour a day, and he coaches his daughter’s soccer team on weekends. Talk about work/life juggling!
Together, he and I were able to incorporate clear strategic methodologies into his job search approach. After prioritizing each method to focus his job search time appropriately, he was able to get noticed, get interviews, and get a new position.

Here is the strategy we designed for Joshua to move toward achieving this victory!

• Recruiters: Joshua did not have the time to research and vet which recruiters would be most effective for him. So I took that burden off of him and did the legwork. Once we narrowed down recruiters to contact, I then reached out on his behalf and began making introductions. This way, Joshua only had to respond to those recruiters who were interested and used his time more effectively.
• Target Companies: Joshua had some parameters in mind for his next company, but he needed some help targeting which ones fit those parameters. Once again, I did the research to present the companies to Joshua and vetted key contacts across our extensive ITtechExec network at those companies.
• Networking (both within and outside your network): Joshua had a pretty large network on LinkedIn and elsewhere, but he found his contacts to be unmotivated in helping him get going with his job search. After some discussion, he discovered that some of the problem had to the do with the way he was approaching them. After some coaching with me, he began to have a much better response. He also took advantage of our ITtechExec network to connect with new contacts who might be helpful in achieving his goal.

In the end, although it wasn’t an overnight success, Joshua did find that a job search doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

Here’s how he described it:
“Sue, before we started putting this strategy together, I was lost. I knew I had to act, but I couldn’t get passed the idea that my life was so hectic. Not only did you give me practical support, but you also gave me direction.”
If you find yourself out in the wilderness, wondering where to even begin with your next career move, text me at 866-294-1324 to start a dialogue OR click on the calendar below to schedule a free consult. We will present a customized strategy for your search and share how we will partner with you to maintain your work/life balance during your job search just like we did for Joshua and his busy family.

 

IT career adviser 5Sue Sacco is a Certified Job Search Strategist (CJSS) for ITtechExec who blends a unique background in managing both IT and telecom day-to-day operations with extensive hiring and recruitment experience for small/mid-sized organizations as well as for a prominent Fortune 1000 company. She is also a Career Thought Leader Associate.

Sue has been up close and personal with HR and has had to wade through layoffs, acquisitions, and corporate restructuring. (That means she’s a veteran of the job market zoo and has been so deep in corporate goo that nothing surprises her anymore!)

Text me at 866-294-1324 to start a dialogue OR schedule a time below to speak with me and learn more about our “concierge” job search solutions:

Your Job Search & Networking: It’s not that you can’t, it’s that…

Recently, Thomas came to us recognizing he needed help in his job search. He wanted a senior-level Software Development position in Europe (he was currently located in the US) and really had no contacts there. He also realized that he had only about 10 hours a week to spend on his job search and most of that was after hours. After a month of two of trying to look on his own, with his limited time, he decided if he was ever going to achieve his goal, he needed help. Thomas partnered with us first through our résumé portfolio approach and then through our “concierge” job search solutions to help build his network in Europe.

Thanks to our large and responsive pipeline of connections, we were able to connect him to several “insiders” in companies he was targeting in his search.

After a few months of building relationships with these contacts, he was invited for an interview and was offered a position. Success!
Here is how Thomas described his experience:

“Instead of using up all my job search time just trying to find the right contacts, I spent that time responding to all those connections you made for me. I know I would not have found these contacts on my own.”

This is what partnership and “pipeline” building are all about.

Most of us professionals know that the most effective job search methodology today is still “networking”. But it takes a lot of time. Like Thomas, it is time you most likely don’t have. If you work 50-60 hours a week, you probably also want to have some work–life balance…catch your kid’s soccer game and get that project done around the house. This is understandable!

Time is our most precious commodity. And it is why we at ITtechExec will partner with you to be part of your job search “team.”

networkingJust looking for a recruiter who will talk to you and tossing your résumé on a job board aren’t enough anymore. Maybe it worked in the 90s and early 2000s when you were last out in the job market, but in today’s global marketplace, “pounding the pavement” has taken on a whole new meaning.

