The networking industry is a constantly evolving field that needs more and more talented people to start filling roles that are opening up. Even with this, it seems that without experience, it is still hard to break into the industry. This poses a very unique situation out there for people just starting their careers, but there are ways that, with some outside-the-box thinking, breaking into the field shouldn't be as daunting as it sounds.
I was extremely fortunate enough to lead a discussion on using certifications as experience on your resume (Session 2: Certifications as Experience). If we take a step back and look at it from a high level, it makes a lot of sense to do this. During your studies you are building up topologies, breaking down protocols to see how they work, and troubleshooting along the way. This is everything an employer is looking for in a candidate for a junior/entry level position. In going through your certifications you go through a lot of what you would be asked to do at a job, which may include:
- Working to solve a problem
- Researching new technology
- Building a network
- Working in a team (if in a study group)
Let’s take a look at the above bullet points more in depth.
Working to solve a problem
How many times have you tried to follow along and implement OSPF or EIGRP, and for one reason or another, it didn’t turn out the way you read in a book or watched in a video? This is a great way to show that you were faced with a problem and the steps you took to solve it. Not only is this a learning experience on how to solve a problem, but it can also start you down the road to be an expert troubleshooter!
Researching New Technology
When you are studying for a certification, you are in essence researching technology that is new to you. How you prepared for the test is a good way to demonstrate during an interview your ability to gather and apply information. This shows that you have the skills to pull in other resources when you may come across something that may be new to you.
Building a Network
This is one that a lot of people overlook. You may not know you have built and designed a network, but you have when studying for a certification test. This is a great way to showcase your familiarity with hardware components, such as why you choose to use a WIC-1T over an Ethernet connection. Have samples of topologies you built and, if asked, be able to say why you went with one style of connection over the other.
Working on a team
If you were involved in any study groups, this is a great way to show how you work in a team. If you led any discussions or presented anything for the group, this is a way to showcase your presenting skills, which in a networking role can be a plus if you are going to be presenting to clients or management.
Looking at how you can approach a certification test, you can use a lot of what you applied to get the certification as experience. The key to this is to highlight what you feel the job would be looking for that you achieved during your certification studies, and then you can segue into some of the other things that you may have done that are not on your resume.
Using certifications as job experience is only one piece of the puzzle. I was always taught to put anything on your resume that you came across more than once in your career in a “technical skills” section. For instance, studying for your CCNA you learn technical skills like OSPF, EIGRP, RIP, and STP, just to name a few. You could put on your resume under technical skills what you learned from going through your certification studies. I think a lot of people overlook this, because they are not doing this in a corporate environment, and they think they can’t put it on their resume; but you can. You do have familiarity with it just in a different way than on-the-job learning.
Everyone’s mileage may be different with this approach. If I saw a resume like this come across my desk and I felt like they were a fit for the position, I would defiantly bring the candidate in and have a chat with them. It is good to know that when you think you have nothing for a resume with work experience, you can potentially include what you used for your certification studies as a way to try to break into the industry.