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Why to Get Involved in Your IT Pro Community

By - Source: Toms IT Pro

One of the greatest sources of information and insight into technical topics, including IT certifications, comes from joining and participating actively in a community.

Credit: ShutterstockCredit: ShutterstockWhen it comes to preparing for any IT certification, I tell prospective candidates to find and join a community focused around the subject matter, and to participate actively as a part of the learning process. But there's more to be gained from this kind of activity than simply adding more "alphabet soup" after your name, or juicing up your resume. That's because you'll end up making contact with, and getting to know, lots of real people, some like you and some not at all like you. In that process, something almost always happens that goes well beyond IT certification and adds to life in other ways and dimensions.

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As somebody who's been following Microsoft's certification programs and credentials since the mid-1990s, I've participated in numerous online communities related to Microsoft technologies, platforms and more. Since about 2011, I've been active on a set of Windows forums that are extremely active and informative – namely, SevenForums, EightForums and TenForums. Along the way, I've learned a great deal from the many experts who help support the user base. I've also done my part by spending an average of an hour a day, seven days a week, reading over and (where appropriate) responding to posts from other users in search of answers, insights and information. It's been a terrific form of give-and-take. That is, I've been able to run down and solve lots of my own problems thanks to the hard work, knowledge and skills that other forum members have so generously shared. At the same time, I've tried to provide solutions to various problems or issues, share useful resources and information, and help newbies take best advantage of the resources the community can offer.

But there's quite a bit more to it than technical stuff and learning. I've also gotten to know a bit more than a double handful of people reasonably well, and to learn more about them and their lives. I've made at least three good friends out of the time spent on the message boards. When my 93-year-old Dad suffered a severe stroke that left him paralyzed on his left side, I found myself benefitting from the life experience of many forum members (some who were already friends, some who were not) in understanding how to make sure he gets the care he needs. Thus, the benefits of joining in and working diligently to add to a community's collective wit, wisdom and capabilities can go well beyond the confines of the topics related to IT certification.

As you prep for your next certification, and keep your current credential collection current, remember that there are lots of people who, like you, are interested in learning – and doing – more to maintain and expand on their skills and knowledge. Be sure to seek out and help others out as much as you can, and you'll never have a problem finding others willing to return the favor, and help you out in turn when help is what you need. I have just recently been reminded of this added dividend myself.

As you keep your skills portfolio current and fresh, remember that the more you give to your work and your community, the more you'll get back in the long run.