You need someone on your side. Think of it this way: When you check into a hotel or are lugging your baggage through the terminal, isn’t it beneficial and good to have someone there willing to assist you in your “job” at hand? It’s not that you can’t do it yourself, it’s that it’s nice to know you don’t have to carry the burden alone.

As Thomas put it:

“I thought I knew how to look for a job. I mean, this was not my first ‘rodeo’. I’ve been out in the workplace for 25 years. But my life is different now, and the market is different. And although there are a lot of tools and information out there, you can spend all of your time just sifting through it. I’m glad I recognized I needed help. This wasn’t a quick-fix solution. It still took time to find the right fit, but now I had a ‘team’ behind me, and my time was much better spent!”

So how is your pipeline?

If you know you need to build a better pipeline of connections, let us save you the legwork. We will get you in touch with the “insiders” within your target companies and provide you with some other employers you may not have considered. Networking within the current workforce of these target companies is a great way to get an employee referral and learn the culture, issues, and opportunities within the company. You can leverage your “insiders” to know about positions before they are published, and if you uncover an opportunity you are interested in, you can learn more by asking them directly.

Remember: It is not that you can’t, it’s that you don’t have to!

If you would like more information on how to use your road map , without so much recalculating, text me at 866-294-1324 to start a dialogue OR schedule a time (see below) to speak with me and learn more about our “concierge” job search solutions:

IT career adviser 5Sue Sacco is a Certified Job Search Strategist (CJSS) for ITtechExec who blends a unique background in managing both IT and telecom day-to-day operations with extensive hiring and recruitment experience for small/mid-sized organizations as well as for a prominent Fortune 1000 company. She is also a Career Thought Leader Associate.

Sue has been up close and personal with HR and has had to wade through layoffs, acquisitions, and corporate restructuring. (That means she’s a veteran of the job market zoo and has been so deep in corporate goo that nothing surprises her anymore!)

Text me at 866-294-1324 to start a dialogue OR schedule a time below to speak with me and learn more about our “concierge” job search solutions:

 

Supply & Demand: A Relevant Concept for Today’s IT/Technical Job Search?

Supply & Demand: A Relevant Concept for Today’s IT/Technical Job Search?

If you’ve read any of my other content, you know that I like to challenge “conventional” wisdom and go against the grain from what most people are saying. It’s not because I want to be a rebel, but the truth doesn’t change because the opinion of the majority says so. (Simply put, it makes me want to declare what is true and real all the more boldly!)

So what myth am I busting today? Well, it has everything to do with laws of supply and demand, which generally define the effect that the availability of a product (supply) and the desire for that product (demand) have on the price of that product. Here is a simple supply/demand chart (courtesy of Investopedia.com):

economics5

What most people get wrong in this scenario is that you, the job seeker, are the supplier. After all, the company doing the hiring is paying whomever they hire to provide a product or service, which is the work performed. When the volume of products on the supply side is higher than the demand for those products, prices get driven down until suppliers bow out and equilibrium occurs. So, in this scenario, when there is a large number of candidates available on the market, then the company looking to hire can have its pick…and possibly get that person at a price below the typical market value.

How does this go against conventional wisdom, you ask? Well, let me lay out the following scenario:

  • It is mid-November
  • A company just had its Director of IT Infrastructure give notice that he or she is going to work for a competitor
  • The company doesn’t have a viable internal candidate to back-fill the role
  • There are some major infrastructure projects in the works that must move forward

Is this company going to wait until after the New Year to fill the role? Of course not. It’s going to fill the position quickly. But around this time every year, I get calls from clients saying that they’ve been advised to wait until January to conduct their job search because that’s when more candidates are active.

So, because everyone else is waiting until January, you should too? I don’t think so. Go back to the law of supply and demand. If you wait until everyone else is conducting a job search to conduct your own, you’re competing in a market with supply that is higher than demand. That’s not ideal. You actually put yourself in a better position by conducting your search during a time in which others are not. It’s now mid-November, so get yourself out there now when competition is low and you can position yourself as a top-level candidate.

