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Getting your first networking job!

So I had a question asked to me…one that I myself even asked many people before I got into networking. “How do I break into the networking field with little or no experience?”  This is a very common question among both young and old IT people who are determined to get into the networking field. However it is always easier said then done. Networking is a tough field to break into especially if you are young, fresh out of college, and no experience under your belt. So what does somebody do in this kind of situation? Well here is what I did and I suggest you do the same and I can almost guarantee that an employer will be sure to take a chance on you.

Firstly you need to be dedicated to your networking studies…specifically Cisco. You not only need to be dedicated but you also need to have a passion for it, you need to love to learn it and it should become somewhat of a hobby for you. If you don’t have any experience in the field I recommend getting your A+ so you can at least get your foot in the door with an entry level IT job. After that you should go for your Network+ and your CCNA. You could skip on the Network+, its all personal preference. The only reason I got mine was because I had no experience in networking and wanted to learn as much as I can. Even if you do not get that entry level job after your A+ you should always be studying and going for your next cert, never stop studying!

Now after you have your entry level IT position and also just past your CCNA you should be putting your resume up on as many job posting sites as possible. I have another blog post about this, just search for it in the top right. During this time you should also be studying for your CCNP, trust me when you go into those interviews and say that your currently studying for your CCNP they will be very impressed. I know this from my own experience. Another thing is that you should have a home lab that you can get some hands on experience with, this will also impress potential employers in interviews.

It may take a few interviews before someone gives you an offer on that entry level networking job but it will happen, you just have to stay positive.

CCNP Route Study Dilemma

So I have found myself to be stuck at a crossroads. My new job and my studies have both been going great however upon starting my job I can’t shake the feeling that CCNP Switch would be so much more beneficial for me at this time. The reason I say this is because in my current role I will being dealing mostly on the LAN side of things. Yes occasionally I will have to troubleshoot WAN problems but I honestly don’t think those will come up as often as LAN issues.

I’m way to far into my Route studies to just switch to Switch so I am just gonna have to finish up strong so I can begin the Switch studies asap. I glanced through the Ciscopress Switch book last night and even noticed things in it that other engineers were discussing just that day. I hope to take the Route exam in the next 2-3 months, however now I feel like I am going to be rushing to get it done so I can move onto Switch. I really want to grasp all the concepts well so I am not just doing it for a piece of “paper”.

If anyone can comment on which has helped them more in the workplace Switch or Route that would be great! Thank you!

 

My first day as a network engineer

Ill start off by saying that my first day went by extremely fast! Everyone in the IT department seemed very nice and I am looking to forward to working with them all. Unfortunately I am horrible with names so it will definitely take some time for me to get everyone’s name down. The whole IT department is roughly 70 people and the networking team consists of 5 guys (including me). The fellow engineers I currently work with are very knowledgeable so I am very excited to learn from them. I must admit though that I felt very overwhelmed today. I realized that I really don’t actually know anything when it comes to real-world production networking. A lot of the concepts felt like they went right over my head but the engineers assured me that they don’t expect me to understand it all. I am very glad that they are understanding and are willing to work with me to bring me up to speed.

My day today really did fly by, however when I look back right now I feel like I really didn’t do much. Most of my day consisted of getting introduced to everyone and talking to various kinds of people. I also spend an hour and a half in an annual IT department meeting. I did get to use something today that I have only read about in the books; a Fluke Networks network tester. I remember in one of Jeremy Ciora’s CCNA cbtnugget videos him mentioning this exact model and that it costs over $1,000. I used it to trace a bad cable run which was something that I have never done before.

I’m sure I will have more eventful posts then this one in the future!

Expectations for first networking job

So I am going to be honest here and say that I really think that I am setting my expectations way to high for my first networking job.  My first day is this Monday and I am actually super excited and not nervous at all, I just wanna get in their and learn as much as I can.  However I think I need to take a step back and learn my place. I will be the low man on the totem pole and will most likely not get any real work until I prove myself. In my mind I just want to start logging in and configuring anything that they may need me too, but like I said that is most likely not going to happen for awhile. So really I am just going to try and take each day one step at a time and really try and show the other engineers that I want to learn and that I will do whatever it takes to get the job done.

