Target Small Firms for Entry-Level Networking Jobs

Green NetworkPeople who want to break into networking face the classic conundrum for job seekers: How do you get a job without experience? Or, perhaps more frustrating, what if you have a bit of experience but are competing against candidates with recognized certifications like Cisco’s Certified Network Associate?

Is it impossible? No. You can find a job even without experience or credentials, especially if you look at small companies, where IT staff wear many hats.

“One of the reasons I see certification as not being critical is because the positions people are being hired into [at small companies] tend to be so diverse,” says Jonathan Lampe, vice president of product management for Wisconsin-based file-transfer specialists RhinoSoft.  “There’s networking equipment, but there are also servers and workstation maintenance — they’re usually cross-functional IT positions.”

Here’s some advice from Lampe and others.

Play Up Your Other Skills

Find a company that hires on potential, advises Tim Wisard, system engineer at eGroup, a South Carolina-based IT services firm. You’ll need a successful body of IT work to demonstrate skills you’ve gained from previous projects and your high capacity to learn.

“I recommend job seekers for networking roles demonstrate expertise in closely related technologies such as servers or storage, and how that knowledge can tie back to networking,” he says.

Show Your Passion

“Every successful person I’ve met in the field works with some of this technology at home,” Lampe observes. “Maybe they’ve put together their own DVRs, they may have their own libraries and servers set up at home and they’re getting intimately familiar with the concepts of bandwidth, quality of service, making sure their videos are streaming among the various options at home. These are the same issues that are dealt with at the corporate level.

“If you’re working with someone who’s been working with a fairly complex scheme or not something handed to them by their cable provider, those are skills you look at from the other side of the desk. You know that this is a person who can learn some of the equipment that we’re using in a particular situation at work.”

It’s important to list your home experience on your resume, Lampe says, and post about it on social media. Your resume likely won’t make the cut at companies where HR does the filtering, but it will stand out at those where hiring managers read resumes.

Highlight Your Other Experience

Playing up your communication and people skills can help move you to the front of the pack.

“Some of our employers have suggested that generic, non-technical call center experience could be useful in landing foot-in-the-door help desk jobs,” says Bob Bunge, an associate professor in the College of Engineering and Information Sciences at DeVry University in Seattle. The reason: “It’s all about customer service,” Bunge says. “If you can prove you have great customer-service skills, many companies will be willing to let you grow into a more technical role.”

While the CCNA provides a good foundation in networking, many pros never deal with Cisco products, he points out. Learning as much as possible about virtualization — whether  on VMWare, Citrix, Microsoft or other products — is a sound career strategy.

Says Wisard: “I know a lot of people who don’t have certifications, but they grow into certain roles and move from project to project gaining experience — being a server admin and moving into more of a networking position. If you are smart, proactive and willing to take on many projects, wearing different hats, you’ll be successful.”

6 Responses to “Target Small Firms for Entry-Level Networking Jobs”

  1. George V

    All these tips are great for people who have gotten the call-back for the interview. I am recent university graduate with a degree in psychology and a Network+ certification. Much like your second tip, I have an intimate knowledge of infosec and infotech tools, methodologies, and practice. I have been looking for an entry level position for two months. My problem isn’t that I don’t know anything and can’t translate my at-home skills into a professional environment. My problem is that no one even gives you the interview. The job market is saturated with layed-off employees with experience that are looking for any job to make ends meet. This makes it very difficult for entry level individuals. They look at your resume and if they don’t see abundant certifications, a degree in C.S. or C.E., or work experience they just toss it. I’m not looking for anything fancy but even the help desk entry level positions are looking for 3+ years of experience. So, I sit here, looking at my screen and ask myself,”How is that entry level?”

    • Go to China, they have plenty of jobs in all the technical areas. One thing I don’t understand is why you study psychology and want to work in IT? It is logical that you study what you like and want to work in what you like…am I correct? I am a retired engineer with ample experience in all the fields of engineering, IT, and systems administration and one thing I always mention is that certifications are good for nothing; what counts is experience and the technical mentality. Most certified people are not problem solvers as are engineers and the problem I see now is that anyone can be “named engineer” without having one semester of Calculus or even algebra. Anyone can learn any OS, even High School students but that does not mean they have the capability of “thinking” as an engineer. Having a degree in psychology you should take advantage of that and look for jobs in the medical field and I bet that you can land a job with no problem at all. The medical field is in need of people and what they are doing is hiring people from other countries because there are not enough people available in that field here in the USA.

      Good luck…

      • George V

        Well to address your first question, I studied psychology because I wanted to get out of school as soon as possible and start building a life for myself. I spent my first year studying architecture thinking I wanted to be an architect. After a year I decided architecture wasn’t for me and I started completing the undergrad curriculum with some elective classes to boost my gpa and help me figure out what to do about my major. I decided on psychology because it was a very interesting field not because I wanted to make a career out of it. A lot of people don’t have the opportunity or the time to just fiddle around in every subject area and find their calling. Two years into psychology, three years total, I discovered that I really enjoyed computer science. Now at that point I could have changed majors but was I really going to drop the past two years and change directions completely? No, because it didn’t make any sense to continue putting graduation off over words on a piece paper when I knew I could learn all that the school taught its C.S. students on my own. You said it yourself, what counts is experience but to expand a bit what really counts is professional experience. The at-home experience I have isn’t worth jack. Companies don’t care what you do at home. They want either certifications, a degree, or professional experience. As of right now for me certifications are the way to go until I can find a way to finance my masters in C.S.

        As for looking for a job in my field, trust me I have been looking. Very few jobs exist for people with a 4 year degree in psychology. The medical field is always in need but there are few positions for individuals with a degree in psychology. This stems from psychology’s “soft-science” status, the lack of funding from healthcare companies for psychological treatment, and just the general acceptance of the popular opinion that everything can be treated with drugs.

  2. Susan, could the article have been re titled, and appropriately reworded, “Target Small Firms for Software Development Jobs”?

    In other words, can I find a cross-functional software development job, without having deep experience at any one particular aspect of software development, if I look at small companies? In my last job I wore many hats: designer, coder, tester, writer, trainer, marketer and user. All the job ads I see are for specialists — programmer, tester or application specialist — who wear only one or two hats, and for each job there’s a requirement for expertise in five to eight tools/programs. What I have is expertise in one or two tools/programs in each aspect of software development.

    Just how do I find companies that hire on potential?

  3. Rubio Richard

    It’s all about who you know. I have met a plethora of software developers who majored in something besides Computer Science. I am talking English, Music, Business, etc… It is all about networking. I am trying to get an entry level Ruby developer job (I am finding it to be a challenge but I am still optimistic). The economy is atrocious however I don’t think it is a lack of jobs more so than a lack of distribution jobs (I know many people who are doing the work of 2-4 people instead of one). Companies are exploiting the economy to the fullest (It’s not always what you make, but what you spend, can you say cut costs). That being said having the ability to do multiple jobs is an asset and that is something any hiring manager will consider when looking at candidate A who can do one thing really well, while candidate B can do 3 things well.