Stephen Van VreedeAbout Stephen—-

Stephen Van Vreede is not your average IT/technical résumé writer. He provides career strategy and concierge job search solutions for senior (15+ years) (ITtechExec) and up-and-coming (NoddlePlace) (5-15 years) tech and technical operations leaders. Stephen and his team focus on building simplified, targeted, and certain career move campaigns, be it an external search or an internal promotion. He is co-author of UNcommon with career development leader Brian Tracy (out June 11, 2015). Contact Stephen directly at Stephen@ittechexec.com or send him an invite at https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephenvanvreede. To see whether Stephen and his team are a good fit for you, take their free (and anonymous) 1-minute compatibility quiz, Is the ITtechExec Approach a Good Match for You? Also, feel free to take his complimentary resume self-assessment quiz, How Certain Can You Be About Your Technical Resume? You might be surprised by what you find out!

Kick in the Pants: How to Ace a Video Interview

Kick in the Pants: How to Ace a Video Interview

job interview

Kick in the Pants: How to Ace a Video Interview

So you got the interview. Congratulations. But you don’t have the job yet. If the only thing that’s between you and your dream job is a video interview, it’s crucial for you to be extra prepared. Video interviews pose a whole new set of challenges for job candidates — and they aren’t all what you’d expect.

Video conference company PGi’s infographic on video interviews sheds light on some staggering statistics. Aside from reporting what we already knew — that video interviews are on the rise — they also reveal that the way we communicate over video differs greatly from the way we communicate in person. If you’re a Skype or Google Hangouts user, you already know that between technology glitches, faulty microphones, and time delays, getting our message across over video can be a big challenge. The infographic confirms what you may have already expected:

Your facial expression and tone of voice matter far more than the actual words you say.

True, it’s shocking to think that hires are made based upon factors that many of us don’t consciously control. But we see a silver lining in these statistics: First, video interviews have the ability to cut through some of the typical nervousness caused by in-person interviews because you are in the comfort of your own home. And second, when you put verbal communication on the back burner, it frees you up to find your “personality match” at a job — a factor that can play a big role in how happy you will be at the company.

When you look at it this way, it’s easy to see many reasons to embrace the format of the video interview.

Still, a video interview requires just as much preparation as an in-person interview, only the typical interview prep advice needs a little update. The following are some tips that can help you put your best foot forward, even when you’re not asked to step outside your home:

Do your part to make the interview go smoothly.

The same courtesies that apply to an in-person interview also apply to a video interview. This means you must show up on time and not let technical difficulties stop you. It’s imperative to test your equipment beforehand. Make sure your computer is charged, your microphone works, and that you have a steady internet connection in a quiet, calm space. Also, know how your equipment works. If you will be asked to screenshare as part of the interview, be 100% sure you aren’t sharing too much.

How you look and act matter more than ever.

Your interviewers may only see you from the waist up, but that half is crucial. Video interviews are the right time to break out your inner film director and plan out your wardrobe, angles, and lighting. It doesn’t make you vain — these are precautions that allow your interviewers to see you clearly and not get distracted. Set yourself up in front of a solid background with the camera at eye level, and make sure you aren’t backlit. Look at the camera, not the screen, so you make digital “eye contact” with your interviewers. And remember to speak a little more slowly and clearly than you need to in person.

Be ultra-prepared.

Have you sent over all important documents ahead of time? Do you know each of your interviewers’ names? Have you planned out answers to potential questions? The better prepared you are, the smoother the video interview process will go, and the better “digital” impression you’ll make.

Remember, you’re working with a different set of challenges in a video interview, but it’s also a different set of benefits. Work to create a frictionless interview experience where you can showcase how bright, friendly, and interested you are, and you’ll be well ahead of the curve.

Take a crash course.

Believe it or not, but you can get help. Just like you would take a course on almost anything, you can take mock interview courses to improve your skills here. Yes, it takes eating some humble pie, but it’s wise to find out where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Click here to learn more about our Video Interviewing Crash Course.

