Certifying your place

It’s hard to deny that the networking and telecommunications job markets in Canada are getting more competitive with every passing year. A constant stream of bright-eyed and eager graduates flows out of universities and colleges all over the world, knocking on employers’ doors in search of a foot in them.

Seasoned pros increasingly juggle more training time with their regular job duties in order to stay ahead of the employment curve. Many employers are routinely looking for ways to cut as much human involvement out of the network management equation, through the deployment of more intelligent gear that can perform many of the same tasks previously carried out by administrators.

In such an environment, the employment picture for IT professionals gets much cloudier and complicated than it was in years past. The onus increasingly gets shifted to their shoulders to prove that they are still a valuable asset to a company’s effort to install, maintain and troubleshoot a corporate network.

For many, this responsibility is met by a never-ending effort to keep up with the latest software, hardware and physical-layer advancements occurring throughout the industry. A network pro who isn’t taking a course in his or her area of professional expertise will soon fall behind the collective curve and find themselves a few steps behind the rest of the pack in a New York minute.

With the job landscape becoming that much more competitive, the importance of network certifications rises right along with the speed of the employment race. Any device that one job seeker can use to outperform their competitors, or at least allows them to give the impression that they are the best person for the job, must be considered in the search for that ideal IT position. And certifications are still one of those critical differentiating devices.

And while many lower-level certifications can be attained over the Internet and in a matter of hours, the situation grows increasingly complex as you move up the stack of available certifications. When you reach the top of that list, which is arguably represented by Cisco’s CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetworking Engineer) designation, the timeline for attaining one is often measured in years.

It and many other top-level certifications also involve a highly intricate game plan for attaining them, one that typically involves a networking pro’s employer (and almost always, a good chunk of that employers’ money). Time off for the employee to study for final exams and sometimes even travel expenses enter into the picture at this point as well. With such large investments involved, it’s no surprise that the number of top-level designations handed out each year is quite small.

Fortunately, for most network administrators, the path to attaining many designations that will further their careers, and at least keep them on par with their peers, do not feature such an involved process. Nevertheless, it seems all too clear that proving one’s ability to employers through the collecting of such certifications is nothing less than an imperative in today’s IT job world.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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