Experience vs. Education – which is more important for your ServiceNow or ITSM career?

September 18, 2019

Michael Green is Vice President at ServiceNow recruitment firm Nelson Frank. With almost a decade of specialist recruitment experience under his belt, Michael works to match developers, architects, and other tech professionals with great jobs in the ServiceNow ecosystem.
In this blog, Michael shares some analysis about whether experience or education is the most important factor to improve your career. There are lessons for ServiceNow specialists and service managers alike.

Experience or Education?

Experience versus education: what's more important when building your career? It's a debate that continues to rage among professionals and employers alike, but the answer really depends on the industry in question.

When it comes to the IT sector, the ideal candidate would have the essential qualifications, five to 10 years' experience, and an impressive combination of hard and soft skills. But, with the ever-growing tech space continuously giving rise to new, niche markets like ServiceNow, candidates like these are rare. In fact, dream tech professionals like these are often referred to as unicorns, and for a good reason. The huge and evolving landscape of niche tech products is resulting in a shortage of skill sets across the market, due to the lack of tech professionals able to fill the high volume of roles being created.
In the face of these widening skills gaps, there's an argument to be made for employers looking beyond what's on a professional's resume—rather than looking for the perfect applicant, employers should focus on hiring an employee who has the necessary knowledge to perform in the role, but who also demonstrates potential for growth and a willingness to upskill.
So, how can ServiceNow professionals strike the right balance between education and experience, and position themselves as close to 'the ideal candidate' as possible?

Never Stop Learning

The experience you have can be an influential factor for an employer. Someone with expertise will naturally have a better understanding of workplace practices, like problem-solving and other day-to-day tasks without feeling overwhelmed by the work. Nevertheless, a candidate can gain transferable soft skills from any previous job, regardless of the industry.
Of course, when it comes to building that experience, there's a catch-22 at play: how do you develop your hard skills with expertise when you need the experience in the first place? That's where an educational background comes in handy. Education is an excellent way to get your foot in the door, especially in a tech field where, in most cases, qualifications are essential to the role. Our recent survey of the ServiceNow community discovered that 53% of ServiceNow professionals hold at least a bachelor's degree or equivalent, with a further 21% hold a master's degree qualification or equivalent.
For candidates new to the industry, having a strong educational background within a niche field can be a tremendous advantage for a business. Ideally, companies want hard skills, but if you can also offer diverse knowledge of the latest technology trends, and can show that you're able to take a continuous approach to learning, you'll be an appealing prospect. Likewise, if you're a seasoned professional, don't feel discouraged if you lack degree-level qualifications—the tech industry is forever growing and presenting new opportunities to achieve and more things to earn if you're willing to develop your skills.

Adding Strings to Your Bow

As the IT industry expands, the ability to work with a variety of multi-technology channels is a valuable skill to have in the bank as a tech professional. The Nelson Frank survey found that 90% of organizations are now implementing cloud computing, and increasing take-up of technologies like ServiceNow, both demand for skilled specialists and the variety of tools that a single business employs at any one time is rising.
Our report also revealed that a growing number of professionals are cross-training into a more lucrative career in ServiceNow - a majority of respondents had 19 or more years' experience within the tech industry, but more than half had only three to six years of experience with ServiceNow.
The good news is that tech professionals can do a considerable amount to broaden their horizons through self-guided education. ServiceNow and many other forward-thinking vendors offer a diverse range of certifications to encourage professionals to expand their knowledge and specialize in their software. Plus, research has found that certifications make a tech professional more valuable within the hiring market, providing extra marketability, and giving hiring managers confidence in a candidate's skill set.
If you're considering changing jobs or progressing within your career, investing in new qualifications is a great idea, and could even increase your earning potential—participants in our survey reported an average salary increase of 21% after gaining certification. Although certifications can be expensive, they're indisputably valuable both to you and your employer; so much so that many employers will actually fund their employee's certifications in full. Our data shows that 63% of our respondents' employers paid for their accreditation, a clear sign that investing in upskilling has a significant impact on not only attracting the best talent but retaining it too.
Whether you're new to the industry or a seasoned professional, the tech market is a lucrative place to be. To stand out as an expert within the ServiceNow market, you must demonstrate a willingness to progress, develop a diversity of experience, and be able to show off your initiative to be a lifelong learner.

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