Network+ or CCNA? Get Job Ready with CCNA
In a previous article I wrote that you should get the Network+ first if you’re deciding to get the Network+ or CCNA. That’s how I built my foundations in my tech career, and definitely advisable for technology noobs. If you’re ready to take the CCNA, go for it. It better prepares you for the job market. Just remember it is going to be more difficult than the Network+.
The CCNA is a specialized network certification that prepares candidates to gain hands on network experience. It goes over specific configurations to properly provide a path for network interoperability. On the other hand, the Network+ is a general approach to network certifications as it covers foundational requirements to thrive in a network technology career.
I have never had a job that required a degree. But I have had jobs where just “the pursuit of a CCNA” promoted enthusiasm among recruiters. On top of that, I have had jobs that required the CCNA to be employed. This network certification is a great leverage to the next job role, especially after you’ve taken the Network+.
Your Limited Experience with the CCNA
Before I detail my thoughts on the CCNA job market, I’m here to tell you to get your Network+ before the CCNA. Trust me, it’s going to be very difficult to get the CCNA without some foundational knowledge of networks. It’s a huge leap in knowledge to go from general IT skills into the network world.
Once you’ve gotten your Network+, you’ll probably have had time to get a few months of IT experience in at least. You don’t necessarily have to have specific network experience. But having an IT job allows you to develop skills that will translate into a more specific CCNA role.
For example, with a few months of general technical support roles, you’ll get an understanding on communication. You’ll realize your specific technical support knowledge has to translate intelligibly with the people you are supporting. The technology may not be network related, but the soft skills will help.
So what have we established so far? We’ve established that you need your Network+, and you have a few months of IT experience. Then once you get your CCNA, you will be at a place where you can make a full pivot into more specific networking roles.
Job Roles. How to get there
If you want to become a Network Engineer, you’ll need to have experience being a Network Administrator.
Each job role will have a set of pre-requisites. And each company will have another set of pre-requisites.
There are two parts to successfully pivoting into your specific networking role:
- Soft Skills – You will need to learn how to speak without patronizing. This is especially so when you’re new. I find that newer guys are so excited about their new found knowledge, that they forget their manners. You should also learn to get along with your coworkers, and show you’re a team player.
- Hard Skills – You will need to know frameworks. In order to know the frameworks, you have to have foundational network knowledge and experience. What I mean by this is, learn to systemize your thoughts when troubleshooting. I’ll go over this in more detail below in the Preparing for Interviews section.
In your early stages of being in IT, make sure the skills you’re learning are focused on what could be useful for your next job role.
Although your job may not have networking technologies you work with, you will have that covered in your CCNA. The best way to get a network job without any experience in it, is to do the lab work found in the CCNA material. The more labs you do, the more impressive your skillset will be. And it will show in your work, and more importantly (for now) is the next recruiter or hiring manager.
Preparing for Interviews
A full stack resume for those new into the network tech space will look like this (at minimum):
- Network+ Certified
- CCNA Certified
- 6 Months Technology Experience
- Passion and Enthusiasm
- Doing the recommended CCNA labs
6 months may not be a long time. But in IT, these early career stages don’t require more than that to qualify into the next position. I have never had anyone comment on my short stints of my IT career experience.
Two months before the 6 month mark, it may be a good idea to start sending feelers out to recruiters and jobs you think you can qualify for. Then you can begin interviewing. Don’t expect this to get a job right away. Although you can. But the idea here, is to stretch out your comfort zone, to see what jobs you can pivot into at the 6 month mark.
Being interviewed is the best way to prepare for being interviewed. The more interviews the better. But don’t get nonchalant either. Interview as if you actually want the job.
Before the interview, go over the points in the job descriptions. Spend 5 hours going over these points. During your interview, take notes. Remember the questions they asked. This will give you a feel of what other technologies they want you to know. A lot of times these additionally technologies will not require another certificate. You can waste a lot of time trying to learn that other technology that’s not in focus. All you have to do is watch a 30 minute YouTube on that particular technology’s practical application.
If you prepare for your interviews using this method, and iterate, you will be more than prepared and able to choose the job you want at the 6 month mark.
I have had my CCNA for years now. It was pivotal in getting experience for many companies. Including big enterprises like Cisco (contractor). It was also the key to high paying jobs I’ve had overseas. For instance, I have been at points where I would turn down $200k yearly packages.
This is not something most people can copy with just the CCNA. My working overseas experience is a limited opportunity. But, even so, I did break into six figures while living in the USA before that.
My point is, the technology space is filled with many different opportunities. You can end up with life changing careers. I know I did, considering my background was delivering pizzas. If you’re interested in my insights, feel free to snag an e book I wrote, at the price of a coffee: 6-Figure Guide to Info Tech.