New Cisco Certs Aim At Networking Skills Shortage


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September 4, 2008
By Lynn Haber

Is more better?

When it comes to network technology certifications, industry experts say yes. With an increasing skills gap in IT in general, and networking in particular, individuals who distinguish themselves with specialized training will be at an advantage in the job market — where networking continues to be the hottest IT job category for the fourth straight quarter, according to Robert Half Technology.

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Contract Work

You know, I haven’t been doing staffing since the dawn of time. Sorry. I do know IT professionals that have done contract work in the past, and they may know this better than I. This first part is more of my own speculation…

There may have been a time in the past where people sat at a table and tried to determine the scope, and lenght, of a project. Terms were discussed and agreed upon. We’re going to need someone for 6 months; if we don’t, well we’ll compensate accordingly.

It’s not like that any more.

Nowadays contract work is just the IT staffing word for temporary, or temp, work. It’s project based. Huh? A client has a need for someone with a specific skill set, but it’s only for a project.

Client: We have two websites that need to go live by mid October and we’re way behind. We need someone with 3+ years of experience working with php and mysql to help us out with the work load.

Firm: No problem, we have Sue available. She’s done work like this in the past, is between jobs, and is immediately available to start tomorrow. Based on her qualifications the hourly rate for her expertise is ‘x’ dollars an hour. She’ll be there at 8am tomorrow.

Client: Sounds good.

Yeah, right. Anyone can tell you that it rarely happens that way, but it’s supposed to.

The client has a need, and it’s temporary. They have a tentative timeline in mind. They also know the scope of the project and the skills they need to help them get the job done. They don’t have time to post a job description, wade through 10-30 resumes, have their HR department do phone screens, set up face to face interviews, 2nd face to face interviews, draw up an offer, and hire the person. Not in this situation. That’s why they want, or could use, a staffing firm.

The candidate could use one to find a job. You’re more employable when you’re working. Firms can also help provide opportunities quickly. It’s not always an overnight turn around, but when a request comes through, they want the best qualified to handle the position, and sometimes it’s the person that can answer the phone and be there tomorrow. Right? It gets you a legitimate job with an hourly wage, it allows you to add to your resume, and can even get you a job without having to send out 50 resumes, 10 phone screens, 5 face to face interviews, and 2 second face to face interviews. Seriously? People would say, “no, I am wanting to see if the position comes through. I interviewed 2 weeks ago, and there is one more if I’m chosen, and then they’d want me to start.” How long of time is that? Besides, staffing firms can get you in to places that may not know exist. You want to work for ABC Company? Well, the only way is through the firm they use. It happens. You also earn a competitive wage, and benefits. Yes, most firms actually provide benefits to include bonus incentives, holiday pay, 401K, health, dental, vision, and life insurance! Times have changed and firms have to stay competitive, and bennies is just one way to attract talent.

The firms role is to provide a service to the cient, and also the candidate. Just keep in mind, the firm typically already has things in place before the candidate is presented with the opportunity.  In the end it’s a service to the client. Afterall, you don’t provide a service to those that don’t pay you for it. Many candidates think they’re making the firm money. Obviously there’s a mutual understanding, but you’re not working for free, right? I’d love to have 50 people sitting around just so I could have them go out and tackle projects. I’d have to change my title since I wouldn’t have to recruit. I’d also be considered more of a solution provider than a staffing firm.

Do all firms place every single person that they meet? No they don’t. Like a direct hire position there are plenty of reasons why someone would not get a job through a firm. A job with your skill set may not be available, you may not be qualified, or there’s someone else available that is more qualified to do the job. Sometimes it has to do with a variety of factors that are usually outlined by the candidate. Pay, location/distance to client’s location, work environment, or ‘fit’, are just some that would come in to play when determining someone for a job.

Some of the aforementioned reasons for not getting a job make sense, but what’s this ‘fit’ thing? I have worked with people that are awesome programmers. Highly intelligent, and very, very, good at software development. They can implement solutions that are truly impressive. However, they may not be the best one to stand up in front of high level management on a weekly basis and provide process analysis reports on the project’s status. This is just one example. And it works both ways. I have candidates that don’t want to interact with customers, so a web developer that has to meet with client-customers in order to obtain address their web needs is not the ideal role for the consultant. Could they do it? Sure, but would the job be ideal? No. Grumpy people don’t make great help desk representatives.

Hopefully this gives you some insight on what contract work is. It’s temporary work for IT professionals. It’s a project that a client needs help with.

Brief Blurb About Certification

Many people have told me that it’s tough to get a job in IT unless they have a certification. However, I have had people that I have met that have 2-3 certifications but can’t seem to land a job. So what’s going on?

The thing that people need, and what employers want, is experience. Nothing comes into play more than experience. You can have 5 certifications, and a BS in Computer Science, and still not be qualified to do a job due to lack of experience.

As an IT recruiter we have plenty of requests for IT consultants and I don’t recall the last time that a client asked for someone with a specific certification. It’s been a preference, but not required. I wonder if employers use certs for screening purposes. When using a firm they have us vouch for the lack of certification.

