Certification, Training and Do's and Don'ts for people wanting to start in IT

Discussion in 'Training & Development' started by SimonD, Jun 16, 2012.

  1. SimonD
    Honorary Member

    SimonD Terabyte Poster

    I see a number of posts that essentially ask the same question time and again, what certifications do I need to get to allow me to find work and unfortunately for the most part the information initially sought after by the poster isn't what they want to hear.

    IT Certification as a general rule is designed to show a level of competency in a given subject matter, whether that's Microsoft, Cisco or even Tea Making they all expect you to know enough about the subject matter to be able to pass their exams.

    In the case of the person wanting to get into IT though there are some things that you need to know and understand to allow for the smoot development of your career to progress at a steady state.

    IT Certification isn't there to allow you to get your first job, with the exception of a couple of CompTIA exams (the Strata IT Fundamentals, the A+ and to a certain degree although I tend to disagree, the N+) pretty much all IT certifications are there to show a level of experience and should not be considered as a stepping stone for starting a career in IT.

    Certifications are there to prove your experience and ability in that subject matter and infact Microsoft suggest that you have between 12 - 18 months experience using the technologies before attempting the certification path, the same will apply to VMware and Cisco certifications.

    How can you improve your chances in starting and improving your career in IT?


    Having a decent CV is what get's you the chance to interview in the first place, if your CV is badly designed, misspelt and generally messy to read it WILL end up in the bin. Make sure that your CV is easy to read, has all of the required information readily available and most importantly at this stage of your career not too long. The longer you've been in IT the more accepted it is to have more than a 2 page document but starting out you pretty much want to limit it to 2 pages.

    Attached are a couple of CV's that I have used over the years (apologies if the formatting is a tad untidy, I recently moved to Libre Office from MS Office 2010 so there may be some).

    CV Blank was the CV I used for a number of years and suggest is the one that junior engineers use whilst job hunting, CV 2 is now used as that's more of a consultant type CV showing more information on it.

    The longer you have been in IT the shorter descriptions there should be for your older positions, when you move on from your job start pruning the oldest jobs down until such time that you really can't cut it any more, it's ok to have 2 or 3 lines descibing a job that you were in 8 years ago, it's not ok to have a small novella describing the first job out of school\collage\uni when you're 40 and been working in IT for 20 years or so.


    Start your career with really a single relevant iT Certification, after all you're wanting to start a career and having too many certs without the real world experience does more harm than good, remember that you need to learn to walk before you can run.

    If a company is hiring for a service desk position they don't want someone with qualifications more suited to 2nd\3rd line positions, what they want is essentially a blank slate, someone that they can mould to their requirements, if your CV shows you're a CCNA\MCSE\MCITP and just starting out in the industry then you're not going to get that interview never mind the job because you lack commercial experience to back up your certifications

    Agencies do's and don'ts

    Agencies as a rule can get 50+ CV's in for a position, a mistake I see far too often by people looking for work is they just apply for positions and leave it at that, an agent needs something to make them want to put you forward for that position and the only way to get noticed is to actually talk to them, five minutes after sending your CV in to them give them a call, ask them if they received your CV and see if they can talk more about the role, doing this puts you fresh into their minds and if you have that stand out CV then you're more likely going to want to put you forward for the role than the guy who just sends over his CV and leaves it at that.

    A little warning about agencies tho, remember that they work for the client and honestly don't actually care about YOU, because YOU are replaceable by the next person who sends in their CV, all they care about is ensuring that they have their candidate in the position than one of their competitors so make sure you're outstanding.

    Another important thing about agencies is their fundemental lack of understanding of IT certifications, the amount of times I have seen entry level postions requiring 5 years experience and MCSE's to work on a service desk are staggering, if you see a role that you think you can do but don't have the 'required' certifications challange the agent because more often than not they aren't going to find a candidate with those certifications willing to take the role on with the salary on offer and if they do then unfortunately it's 'that' person, you know, the one who could have been you if you got too many certifications but no experience and can't do the job in the first place, let the agent know that you think the requirements are a bit high but you still want to be considered.