 

 

Stephen Van VreedeAbout Stephen—-

Stephen Van Vreede is not your average IT/technical résumé writer. He provides career strategy and concierge job search solutions for senior (15+ years) (ITtechExec) and up-and-coming (NoddlePlace) (5-15 years) tech and technical operations leaders. Stephen and his team focus on building simplified, targeted, and certain career move campaigns, be it an external search or an internal promotion. He is co-author of UNcommon with career development leader Brian Tracy (out June 11, 2015). Contact Stephen directly at Stephen@ittechexec.com or send him an invite at https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephenvanvreede. To see whether Stephen and his team are a good fit for you, take their free (and anonymous) 1-minute compatibility quiz, Is the ITtechExec Approach a Good Match for You? Also, feel free to take his complimentary resume self-assessment quiz, How Certain Can You Be About Your Technical Resume? You might be surprised by what you find out!

 

 

IT Employment Expert Stephen Van Vreede Says Expect An “Internet of Things” Job Boom

IT Employment Expert Stephen Van Vreede Says Expect An “Internet of Things” Job Boom

CEO of ITtechExec Stephen Van Vreede discusses how with IBM’s recent $3B investment in an Internet of Things division, IT and tech employees can expect to see more and more job openings for specialists in the coming months, boosting IT employment.

Rochester, NY — Apr 28, 2015 — Stephen Van Vreede, CEO of ITtechExec, published a new blog post titled “How Will the ‘Internet of Things’ Affect Your Career Future?” In the post, he explains how this tech trend is expected to impact IT employment by creating new tech and IT jobs, advising tech job seekers to develop an expertise in IoT now if they want a cutting-edge job in the coming years.

Van Vreede says, “If IBM’s investment is any indication, we’ll see a lot more tech companies hiring IoT experts. Think about how your specific field relates to these innovations and what you can do to prepare yourself for new and exciting IT career paths as the state of technology changes. Fields like agriculture, data security, wearable tech, transit, cloud computing, and medicine are already well on their way to becoming part of the IoT.”

Stephen Van Vreede is a personal brand strategist, certified technical resume writer, job search agent, and the CEO and owner of ITtechExec. Stephen has 10 years of experience in employment strategy and 8 years of corporate management experience. He holds an M.B.A. in Marketing from Villanova University.

Read the entire article here. http://www.ittechexec.com/the-real-skinny-how-will-the-internet-of-things-affect-your-career-future/

About ITtechExec:

ITtechExec is a new kind of full-service IT employment agency that combines IT resume writing and technical resume writing, portfolio building, and IT job search solutions to launch extraordinary tech careers in the 21st century job market. CEO and Executive Solutions Guide Stephen Van Vreede created ITtechExec in 2001, using his background of personal branding and corporate management to create a multi-pronged approach that gets results. ITtechExec serves as the job seeker and career changer’s trusted adviser, helping them make the best of the careers they’ve built and guiding them into the professional futures they desire.

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The Real Skinny: How Will the “Internet of Things” Affect Your Career Future?

The Real Skinny: How Will the “Internet of Things” Affect Your Career Future?

Good news for IT and tech employees: A whole new employment sector is on the rise. Will you be on the cutting edge or one of the people trailing behind?

Late last month, CNET reported that IBM will be investing $3B in a new “Internet of Things” unit. While this is a monumental move for a company of IBM’s size and repute, the news didn’t come as a surprise to many. The Internet of Things (IoT) has been all the rage in the tech world for the past few years. Only now, companies are putting their money where their mouths are — and this means more money for you if you play your cards right.

What Is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things is an idea that encompasses the connectedness of everyday objects — “anything with an on/off switch” — to the Internet. It’s a powerful concept that holds the possibility for huge leaps in technical innovation, from automating machines we turn on manually (think alarm clocks and coffee makers) to possibilities we haven’t even thought of yet. There’s no shortage of information about IoT if you want to find out more, but in a nutshell, it combines household technology with Internet technology in new and exciting ways.

What Does This Mean For Jobs?

If IBM’s investment is any indication, we’ll see a lot more tech companies hiring IoT experts. Think about how your specific field relates to these innovations and what you can do to prepare yourself for new and exciting career paths as the state of technology changes. Fields like agriculture, data security, wearable tech, transit, cloud computing, and medicine are already well on their way to becoming part of the IoT.

