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Also, get paid to learn. Career Advisor hed: dek: by Molly Joss

Q: I am a computer consultant with decades of management experience and years of consulting experience. My business, though, has been hit by the recession and my retainers have dried up. I am interested in hiring myself out as a temporary senior manager but have no idea how to go about this. Can you help?

A: There are several temporary help agencies that work with managers (middle and senior), including folks on the CEO level. They find you the position, help you land it, and then take a portion of your salary as their compensation. Since you’re just starting out on this path, I would try to work with these companies to get your first clients. Later, you may be able to find your own clients and then not have to pay the fee. You can always combine working with agencies to find clients with working on your own to find them.

If your experience is focused on one or a few industries, make sure you contact the trade associations in the industries to let them know what you are doing. They may be able to give you the names of a few companies that could use your services. Worst-case, they will tell you about some events they have coming up that you could attend to do some networking.

Try visiting the Web sites of the major IT recruiting firms, such as Monster.com Talent Market to find out more about how you’d get involved with an agency and what’s in it for you.

Q: I spend years in the military working on security (human, not computer), and I am interested in learning more about how computer technology can be used for human security–especially things like smart cards and biometrics. I want to get a job in the field so I can get paid to learn about this topic. How can I do this?

A: Getting paid to learn is great, so I don’t blame you for wanting to find such a job. The trick for you will be to find a company that needs the skills you already have so that they’re willing to pay you to learn. Fortunately, you have years of experience in security routines and practices. You will need to highlight what you learned when you apply for jobs and go on interviews.

Governments and the military have purchased much of the smart card and biometric technology in use today (they’re the only ones who’ve been able to afford the cost of full-blown systems), so your military experience should help you get an interview.

My advice is to start with the large corporations, such as Unisys and Polaroid, that make security systems using biometric technology. Try the smaller, up-and-coming companies, too. The large companies will have more job openings, but the smaller companies will be more willing to take a risk in hiring you if your skills don’t match exactly.

There is also a lot of information on the Web. Here are two sites to get you started: the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Biometric Technologies and Smart Card Project and the Biometric Consortium.

Q: I have recently acquired two Cisco networking certifications (CCNA and CCNP). Please tell me what areas I should focus on in the field of networking and what level of experience companies like Cisco, Alcatel, and others are looking for in new hires.

A: Congratulations on obtaining these certifications. Now that you have them, it’s time to find a job in which you can put them to use–such as a position as a network technician or network engineer. What you end up doing depends a lot on your own interests. If you want to plan and set up new networks, you can do that. If you want to troubleshoot existing networks, you can do that, too.

Those, however, are longer-term goals; your first step is to find a job that uses your training. Network vendor companies such as Cisco like to see at least six months of hands-on experience to accompany any certification. A year or two of experience is even better.

If you don’t have this experience, get it before you apply. That way, you’ll have a good shot at a better job and you’ll get more money at Cisco than if you apply with no experience.

When searching for this experience, look for a job with a medium-sized company that has an established network and needs someone to look after it or expand it. If you get a job at a large company, you’re not going to get the variety of experiences you need to move forward.

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