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Experience counts most

A top recruiter says get experience first, certification later. Already have a certification? Don’t expect it to raise you above an entry-level IT job. 5/7/01 Experience counts most A top IT recruiter says get experience first, certification later. If you’ve already got a certification, don’t expect it to raise you above an entry-level IT job.

Dear Molly: A few months ago I passed my CCNA exam with 93 percent, but am having a hard time getting a job. Could you please guide me or provide me with some leads that might help me in the right direction?

Molly says: I don’t know anyone you could approach for a job–if that’s what you mean by providing you with some leads. I can make some suggestions as to what you should try next.

My first thought is that you probably don’t have enough networking experience to suit the employers you are pursuing. I was talking to one of the top guys at one of the world’s largest IT recruiting firms this week, and he told me point-blank that someone just starting out in the IT world should skip the certification until he or she has at least six months of experience working in the field. Yes, you can get a job after you get the certification, he said, but it will be the same job you could have gotten six months prior without the certification.

So, I pass his sage advice to anyone wanting to start a career in computer networking: Swallow your pride and find a job that lets you work in a small- to medium-size company alongside one IT manager who will take you under his or her wing and mentor you. Forget about the network administrator jobs and do anything IT-related (known as “scut work” to those of you who were in the military) for at least a year. Volunteer for every kind of job, no matter how trivial, so you can get a broad range of experience. Then, get certified or take your certification and look for another, higher paying job.

I would add to that the absolute necessity for you to start meeting other people in the IT industry who work in your area. If there is a computer club in the area, go join. If there are (human) networking events in your area, participate in those. Most people get a job because they know somebody, not because they answer an ad in the paper.

Molly Joss also writes the monthly Career Advisor column for ComputerUser magazine. Ask a career-related question at [email protected]

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