When it comes to looking for a job, most employers will be looking for you to demonstrate that you can convert theory into action. That you will have what it takes to put your know-how to practical use in the workplace.
But if you are just starting out at entry or associate level, how do you demonstrate experience that you might not technically have? How can you persuade a recruiting manager to take a chance on you, when you have not done the job yet?
You can gain practical experience through volunteering, internships, projects, and other tactics.
But certification itself can also be presented as experience to prospective employers. There is plenty that you are doing and have already done in the lab that can translate into practical know-how, so you can hit the deck of your next job running.
All you need to do is step back, look again at what you are doing. And think about how you are going to communicate the benefits of this to your future boss.
Here is some advice on how to communicate this:
Think of the Big Picture
Now it is true that experience brings knowledge. The very fact that you are repeating certain tasks or activities over the day-to-day means that you embed the learning by doing. That said, the beauty of certification is that you get to cover a much broader range of technologies than you might in just one role. As you study routing protocols you might uncover the benefit of EIGRP and this in turn might be applicable to your RIP network – in other words, you get the bigger picture and a broadened perspective on technologies. And you are learning stuff that you will be able to apply in a wide range of scenarios.
And then, of course, it is not all just studying. As you progress towards certification, you are doing all sorts of things: from building topologies to breaking down protocols and more. You are building up practical and career skills, such as: problem-solving, troubleshooting, building networks, communication, and collaborating with others.
The work you do in the lab exposes you to experiences that you can include in your resume, on your LinkedIn profile, and can speak about in your job interviews.
Studying for your CCNA you learn technical skills like OSPF, EIGRP, RIP, and STP as well as many more. Why not create a section of your CV for technical abilities and add them? You might not have acquired these skills in a corporate setting, but you have acquired them all the same.
And then there are the other skills that your certification experience has built.
Think about a routing protocol you have tried to build that maybe you do not bring together first time?
- What did you do?
- Did you try new approaches?
- What you did there was troubleshoot to solve a problem.
Document these experiences to use them as you build up your professional profile.
Have you ever worked in a team or a study group?
- What did the experience teach you?
- How did you communicate with other students or with your instructors?
- Did you present something?
- Did you take a leadership role during this time?
Communication, presenting, leadership, and negotiating skills are in high demand in today’s workplace.
What about topology-building? As you prepare for certification exams you will have designed and built a network. Add this to your resume. Think about why you made choices about connection. Be prepared to share your findings.
And the certification exams themselves provide evidence of your capacity to master knowledge – new technology – and apply it practically.
Talk about Your Experiences
If knowledge is power, then certification is proof.
Think long and hard about how you pull these proof points at every touch point: on your resume, on your LinkedIn profile, and during your job interview.
Remember to document your experiences as you go. And do not discount an experience or skill, simply because you do not think it will be impress a recruiter. You may not realize the true value of the experience or skill you have gained.
Every element of what you do as you build up to certification has relevance and can be applied in your next job. Make sure you understand how to speak about these experiences and use them to your advantage as your search for a job. Speak with your instructors and peers if you want to verify how you plan on explaining your experiences.