    The Interview

    The CV has done the job of getting you an interview and it's at this stage that the role is your to lose, again the amount of people I have interviewed who don't do the following basic things to prepare for the interview.

    1. Know basic information about the company
    2. Know the interview location and time your journey accordingly
    3. Ask about the dress code for the interview and dress accordingly
    4. Turn up 10 minutes early for the interview
    5. Be polite
    6. Ask questions

    The above might seem like common sense but you must remember that the interview process is a two way street, you're also interviewing them to make sure that you also want to work with them, it's no good going for an interview at a gambling company if you have a gambling addiction, a little information on the company before hand would help out with that.

    I mentioned about about timing your journey to ensure you arrive on time (actually 10 minutes early) and at the right location, if you're held up for any reason call up the agent and inform them straight away, companies do understand if there are delays to rail services or a car crash on the motorway hold you up, what they don't like is not knowing what's happened to their 11am candidate who didn't turn up.

    You got the job, what's next?

    Well done, you got the job and you're happy in the position but what's next for you? Now you need to decide where you actually want your career to progress, starting out in IT should give you a chance to experience a number of different areas to specialise in, whether that's sticking with desktop, server or virtualisation, networking, programming, security or project management you are at the point in your career where you can decide what it is you want to do. Not everyone is made up to be a programmer (I certainly am not) but without experiencing some of the different facets of IT you're not going to know for certain what it is you eventually want to do so take the time now to have a look around and make the decision when you KNOW. It's no good deciding now that you want to be a network engineer because you may not have a clue about IP addressing, Protocols or how to configure stateful inspection rules because you can't get your head around it no matter how many times you try. It's only after trying will you really be able to decide what area of IT you think you would be good in.


    Finally it's important to realise that on average people will have three distinct careers in their lifetimes, if you find that IT isn't for you then walk away, there is no shame in not being able to work in IT and the days where IT was the big earner are long gone. You have to really have a passion for things geek to carry on working in IT and if you don't have it then perhaps you're better off finding work in a different area before you get bored.

    Attached Files:

    Certifications: CNA | CNE | CCNA | MCP | MCP+I | MCSE NT4 | MCSA 2003 | Security+ | MCSA:S 2003 | MCSE:S 2003 | MCTS:SCCM 2007 | MCTS:Win 7 | MCITP:EDA7 | MCITP:SA | MCITP:EA | MCTS:Hyper-V | VCP 4 | ITIL v3 Foundation | VCP 5 DCV | VCP 5 Cloud | VCP6 NV | VCP6 DCV | VCAP 5.5 DCA
    WIP: VCP6-CMA, VCAP-DCD and Linux + (and possibly VCIX-NV).
    SiFor, JonnyMX, wagnerk and 17 others like this.
  2. onoski

    onoski Terabyte Poster

    Very helpful Simon thanks:)
    Certifications: MCSE: 2003, MCSA: 2003 Messaging, MCP, HNC BIT, ITIL Fdn V3, SDI Fdn, VCP 4 & VCP 5
    WIP: MCTS:70-236, PowerShell
  3. Naj

    Naj Bit Poster

    Couldn't agree more, especially when starting new in IT or moving to another discipline.
    Certifications: NA
  4. exonje

    exonje Byte Poster

    excellent post, thank you
  5. barrixrock

    barrixrock Bit Poster

    Thank you for the post..
    Certifications: A+, MS 70-680
    WIP: MS 70-640
  6. JK2447
    Highly Decorated Member Award 500 Likes Award

    JK2447 Petabyte Poster Administrator Premium Member

    Top Poster
    of the Month

    Great post Simon, I especially liked your final sentence and agree completely.
    Certifications: VCP4, 5, 6, 6.5, 6.7, 7, VCAP DCV Design, VMConAWS Skill, BSc (Hons), HND IT, HND Computing, ITIL-F, MBCS CITP, MCP (270,290,291,293,294,298,299,410,411,412) MCTS (401,620,624,652) MCSA:Security, MCSE: Security, Security+, CPTS, CCA (XenApp6.5), MCSA 2012, VSP, VTSP
    WIP: Google Cloud Certs
  7. soundian

    soundian Gigabyte Poster

    I disagree a little here.
    I assume the omission of the MS MTA certs is down to unfamiliarity with them. They're certainly not widely available but are aimed at entry level.

