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Career Advise: Certified without Experience

Dear Jidaw,

I am a CCNA with just a few modules to being an MCSE, but the job situation in the IT market demands some good working experience, which I may not have without employment. I am a graduate of Business Management but got interested in IT after much consultation. I am almost regretting the huge resources: time, money and faith put into the exercise. I am very comfortable with most of computers and network engineering stuff.

Dear Jidaw, what do I do?




Dear UE,

Thank you for your mail. I understand your predicament, which is a common one. The issue you have raised is quite critical. Certification has tangible value that can result in having stronger skills and improved job performance. But it seems in your desire to get a solid footing in the IT industry, you have put the cart before the horse. This is a common problem encountered by many newcomers to the IT field. Because of this and other common mistakes made by many in the area of certification, I wrote the article. “5 Top Certification Mistakes” ( I will advise you to read it.
You should also read “Realistic Expectations of IT Certification” (

Certification is no guarantee of career success. Certification on a particular product or field does not guarantee a job.
Too many go into certification with unrealistic expectations. However, what you should do is plan your education and your certification examinations, as part of your career plan to meet specific career objectives.

What you have going for you is your zeal for IT. You must use this passion to sustain and motivate you during your periods of challenges. Your zeal is good, your certifications are good, but zeal and certifications are not enough. When dealing with career issues, there is no formula and a lot depends on the individual in terms of attitude, ability and career focus.
Here is some advice I usually give newcomers:

Career plan. Set your goals based on your needs, the IT environment and your opportunities and resources. Use credible and realistic information. And your focus shouldn’t be on just getting a job, but rather on building your career. Reorder your priorities by having and implementing a realistic career plan.

Aim Low for quality experience: Having the certifications, even having a degree, doesn't guarantee you much of anything in IT field these days. You need experience to go along with it. It is important to make sure that you work where you are continually learning and developing yourself.
What you need now is experience. Your focus on experience shouldn’t be on the pay or other perks of the job, but on the quality of experience vis a vis your career growth. Look for a job where you will be given opportunities to learn and develop your skills. This may mean taking less than you feel you deserve but in this industry, there is no substitute for experience.

Focus on Small organizations: You may want to work with big organizations, which include hundreds of servers and thousands of users. But Small companies need you. They don't offer the glamour, prestige, money or challenge of large organizations, but there are many of these small outfits needing help in IT.
Small organizations need you but don’t discourage them with outrageous demands.

Build your Personal Network. A way to find a position is to find someone who can vouch for your knowledge and professional attitude. Employers may overlook a lack of experience if someone trusted such as a valued employee recommends you highly. You should therefore make sure all your relatives, friends, and acquaintances know that you're actively seeking employment, and make sure they know exactly what kind of job you're looking for.
“Who knows you is often more important than who you know.”

Volunteer. Volunteer for your Old school, Church, NGO. Gain experience and valuable references. I suggest that you should create opportunities to gain experience through non-traditional ways. Such as part time jobs for NGOs, religious bodies, volunteer groups? Some may not pay but at least you will get the opportunity to keep and grow your skills, while making useful contacts.

Soft skills. Use and Develop your soft skills. You have more to offer than you think - don't underestimate your personal traits (attitude and dependability). Are you flexible, friendly, dependable, reliable, calm, full of positive energy, patient? Simply put, make sure you have a good attitude.
Also what do you have offer in terms of transferable skills? These are skills that are portable and useful for any job. These transferable skills are soft skills such as organizational skills, communications/presentation skills, management/business skills, research or teaching skills, analytical or problem solving skills.
Don’t take skills that make you unique, for granted.

Embrace Lifelong Learning. Continue upgrading your skills and learning new concepts. Take responsibility for continuing your education and increasing your knowledge. Spend time gathering information about new technologies that might affect your career. Continue to learn, and you'll maintain what you've got.

In conclusion, I will advise you not to be discouraged. I believe we all go through challenges in order to grow. The problem is not the challenge but how we handle the challenge. We can either complain that things aren't what we want or we can make the effort to improve our own prospects in our chosen profession. How we respond to the challenge is up to us. Make wise choices based on the information you have and the resources and opportunities available to you.

All the best in your IT Career,

Jide Awe

PS: I also suggest you read this article for more insight:
Certified but Jobless

Jide Awe is the Publisher of Contact him at

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