I've recently been considering a career change into the network administration field. I've completed my CCNA and CCNP but they are not in practical use in my current job position. I got them for the purpose of future job opportunities. But it's becoming a "use it or lose it" situation. Most of the job postings I've looked at are requiring 3-5 year of experience at my current job level. I have book knowledge but no real active hands on experience. Any recommendations on a good entry level position where I can start fresh? If not, any ideas on how to bring my hands on experience up without sacrificing my current job performance?
I think that your dilemma is a common one. Definitely look for any
opportunities in your company to get some experience. If you feel safe
doing it, let people know that you're looking to move into a networking role
and see if they are willing to let you help out with projects or anything
else. Also, ask the people in charge of hiring for network positions what
they would recommend you do. If you are showing initiative and
willingness to put in the work, it'll catch their eye.
Outside of your company, volunteer opportunities are something to look
into. Local non-profits, charities, and churches often welcome
help. Maybe you can work on a few projects for them.
Also, networking (the person to person kind) is really powerful. A
large number of jobs are gained by knowing the right people. Let your friends
and family know what you are looking to do and have them put out feelers for
you at their companies and with their contacts.
Unfortunately, I have not really seen the entry-level networking
position. Which is really frustrating. But use any methods at your
disposal to get your foot in the door. Good luck!
As long as your current career is IT related I would recommend looking for a small company. Typically small companies have small IT groups and the chance is that you would be able to get your hands on the network as well as your primary responsibility. This would let you get some of the needed experience and also let you find out if networking is right for you without having to sacrife your current career and salary.
Tim, your definitely on the right track by getting your CCNA/CCNP. Certification can not only be used as a validation of skills, it can be used as a door opener. It shows you've done your studying and your serious about networking. Now its time to get your hands into it and start racking up some experience. I've interviewed a lot of people for level I and II spots and would say the most important thing is to just be honest. When questioned about your experience explain calmly that your changing directions in your career and that Networking is for you. It sounds like you have IT experience already. When I interview someone I want to know that this person has the ability to learn new things and complete projects. Some new technology is always coming up and if your past experience shows you can adapt and learn, that's a big plus. Always have the attitude that there maybe things you haven't done, but there isn't anything you can't do. In fact you can even say it if it seems appropriate. Be confident not cocky, add a dash of humbleness and you've got the right recipe for an interview attitude. An important consideration during the interview is feeling out whether this person is going to get along well with the rest of the team, not only technical background.
How do you get the interview? A good way is to leverage your current experience. Look for jobs that are good cross overs into networking. Maybe it's half server work and half networking. It's got to be something you can start showing some experience in networking though. Another route might be to start putting together a list of the large companies in your area and finding out who their Network Manager is. Email him/her directly with a good intro using some of the stuff I mentioned in the first paragraph along with your resume. It could take some digging online or maybe even a phone call but I think the best chance you have of getting hired is getting your resume in front of the person whose actually going to make the decision. I've recieved resumes directly from people that I've interviewed and later hired as well as used this technique myself to land an interview. Do not always leave your fate up to the Human Resource Dept. of a company. If I really told you how I feel about HR Dept's. I'm sure I'd get banned from this site . But they don't always have the skills to recognize a good IT resume or might just toss it based on the experience requirement. Get your resume in the hands of the Network Manager even if there are no networking jobs posted. Ultimately that's the person you need to convince, not HR.
I really wish you luck. Let us know how things go.
I have been in the same boat for a long time and I too am finding it really frustrating. I currently work as a Senior Operations Analyst which in reality means I do anything network related. I have worked on the network and server for a number of years and I completed my CCNA two years ago. I have since been for about twenty interviews with no joy. The problem is my hands on networking experience is in Nortel rather than Cisco. I have an element of Cisco experience gained during the study of the CCNA. Put together the hands on experience in Nortel and the theory plus a bit of hands on in Cisco and one would expect employers to put the two together and consider me a good bet, but they tend to be rather short sighted and concentrate entirely on my lack of commercial Cisco experience. I also have a masters degree in IT and one Microsoft exam, on top of eleven years experience in an IT department , from desktop support up to Network Specialist but I still can't get a new job! I'm considering doing the CCNP just to prevent my CCNA expiring but I'm not conviced it's worth putting myself through the stress given that all my qualifications so far have been of no benefit whatsoever. What does everyone else think?
Phil whatever you do don't stop learning. The CCNA is a great start, and that is exactly what it is, a start. The CCNP is the next step. Don't stress out about it, there is no professional downside to having a CCNP if your looking for a more Cisco focused networking career. Think of it as a natural progression like going from high school to college. Even if it isn't backed by much experience, when a Network Manager is scanning your resume and those 4 letters pop out, it gets put in the pile of people they are looking at seriously.
As far as your luck with interviews go.... If you were having trouble with getting interviews I would say to present you networking experience more generically and not mention Nortel excessively. Fundamentally, networking is networking, so state your experience in terms of the technical specifics of the projects, not necessarily focusing on the equipment as much since it's not Cisco. I would definately list all your experience with Nortel but overall you want to give the impression that your a 'network guy' not a 'Nortel guy'. Another thing to consider is your masters in IT. Some may look at that and feel you're over qualified and some Network Managers may look at it and say to themselves 'I'm not going to hire this guy, he's more qualified than me!.' I remember when I was looking for my first networking job 11 years ago and in some cases my MCSE and CNE hurt my chances because I was seen as one of the 'server guys' and not a 'real network guy'. So when you're in the interview just have this in the back of your mind. The HR people will probably love you but the network people may feel intimidated. Try to ease their fears and you'll have a much better shot. One more thing I can recomend is that if you don't get the job ask for some constructive feedback from the Network Manager as to what you can do professionally to better align yourself with positions like the one you interviewed for. Don't approach him/her with a 'Why didn't I get the job?' because they are probably not going to answer a question like that. Approach them as mentors and ask them for guidence based on their experience and as a professional courtesy. Most people love to give advise especially if they think your looking up to them.