    I agree that the 70-680 is not entry-level either, although it seems to be the lowest level of client exam that's freely available and often recommended by people on these forums.

    The Network+ is a different matter. It taught me enough about networking to be comfortable troubleshooting network issues (the words 'wireless' and 'printer' uttered in the same sentence still sends a shiver of dread down my spine) and also sparked an interest in networking, which has shown me another potential career path.
    Certifications: A+, N+,MCDST,MCTS(680), MCP(270, 271, 272), ITILv3F, CCENT
    WIP: Knuckling down at my new job
  8. SimonD
    Honorary Member

    SimonD Terabyte Poster

    It's because I had actually forgotten about them, although to be fair as people are still asking for MCSE 2008 instead of MCITP SA\EA then honestly how much uptake do you think the industry are going to get with the MTA?, it's bad enough that people really don't know about the CompTIA exams, never mind more exams from MS when people really only expect the MCP or MCTS exams as the starter exams from them.

    Also that's why I mentioned that I tend to disagree with the N+ being an entry level exam, how many new to IT people are really going to get exposure to that kind of troubleshooting requirements straight away? They are more likely going to move into it slowly and that's why I tend to think that it should be something to look at after 12 - 18 months experience in IT but as I said that's only my view.
    Certifications: CNA | CNE | CCNA | MCP | MCP+I | MCSE NT4 | MCSA 2003 | Security+ | MCSA:S 2003 | MCSE:S 2003 | MCTS:SCCM 2007 | MCTS:Win 7 | MCITP:EDA7 | MCITP:SA | MCITP:EA | MCTS:Hyper-V | VCP 4 | ITIL v3 Foundation | VCP 5 DCV | VCP 5 Cloud | VCP6 NV | VCP6 DCV | VCAP 5.5 DCA
    WIP: VCP6-CMA, VCAP-DCD and Linux + (and possibly VCIX-NV).
  9. username

    username New Member

    Great post you got there Simon! I do agree with most of what you mentioned, having them in mind as best practices as they make great sense. However, coming from a different part of the world, would you say that the statements made in this post are almost universally true in terms of geographical locations? I have seen instances of individuals getting much more attention due to the multitude of certificates they have achieved despite their lack of experience in the industry.
  10. SimonD
    Honorary Member

    SimonD Terabyte Poster

    The question I would ask in the scenario is how those individuals do in the role and if they fail do the hiring managers then take a different stance or go through the same process again.
    Certifications: CNA | CNE | CCNA | MCP | MCP+I | MCSE NT4 | MCSA 2003 | Security+ | MCSA:S 2003 | MCSE:S 2003 | MCTS:SCCM 2007 | MCTS:Win 7 | MCITP:EDA7 | MCITP:SA | MCITP:EA | MCTS:Hyper-V | VCP 4 | ITIL v3 Foundation | VCP 5 DCV | VCP 5 Cloud | VCP6 NV | VCP6 DCV | VCAP 5.5 DCA
    WIP: VCP6-CMA, VCAP-DCD and Linux + (and possibly VCIX-NV).
  11. LukeP

    LukeP Gigabyte Poster

    I'm bit late to the party but excellent post Simon.
    WIP: Uhmm... not sure
  12. username

    username New Member

    In most cases it's evident that certificates are eye candy for employers in certain locations owing to the poor standards implemented in those areas. I have seen people who are unemployed despite having exponentially higher competence in the field than certified "zombies", the latter, who are employed in a snap. This forces people like us coming from such locations to obtain certificates to serve as eye candy for our naive and incompetent employers, regardless, adding a general exception to your tips. It's a sad sad world lol.
  13. Theprof

    Theprof Petabyte Poster

    From my experience... certifications can help in getting a job, but it depends on the job and your managers. In a consulting world, certifications are important because they are meant to give the consultant/company credibility. In in house IT type jobs, certifications don't mean much, sure they can help you with your knowledge, but IT managers don't care that much about it, to them as long as the job gets done they're happy. A good IT manager will want you to get training and certified, in IT, its important, but its not always the case.
    Certifications: A+ | CCA | CCAA | Network+ | MCDST | MCSA | MCP (270, 271, 272, 290, 291) | MCTS (70-662, 70-663) | MCITP:EMA | VCA-DCV/Cloud/WM | VTSP | VCP5-DT | VCP5-DCV
  14. Haze