For those of you looking to get ahead — or out of a job rut — start becoming an expert in it now so you can advance your career once IoT becomes the new normal.

 

About Stephen—-

Stephen Van Vreede is not your average IT/technical résumé writer. He provides career strategy and concierge job search solutions for senior (15+ years) (ITtechExec) and up-and-coming (NoddlePlace) (5-15 years) tech and technical operations leaders. Stephen and his team focus on building simplified, targeted, and certain career move campaigns, be it an external search or an internal promotion. He is co-author of UNcommon with career development leader Brian Tracy (check out his exclusive offer). Contact Stephen directly at Stephen@ittechexec.com or send him an invite at https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephenvanvreede. To see whether Stephen and his team are a good fit for you, take their free (and anonymous) 1-minute compatibility quiz, Is the ITtechExec Approach a Good Match for You?

Internet of Things

 

 

When You and Your Technical Recruiter Aren’t a Good Match

When You and Your Technical Recruiter Aren’t a Good Match

Choosing – or finding – the right technical recruiter for you can be vitally important in your IT job search

IT recruitingWhether you love technical recruiters or avoid them like the plague, the fact is they do play a part in the IT hiring process. In fact, in today’s tech job market, they play an even bigger role than they ever have.
That doesn’t mean you have to use them, of course, but why not give yourself as many options as you can?
Where most candidates go wrong with technical recruiters is 1) they don’t properly matched or aligned with them, 2) they expect too much from them, and 3) they fail to nurture an ongoing relationship with the ones who are a good fit to create a potential pipeline of opportunity down the road.
I’ve witnessed many candidates waste a lot of time talking to the wrong technical recruiter for them, and then they can’t figure out what went wrong. 

Sue Sacco, our Concierge Job Search Agent, says that it all starts with a little research. When she is working our client members, she:

  • Prepares a list of properly matched technical recruiters with their contact info to save our members the time and energy of trying to find them on their own. With geographical restrictions no longer at play and the number of technical recruiters skyrocketing, it’s harder than it used to be to find ones that place for the types of positions you want to go for. That is precious IT job search time you have to spend. So Sue takes care of that so our members can focus on other aspects of their search, like networking with colleagues and decision makers (because you should never rely on just one type of job search method in today’s IT/tech marketplace)!
  • Then once Sue creates her list, she either guides the member in how to introduce themselves to these technical recruiters or she takes it a step further and makes the introductions on our members’ behalf, again saving a lot of legwork and freeing up time to pursue other options as well!

Furthermore, once our members do engage with a tech recruiter, Sue can then walk them through their discussions to make sure they stay on track and not waste time here either.

 This is what a concierge job search agent service does. It’s not that you can’t. It’s that you don’t have to.
Either way, though, whether you attempt to find and engage technical recruiters and headhunters on your own or you work with someone like Sue, first and foremost is ask yourself, “Is this technical recruiter a good match?”
If the recruiter can’t say that he or she has placed candidates with your background and your salary range, then don’t waste anymore of your precious job search time.
(Want just a general directory of tech recruiters? Download our directory of 1350+ technical recruiters or our directory of 800+ project/program manager recruiters.)
Tech Job Boards: When to Use Them, When to Lose Them

Tech Job Boards: When to Use Them, When to Lose Them

hr56Answer truthfully: Have you ever gotten a great job via tech job boards? Do you know anybody who has in the past 5 years?

If your answer to these questions is “no,” or “just one or two,” then you already know for yourself that tech job boards have faded in the tech job search as the best career-finding tool. The tech job hunt, like most other things these days, has been dramatically changed by technology. And — we know the truth may hurt here — the tech job boards just aren’t up to par anymore.

Does this mean that you should throw job boards out the window?

No, but neither should you lean heavily on them if you’re serious about finding a job.

Studies show that 87 percent of Baby Boomers flock to job boards as their first course of action when finding a job, but that only between 2 and 12 percent of them actually find employment that way. This isn’t exactly what we’d call a favorable outcome. Why is this?