Thanks for the post Jason.
As far as getting interviews is concerned, I've had quite a few of those so that doesn't seem to be a problem. I've not had the job offers though because they always say I don't have quite the experience they are looking for. This has been the case for Microsoft and firewall jobs as well as networking. What baffles me is why they invite me in for interview when I don't claim on my CV to have the experience they are allegedly looking for! I sometimes wonder whether a vacancy exists at all or whether they are just picking brains, or already have the job allocated to an internal candidate.
I'm thinking I may have to volunteer to spend some time somewhere, unpaid, to get some hands on with Cisco routers, switches, firewalls etc. It annoys me that I have flogged myself to death in gaining experience in my job and in getting qualifications but it all seems to be in vain, whereas others seems to walk into jobs with no effort required. There must be some secret to interviews that I am missing. Anyone got any tips on that, other than the obvious be presentable, look the interviewer in the eye, speak clearly etc. I have even studied NLP to get a grasp of body language, matching/mirroring etc, but that hasn't helped either.
Thanks for the positive feedback Phil and Saravana. Something else that came to mind when looking to change careers is to leverage the industry experience you currently have. If your working in banking or insurance right now, try to target those type of companies for the next step in your networking career. Right now I work in health care for a large hospital system. My previous job was for a hospital system. When I interviewed for my current job, half the interview was about health care related projects that were coming up. They didn't need to explain to me what a PACS system was or how HIPAA regulations were affecting them becuase I already new. I know if we get resumes for a position and the person has any type of health care experience they are given special consideration. In the beginning of my career I didn't understand the value of this. I figured the better I was at networking the more the company would benefit and I didn't make any effort in understanding the industry I was working in. All my effort went into becoming a better engineer. To be perfectly frank, there is one company I worked at for 2 years and to this day I don't know exactly the point behind what that place did ?:|. So I hopped from one industry to the next with each new job I took. And maybe that's what you need to do to find an industry that you want to settle into for a while. But if your looking for that career change, you need all the leverage you can get. Targeting companies in the same or similar industries that you work in now could help swing things in your favor.
I am not a so experienced guy but confident. Now doing a job in a service provider. This topics bring me some curisity thats why i am writing this. From my little knowledge i just see there is no problem if anyone wanna learn technology. I think experience is prefered but not mandatory if candidates have enough knowledge about the technology. And now a days its so easy to learning new thing . Like cisco , 2/3 years ago their is no way for doing practical work without real router/switch or other networking devices. ( except job field) People only learn the theory and apply it to the practical job field. But now their is several way to implement your learning in a practical scenario. So if anyone have only attitude s/he can get a good opportunity . people can easily build lab in home and doing a lot of practice with real scenario and can implement at job. So , no frustation , just go ahead , I think everyone can get success if s/he have desire.
I am not a native english man , so sorry if any mistake in writing.
In response to your post, it would be great if employers really did think like this, and were prepared to take on people on the basis of experience gained in a lab/.test environment. My experience is that this carries no weight, employers being interested only in commercial experience. I could imagine it may well be ok for someone looking for an entry level position, and maybe this is what you are referring to, but I am several rungs up the ladder, doing a Senior IT Operations Analyst job, involving all aspects of network and server management. I need to become more specialised in something, networking being my preference, in order to ascend higher. I can't afford to take a junior position on half my current salary, but the varied nature of my current role prevents me doing any one thing in any great depth. Hence I did the CCNA, which involves a lot of lab work, but the feedback from interviews tells me that that is not good enough and it needs to be in a commercial environment. It's a chicken and egg situation.
I agree with Daniel that it could be worthwile to start off at a smaller company. There you are more likely to get your hands on a broader range of stuff. This way you probably won't be working 100% in the area that you want to work in at the longer term, but the experience you have might get you the job more easily and it will give you the opportunity to expand the experience for the part you're interested in. That way you have the extra required experience for the job you had your eye on.
Just my $0,02.
Dennis, I think you and Daniel are absolutely right. A small company can be a great place to get started. At a small company you are the 'network guy' and the 'server guy', 'storage guy' and whatever guy/gal you need to be. It's a great way to get a broad range of experience in a lot of different areas and gives you the oportunity to see the whole picture. Larger companies are of course much more compartmentalized so your perspective can become somewhat narrow. The fundamentals don't change so once you've worked on some routers, switches, firewalls, etc. for a small company, everything you learned is applicable to a network only job at a larger company. Scale and complexity of projects at large companies tend to become more of an issue, but the principals are still the same. It's a great way to build network experience on your resume.
Hey dear friend, Only one advise for you
See if you have completed ur CCNP, and u want to practice for it there is no good thing other that "BOSON SIMULATOR".....yyes
just download boson netsim v7 for ccnp and start working on it , it will give u real experience when u are not doing CCNP kindda job, and yeah one more thing u should apply on any ISP office near ur home or city, and iam sure that u will get any entry level job. but do practice hard for configuring BGP, OSPF and other things.
have a nice dayB-)