From reading articles on various networking forums I feel that this is a common problem  new network engineers face when they enter the networking field. They feel that since they just passed their CCNA/CCNP that the company that just hired them will just give them all the usernames/passwords so they can start configuring. Which obviously that is not the case. Yes certifications are important but they only lay a foundation for you to enter the networking field more easily. Someone with Cisco certifications will grasp the networking concepts in real world experiences much faster than someone who has not taken any certifications. I know this from experience because at my last job I surpassed the knowledge of the junior network engineer within a year of full time experience as a desktop engineer. I do cut him so slack though since he does have a family and many more responsibilities then I do.

Once I start work I hope to keep this blog updated with the various tasks that I complete on  a daily basis.

Cisco Study Partners

Cisco study partners? Are they good to have? Or is it better to go through the Cisco certification path alone? What does one expect from their study partner? What if they are not on the same level you are on? If that is the case you will have to waste your time waiting for them to catch up to your skill level. Yes you could help them catch up to you and refresh yourself on some concepts, however that is valuable time you could be spending learning new topics. What if you and your study partner have different schedules? I am sure that will effect studying greatly. A time that is convenient to study for you may bot be so convenient for them.

Personally I have given a study partner a chance when I first started studying for my CCENT, and all I have to say about that is that I h\am never going to have a study partner again. Coordinating schedules was such a hassle and I felt like I was just wasting time often. Lets just say that the study partner and I only lasted for about a month. I truly believe that the path of certifications is a lonely one. You can really only rely on yourself to get the studying done and not expect someone to be right their behind you. I feel that is almost impossible for two people to be able to match each others study habits.

So my recommendation is to just go along the path alone and just focus on bettering yourself everyday. If you do come across a study partner one day and want to give them a shot, go for it, it may work out for you. I am not saying that all study partners are bad, it is just that I had a bad experience and am not willing to give it another chance.

How to look for your next job

Looking for a job can be very intimidating especially if you have never dealt with job posting websites before.  However going to these websites and getting your resume on them is very important so recruiters/employers can see if you are a good fit for their company.  Also these websites will allow you to search through thousands of different job openings and apply to whichever ones interest you most.  Keep this in mind though, most job posting list requirements that often times far exceed your skill set. This does not mean you shouldn’t apply. Remember these requirements are for an “ideal” candidate. Companies will oftentimes take a risk on someone who doesn’t have the “ideal” skill set and mold them to their liking.  However this does mean that you will most likely get paid less than what the job posting originally said.  This may be worth it because the experience you gain will pay itself off in 1-2 years time.

Personally I like putting my resume on as many job posting sites as I can.  I like being able to go to each site and browse through the different job postings and apply to ones that catch my eye.  Keep in mind that these websites don’t always have the same job postings across the board.  So if you really want employers to notice you, you should post your resume on at least 3-4 sites. Also as side note, you WILL be contacted by a lot of recruiters and I think it is in your best interest to give them some of your time and chat with them.  Recruiters have a very big network and they can often get your foot in the door of a job you have been wanting.

So here are the resources I use when I am on the hunt for my next job.

  • Monster.com
  • Dice.com
  • Careerbuilder.com
  • Glassdoor.com
  • Indeed/com
  • Craigslist.com (I usually would only browse around)
  • LinkedIn.com

 

 

A bitter farewell

Well the day has finally come, it is my last day at my current employer :( I never thought this moment would happen so quickly, but I know I am making the right decision for my career. This was my first job since graduating school and I am very thankful that I was lucky enough to have been given a job in my field of study upon graduation.  I met a lot of great people here and I really do hope to stay in touch with some of them. I’ve learned that building a network is very important, especially in IT. I feel that I have learned a ton during my employment, both personally and professionally.

