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Use everything you’ve got

Molly tells a writer who has a CCNA, but no experience, to hang out on some related Web sites and network.

Dear Molly: With the computer market taking a hard hit, will it be very difficult for an individual with a CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) certification and no experience to break in?

Molly says: Almost impossible or possible has a lot to do with what else is on your resumé. If you’ve got a four-year degree in computer science and a CCNA, you’re in better shape than if you have no college degree. If you’ve got extensive experience in a particular field–even something as seemingly unrelated as a decade of experience in the hotel and entertainment industry–you’ve got something you can build upon. Bottom line: look at your entire work and educational history and look for ways to apply all of it in an IT career.

Even if you don’t have any other angle to work along with your CCNA, you can always use networking–the human being kind–to help break into the field. Networking is simple: Find a cluster of people in your area or on the Web who are already doing what you want to do (network administration, etc.) and hang out with them. After you get to know the folks and the culture, ask for help finding a job.

Here are a few Web sites I found where people with CCNA and related certifications hang out: GroupStudy.com, Engineers.com and the IEEE Computer Society and its affiliated organizations. For groups in your area, check the local business journal or even the local major daily for announcements of computer organization meetings. Sometimes you even find this information on the visitors and conventions Web site for your area.

Finally, if the school where you got your CCNA education has any services that relate to helping you find a job, make sure you avail yourself of them. That’s part of what you paid for and you should get your money’s worth.

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

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