Career Advice in 5 Steps

With so many changes on the networking jobs, many engineers feel their careers are at a crossroad. Making a career decision you won’t regret is a very important matter and one that is going to determine where you will spend a third (ok, likely more…) of every business day of your working life. It is also an individual decision vs. a general blanket one, but since many people have asked me for guidance I’m providing my advice in this blog based on some recurring themes I’ve seen over the years.




1. Where you are now

Depending on where you are in your career – and your life! - there are different things you need to take into consideration.

If you are early in your career, focus on gaining experience in a few areas and companies related to the career you chose. This will give you an insight on the kind of company culture best matches you and the kind of job you see yourself doing in the long run.

If you are mid-career or even late in your career, you’ve probably  already been through a lot in terms of the company culture and have already  determined what you like and dislike doing, or you’re still searching for that perfect (or sometimes good enough) career. Whether or not you are unhappy with your job, you are sensing your job is becoming redundant, you are unemployed, you are pursuing job satisfaction or looking for career aspirations someplace else, you could find yourself contemplating your next move.


2. Your passion

Discover what you do and don’t want to do moving forward. What do you like doing? What energizes you to get out of the bed each day? What does a great day at work look and feel like for you? What are the causes you care about? Conversely and just as important, what do you hate doing? You will have to live with the decision you made, at least momentarily, which is too long doing something you dislike.

How important are salary and benefits to you compared to flexibility, workplace (collaborative or competitive), or working in a fast-paced and innovative environment?

Define what success means to you. Owning expensive clothes, jewelry, car, home? Going to expensive restaurants and hotels? Having more free time? Being culturally challenged?

When you are confident answering many of these questions, you can begin moving forward the next steps in your career!


3. Your strengths

Honestly assess what you’re good at. What are the unique characteristics that make you be you? I’m not talking only about your technical skills, but soft skills as well.  This is a reality check, how you differentiate yourself from others in a valuable way.


4. Market demand

You know where you are coming from, and what your passion and strengths are; now it’s time for you to do your research. What careers, which jobs in which industries, and where are the available opportunities located (yes, I’m talking about a potential relocation) do you deem as a match for yourself? Are they in high demand or are they in decline? Will these careers be long-lived and support your desired lifestyle in the long run? Think about the jobs as they exist now and how they can evolve, as well as the jobs of the future - have you heard about cloud brokers, data scientists, cyber security analysts, social intelligence managers, or industrial network engineers, etc.?


5. Decide

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Are you searching for a new job, do you want to embrace a whole new career, or do you prefer to be your own boss? No one wants to look back and regret a poor decision, especially a decision with so many implications to your life. Here are some creative and not so risky ways to test the waters:

  • Find a mentor
  • Do a job rotation
  • Shadow someone with the job title you’re looking for
  • Participate in a related community (a friend said, what you get out of it is proportional to what you put in)


Do you have what it takes to seize the opportunities out there? If not, invest in yourself to bridge the gap through education and certifications, which are great to either validate your current job experience and skills, or prepare you for your future career goals.



This is my take on career advice: be in control of your own career! Find out what careers are out there that match your strengths and passions, will be long-lived, and search for companies which align with your core values. Invest in yourself through education and certification to be well-positioned to seize the new opportunities.

If your career aspirations involve network design, check out the CCDE certification and start by looking for the Exam Topics and the Study Material for the written and practical exams, download and personalize the streamlined preparations resources spreadsheet and watch the corresponding video (links shown below).

Best of luck on your career choices!


What are your career plans? Is there a topic you want to hear about on my upcoming blogs? Add it to the comments field!


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Elaine Lopes is the CCDE and CCAr Certifications Program Manager and Team Lead for the CCIE program team, and she’s passionate about how lives can change for the better through education and certification.




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