    Haze Nibble Poster

    Totally agree Simon, particularly with the last part of your post - many people see IT as some kind of glamorous career option with instant riches and an easy ride, the reality is it's like you say a long hard slog with a real onus on you to stay ahead of the game and keep interested if you're to get anywhere. It's often a thankless world, you'll be blamed for things well outside of your control, shouted at, it can be a stressful unpredictable industry to work in. But if you're cut out for it, it can be incredibly rewarding :)
    Certifications: MCSA (Windows 7), MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Support Technician (Windows 7), MCTS: Windows 7 & Office 2010 Deployment, Level 3 Diploma in ICT Professional Competence, Level 3 Certificate in ICT Systems and Principles, Advanced Level Apprenticeship for IT Professionals
    WIP: MCSA: Server 2012
  15. neha34

    neha34 New Member

    Really great post thanx for sharing this.
  16. bigsnoop

    bigsnoop New Member

    Thanks Simon for taking the time out to produce an excellent thread. Alot of interesting points that I will be working on.
    Certifications: Comptia A+, Network+, MCDST, ITIL-F
    WIP: Getting a Job
  17. rondo

    rondo New Member

    Would any of this change significantly if one were moving into IT from another field? I'm particularly concerned about the prospect of preemptively educating myself out of the market. I have a Master's in MIS, but I personally don't consider it a big deal; I got it because my employer paid for it and it's helpful for the project management and networking discussions I already do. (I'm an accountant by trade, but as you might imagine, finance depends heavily on the timeliness, availability, and quality of its information.)
  18. SimonD
    Honorary Member

    SimonD Terabyte Poster

    It depends on what it is you're wanting to do, if you're talking about a change of career and you already have a decent background in another trade (as an example a qualified accountant) then there is going to be a little bit of give and take in the whole approach.

    Your CV will still need to be tailored more towards the whole IT thing rather than being skewed towards accountancy but you would play up the project management and accountancy (budgeting??) side of things as well but of course you can't discount x years of current role. It's also worth noting that previous experience in a non IT field can still have major benefits in a new career in IT so don't think that you're starting from scratch as far as a CV is concerned.

    Certifications can still play a part in your new career direction but again it depends what it is you want to do, what kind of work it is you want to do and the level you're expecting to go in at. There is no potential reason why someone with a decent approach to project management can't walk into an IT orientated PM role very easily, it's not often that you expect a PM to be fully technical (or even technical at all, but sometimes it's best if they have an understanding on what it is that they are working with).

    Finally the rest of the post pretty much still stands, after all you will be going for interviews, talking with agencies etc so just keep on top of things :)
    Certifications: CNA | CNE | CCNA | MCP | MCP+I | MCSE NT4 | MCSA 2003 | Security+ | MCSA:S 2003 | MCSE:S 2003 | MCTS:SCCM 2007 | MCTS:Win 7 | MCITP:EDA7 | MCITP:SA | MCITP:EA | MCTS:Hyper-V | VCP 4 | ITIL v3 Foundation | VCP 5 DCV | VCP 5 Cloud | VCP6 NV | VCP6 DCV | VCAP 5.5 DCA
    WIP: VCP6-CMA, VCAP-DCD and Linux + (and possibly VCIX-NV).
  19. BraderzTheDog

    BraderzTheDog Kilobyte Poster

    This is a good post! Highlights for me the importance of experience alongside certification.

    I used to work alongside a fella who had a Cisco CCNP but couldn't understand the concept of NAT! I know it sounds crazy, never mind routing protocols like BGP EIGRP ad OSPF.

    It goes to show along with the right amount of experience a certification should be used to reward the knowledge gained through exposure to Software / Hardware or whatever it may be.

    Excellent thread Si!
  20. Higgy

    Higgy New Member

    Wish I'd read this a few years back - would have saved me some time.

    Thanks for the advice thow.

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