With major job boards, the number of applicants to any single posting can easily top 100 per day. As qualified as you may be for the position, the odds are simply stacked against you when there’s so much competition out there. Niche job boards like Dice.com tend to work a little better, but your resume can still get lost in the mix when it comes to the really great opportunities.

So what should you do when you really need to find a new job? Diversify your search.

The 3-Pronged Approach

Perhaps the easiest way of recalibrating your job search is to take the 3-pronged approach: job boards, networking, and recruiters.

Job Boards

Job boards should be what you spend the least time and effort on. It’s a baseline approach that has the benefit of working for you 24/7 — but that’s only if it works at all.

Use Job Boards When:

  • You have a solid resume that uses the right keywords for your job —remember, human eyes don’t usually look at your resume until they’ve been filtered through by machines
  • You’ve found a niche job board that targets your specific specialty
  • You are already using at least one other job search method concurrently

Lose Job Boards When:

  • You know you’re overly dependent on them
  • They are your first course of action in your job search
  • They haven’t worked for you in the past

Networking & Technical Recruiters

Allocate the bulk of your job hunt resources to networking and speaking with technical recruiters. These days, you can network and connect with recruiters online as easily as you can apply to a job on a job board. Try leveraging LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook to see how you can connect with real people who have decision-making power when it comes to jobs.

You don’t have to let go of the job board completely, but if you want to find a job, you need to cast a wider net. While it may seem like more effort to network and connect with recruiters, oftentimes, it’s less work than you’d spend sending resume after resume into the void.

Give the 3-pronged approach a try. And if you need help getting started, give us a call. We’d love to help!

How Many Certifications Do You Really Need?

How Many Certifications Do You Really Need?

certificationsJob-changers and entry-level job-seekers alike all seem to have the same question: Should I spruce up my resume with extra certifications? And if so, how many do I need to get the job of my dreams?

The answer? It depends.

Of course, showing off your skills and education is a good thing — but so is real-world work experience. It’s easy to get caught in a cycle of certification-collecting rather than working towards the skills that will actually move your professional life where you want it to go. And because you don’t have infinite time, you need to prioritize the ways you develop professionally.

(You also want to be careful that you haven’t fallen into the Career Credential Addiction that seems to be pervasive these days.)

So, before you start raking in certification after certification, follow these three steps: take a reality check, do your research, and strategize.

Reality Check

What certifications do you actually need for your job? Don’t get waylaid by job ads that ask for lots of certs — oftentimes, they are in the “nice to have” category and not the “need to have.” Always consult your hiring manager before jumping right into a new cert just to apply to a few jobs. Be aware that lower-level certs are usually worth less to employers than high-level ones, so don’t accumulate the basics just to have a few letters after your name.

Remember: Unless you are in a profession that legally mandates certification before you can practice your craft, there’s often some wiggle room in getting hired for jobs that ask for them.

Research

Here’s a tip that will save you time, money, and headaches: Research the people who have the job that you want on LinkedIn. What certifications do they have? Don’t stop at just one or two — look for multiple people across the country who have the job title you seek, and keep a record of what certifications they have to their name. But don’t stop your research there. Scan as many job ads and company websites as you can to see where the common ground is. Chances are, if you see the same certs popping up over and over again, they are worth your time.

Strategize

Once you have the lay of the land, it’s time to come up with a plan. Will your current employer pay for certifications? Find out. Do you need to join a professional organization before you can get the cert you need? Ask. Boil down your plan to just the essentials, and ask yourself if it’s worth it. Never forget that relevant work experience is almost always considered more valuable than certifications, so factor that into your plan. Can you take on a new project at work, or volunteer your skills to an organization in need? Be creative in your approach.

Remember, it’s the quality of certifications — not the quantity — that matters in your job search. There’s no magic number. Certifications are shorthand for knowledge, but they aren’t the only way to prove your skills to potential employers.

Get comfortable communicating about what you do, and use your certifications as evidence to back-up your claims — not the other way around.