I am really excited about my new job as a network engineer. Oddly enough I am not nervous one bit, I just want to start already :) I really hope I do well in my new position and that I exceed even my own expectations. This is the position I have been working so hard for this past year, now its time to show what I’ve learned in the books/lab and apply it to the real world. Wish me luck! Here goes nothing!

Certifications vs College Degree

Oh the age old question…is it better to obtain a degree or stick to certifications? Really this question can not be answered for you. Obviously a degree will take about 4 years of your life and will cost a lot of money. Certifications on the other hand can get you a job rather quickly. Recent college graduates really do have a tough time breaking into the IT field because honestly college degree don’t hold that much weight. Often times a college degree is just a check box for most employers. So in that case yes a college degree is important to have, especially if you want a government job. If you ask me I think the whole situation is rather corrupt, why does someone need to have a college degree if they posses a skill set that far surpasses any college graduate? Obviously their is nothing we can do about how the system is run, so we are left to adapt to it.

If I were to go back 5 years when I was first pursuing my CSIT degree I would have told myself this. “Pursue certifications throughout your 4 years in university because upon graduation your resume will stand out above all others”. Unfortunately at the time I did not really know about certifications so I just slacked off and lived the college life my first 3 years. Upon entering my senior year I learned about IT certifications and instantly started pursuing my A+ and then my Network+. I passed both upon graduation. Even though these are both entry level certifications, it still made my resume stand out compared to my classmates.

So as a final thought, yes a college degree is important, and yes certifications are important. If possible I recommend you pursue both, if money is an issue for you I would then highly suggest you start on your certification path.

Sharing in other’s success

When someone tells you that they recently passed a tough certification or have gotten a new job they have always wanted, what is your first reaction? Say congratulations? Ask questions? Or give a smirk and brush off whatever the person just told you? Until recently I never realized how many people in this world would actually choose the last option I listed. I don’t understand why it is hard for some people to be genuinely happy for someone who is advancing in their career. The only way I can explain it is maybe that person is jealous because they never have achieved those kind of things in their own lives. I’m sure if you work in IT then you have run into these kinds of people, typically they are the people that says certifications are a waste of time.

Co-workers at my current employer, upon hearing that I was going to be working as a network engineer, instantly started coming up to me and asking me questions. Of course their were some people that were very happy for me and even said that this is a great move for me. However others would try and bring me down saying that “I don’t know what I am getting myself into” or that “I am too young”. I honestly don’t think some of my co-workers understand, even after I explain, that I am trying to expedite my career in the direction I want and not waste my time doing desktop support.

No one at my current job understands how hard I work everyday after work, oddly enough the one guy that was happy for me also pursues certifications. I guess you can say like minded people understand the struggles that certification testing brings so they are more likely to be happy for you when you achieve something. So please never let people bring you down, they only do it because they can’t do something themselves.

Set your Networking Career Path

I have been told by a few individuals over the years that you can not plan out your career, and that things will always come up that you never expect throughout your entire career. I do agree with this to an extent however I think having a 3 or 5 year plan is crucial to your success. Of course their will be occurrences that you never expect to happen; some will be good and some will be bad. What matters is that you are able to deal with them and continue with your 5 year plan.

Since starting full-time in IT I made myself a 5-year plan and have achieved so far every goal I had initially set for myself. This included passing my A+/Network+/CCENT/CCNA and also getting into the networking field within my first year of working full-time. This is not a coincidence or luck. I am living proof that if you set your mind to something and you want it more than anything else you will achieve it. Some other goals of mine in my 5 year plan include passing CCNP/CCDA/CCDP, become a mid-senior engineer, become a network consultant, and finally passing CCIE. Passing CCIE may not happen in my 5 year plan but I feel that if I stay at the pace I am currently keeping I should be able to pass it by the time I am 26-27.

So please do yourself a favor and literally write yourself out a career path and follow it. Don’t lose sight of your goals and don’t let other people tell you that you are taking the wrong path. Trust me you will run into tons of people that think certifications are a waste of time. Get those kind of people out of your life. I guarantee you will surpass their skill set much faster then they took to get their.

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