From the time we are old enough to recognize the sheer power and awesomeness of the almighty dollar, we are told, that every decision we make from here on out will affect our ability to find that first job. Throughout high school, we are introduced to just about every field of study in one way, shape, or form so that we may gauge our interest in the different realms of academia. During our adolescents, some of us will read Shakespeare’s Sonnets and be taken away by the sheer beauty of the English Language. Some of us will develop an intense desire to learn about the history of man and find their passion in the realms of History and Sociology. Then there are the “nerds;” those whose curiosities piqu
e when they use the other half of their brain as they learn to “solve for x” and dissect various animals such as frogs and piglets. But in more recent history children are being introduced to technology earlier and earlier; which only make sense because the technology industry is growing exponentially! The problem with the tech industry is that it is still relatively new and I’m afraid that the kids who develop a curiosity for technology may not know how to go about making a career out of it.
When it comes to landing that first job as doctor, lawyer, teacher, architect, etc. kids are bombarded with notions such as: You HAVE to go to college; You HAVE to learn how to interview well in order to land internships with potential employ, andand you HAVE to be graduate in top 5 percent of your class in order to make a living in a given particular field of study. But when it comes to the technology industry that is not always the case! Lucky for us, we have options when it comes to making our first career move; but it all starts with getting that first interview. So how do we get that first interview? We pad our resume with College Degrees or Certifications.
As a matter of full disclosure, it is only fair that mention how I landed my first job as a Networking Technician. I am a college graduate from Louisiana State University where I acquired a Bachelor’s of Science in the realm of Mathematics with an emphasis in Pure Mathematics. While I was in school, I also took enough Education courses and passed enough Educational Certification Exams to teach High School Mathematics and Biology. With that being said, you must be thoroughly confused about how I got an interview for current position here at Guardian Computer; which leads me to my first point.
My degree and really any college degree for that matter open a lot of doors. Once the resume of a college graduate is placed on a potential employer desk, he can reasonably infer that the applicant is going to be relatively intelligent and a well-rounded individual (or at least I hope so or why else did I have to take 4 English classes to acquire my math degree). Secondly, going to college really offers its students numerous networking opportunities. Now when I say networking of course I’m not talking about routing and switching, but rather I’m referring to the ample opportunities students have to meet people with similar interest and presumably similar career paths. Throughout your career everyone builds up “contact list” of people that can help them push their careers in the right direction, and college is a great place to start building up this list. For example, while I was in college I made three very close friends whose parents owned and operated their own companies, and I have worked for ALL of them at one point or another! Therefore, to finish my story from earlier, once I was armed with my degree and my contact list I was able to get my resume hand delivered to my current boss’s desk and got the job few weeks later! But back to my point…
As go we through college not only do we get the chance to build up this list of contacts, but we also get develop our social skills and get to learn how to work as a team; which I’m sure I do not have to tell you how important these notions are when it comes to developing a great work environment. These notions of socialization and team work are really emphasized by group projects and internships. And let me tell you, college opens up a whole realm of possibilities when it comes to landing internships. Colleges do this so that their graduates have real life experience in their given fields upon graduation. For example, most prominent engineering programs require their students to complete at least a semester worth, if not a full year, of internships before they will even think about giving their students a diploma. And I cannot say this enough, EXPERIENCE IS EVERYTHING!
But I will also be the first to admit that college is not the right learning environment for everyone! Unfortunately, when it comes to getting a college education there are very limited options when it comes to time, place, and subject matter! This is how students like myself end up taking General Chemistry at 8 am every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning; when an hour after that final exam I will not care about the noble gases, moles, or how much hydrogen is left over after given reaction (man that semester was rough). But this is the beauty of the Certification route to landing that first job. Individuals who made their way into the computer industry through the route of certifications have a lot more time to focus on material that they are actually passionate about, and they do not get bogged or bored writing 14-page research papers about the troubled youth of some far off European country (I made an A on that paper by the way). Also with the technology industry being as big as it is we as potential employees can narrow down our scope of studies even further depending on the realm of computing we find to be to be the most prevalent to us or the most enjoyable. For example, some individuals may find their calling in software development, or web design, cyber security, or maybe they are like me and are curious about routing and switching. There are so many paths within the realm of technology that I may have to write an entirely different blog post just encompass all the different fields! Flexibility is the key here!
When it comes to acquiring these certifications one can take classes in the fields they are interested in or if you happen to be like a few of my coworkers you can simply read up on the subject matter and teach yourself the material in the comfort of your own home! But we would be kidding ourselves if we did not recognize the flaws in both of these career paths. As an informed writer, I would be doing the reader a disservice if I did not also mention the drawbacks of each of these educational paths.
When it comes to these technology certifications, they may only last 2 to 3 years before they need to be renewed. This should make sense because the world of technology is ever changing and essentially revolutionizing itself every few years. Therefore, hopefully one can see that it only makes sense that we must keep our certifications up to date to keep up with the changing times! On the other hand, a college degree last forever. It keeps a permanent place on your resume. I never have to go back to school in recertify in Abstract Algebra or Complex Analysis. I get to claim my degree as my own forever and always. It’s mine. I own it, and no one can take it away from me no matter how hard they try. On the other hand, because I never have to go back and recertify, if I don’t use it, I lose it. I’d be lying to you right now if I said I remember everything I learned about Math during my four years in college. Hell. I’d be lying to you if I said I remember everything from the last semester of my senior year! But that’s the beauty and the appeal of these certifications. Employers realize that these candidates, are always up to date on notions within the realm of expertise, so they know that when they hire someone they can go right to work with minimal training!
Now, I know what on everyone’s mind at his point. Which is the cheaper alternative? Where do I get the most ‘bang for my buck’? Again this is another topic that I could write an entirely different blog post the covers a cost-benefit analysis between these two paths; but I will do my best to explain the difference using generalities. The beauty of getting your college degree is that it’s a once in a life time investment. Unless of course you are taking out loans then obviously you are making multiple payments, but that is beside the point. Like I have stated previously, even if you are continually making payments towards your degree is never going to go away. Whereas with these certifications you have to continually buy books and other study materials to stay relevant and up to date. Also one must continually pay to take these certification exams, and I’ll let you in on a little secret, the higher you go in the different branches of certifications the more expensive the tests become and some even require you to fly out to a different location to take the exam. So you better pass those tests the first time!
But Bradley, be straight with us, which path is best when it comes to landing that first job? Well that is a loaded question, and it is my hope that the reader recognizes that I tried to stay completely objective throughout the bulk of this article, but in my personal opinion…I had an absolute blast in college. I learned so much about myself and I met so many great people; and that is why I can say with absolute certainty that acquiring my college degree was right career move for ME. And that is just it! I cannot sit here and tell you which path is the best for YOU. Everyone has different hopes, dreams, goals, and aspirations and only you can possibly know which path will work best for you! But listen to this… The longer I stay in the Networking Industry the more useless my Math degree will become, but it will continue to open doors for me and that is what I love about it! And I have to be honest, do I wish I was a Cisco Certified Networking Administrator currently? Of course I do, and I know I will get there some day; but I would not trade my college education for the world.
As always if you have any questions, comments or concerns about Information Technology or where to acquire any of the certifications we talked about today please do not hesitate to give us a call at the office. We have quite a few degrees and quite a few certifications floating around the office and we would be happy to point you in the right direction.