That doesn’t mean that certifications have no weight. As people apply to the same jobs and have similar qualifications, certifications may help decide which candidate to choose for the role. Not only do they test a person’s knowledge, but it also shows that the person took the initiative and money to take the exam. There is no cash refund if the person fails, which deters many people from taking a certification exam.

Is there a cert that holds more water than others? Not necessarily, but there are some that seem to have a reputation behind them. Take the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) for example. This certification is highly regarded for experts in this specific field of network engineers. One must not only pass a written test, but a hands-on labs portion as well. A six-figure income can be expected from someone that holds the knowledge of a CCIE and the respected certification. Cisco doesn’t even recommend anyone to take it unless they have 5+ years of experience in the field. Cisco certification exams are known to be challenging. They have a vast question and answer base.

The A+ certification is a good foundation for those that are trying to get into the IT industry as a help desk or desktop support professional.

It’s hard not to talk about certifications without mentioning the plethora of Microsoft Certifications. If you take one of the many approved MS exam and you may be considered to be a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP). Taking one exam and becoming MCP does not distinguish one MCP from another. However, Microsoft (MS) does have cert tracks that tests a person’s knowledge of a variety of MS products thus expanding the initials from MCP to others like MS Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA) or MS Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE). Many years ago MS would have a question and answer bank that would be randomly taken and inserted in to the exam at the time of testing. Later they implemented the adaptable method of questions. The adaptable way takes into consideration a person’s answer to a question, right or wrong, and based upon that response supplies the next question. This takes the test taker’s knowledge in to consideration. Exams may also have more or less questions as the aforementioned fixed, non-adaptable, exam method.

I mentioned it earlier, certification can be important, but nothing trumps experience.

9 Tips: Take Control of Your IT Career When Facing Layoffs

With unemployment rates at their highest level in six years and layoffs planned at some of the biggest companies, tech workers are feeling anxious about their jobs and powerless in the face of economic uncertainty. Two IT staffing experts offer some empowering advice for all IT workers.

read more | digg story

Job Search-Resume Part 1

I hated writing a resume. I never know what to include or how to convey my work history. I’m sure I’m not the only one that shares the same feelings.

I have reviewed a lot of resumes and I’ll try to provide some useful tips. Mileage may vary. The goal in this post is to spur ideas on content and not physical format. I’ll provide an example to view. Just connect the dots.

Address Line

At the top should be your personal information to include name, phone number, address, and email address. A no brainer, right? I have had people have list wrong phone numbers, and quirky email addresses. is not something that should be listed on a professional document. So make sure you have one that doesn’t speak to the personal side of your life. Also, I find people that put everything one line after the other centered in the middle of the page.

Example 1:

Sean Kelley
123 Main St, Madison, WI
Phone: 555.555.5555

The above is good, but you’re using a couple lines more than you need. Try this for an alternative

Example 2:

Sean Kelley
123 Main St · 555.555.5555 ·

I think you can see the benefits, no?


I tend to not look at an objective. There hard to write and can be covered with a decent cover letter. You’re applying to an IT job and “you’re seeking an interesting and challenging career as an IT professional” no kidding. Nuke it.


What goes next as you go down the page depends on your experience and background. If you have little IT experience you’ll want to list IT skills, certs, or formal education-if it the area of study is IT. If you have IT experience I would then start with work experience.

Work Experience

Always list experience starting with your most recent. Company name, role/title and dates of employment should be here as well as bullets regarding the job.

The bullets should include quantifyable results. This won’t happen for every job and for every bullet, but it’s something to keep in mind. Anything you can list that either says you saved the employer time or money goes a long way. Many people list duties and responsibilities. Much of that is what people in the IT industry already knows given the role you’ve listed. Think outside the box a bit.

Make sure you make it clear when you relate to numbers or quantity. It’s easy to say you took over 50 calls per day when working a help desk job, but is that good or bad? Some places may think that’s nothing, so make sure you let the person know what that means. You can do that by using comparisons.


-Handled an average 50 calls per day when the department average was 25 per day.

That’s someone that’s doing more work than the average person. You can word it any way you want, but you get the idea.

So ask yourself “so what?” You managed Windows Servers. Did you manage 50 servers or 5?

I think this gives you a starting point. Next we’ll provide some sample layouts and some additional comments on resume content.


You can read about some of my background in the About page, but I want to elaborate on the purpose of the blog.

I have been in IT staffing for a couple years now and it never ceases to amaze me that many people don’t understand what we do and how we do it. I think people, though they may see us a particular way, would probably have a different perspective with some insight. I hope to provide some of that here.

Also, being a person that has hired IT people while owning  his own business, placed people with clients, and worked with clients to help determine their staffing needs, on the IT side, I want to provide tips and advice for those trying to get a career in IT.

As IT moves at the speed of light, it’s also good to keep up on the industry. So articles from other blogs and third-party sources will also be found here.