I am an MCSE with six months' commercial experience but Iam unable to even get an interview for a job, probably because I do not have the magical two years' experience. I am contemplating doing a Cisco CCNP course as most training companies say there would be no problem getting a job with this qualification. Would this be a wise move?
A certificate is not a guarantee
The direct response to your question would be no, not necessarily. I am often asked questions of a similar nature. These usually come from individuals with no experience in IT, hoping that a certificate - particularly MCSE (Microsoft certified systems engineer) - will get them in. What a certificate does do however is formalise experience already gained.
It is better to specialise and build on the certification you already have. The MCSE path is quite different to that of Cisco. Focus on the direction in which you would like your career to move. Stay on top of new technologies and trends by checking trade papers and the Internet to ensure an informed approach. If you still believe that further training is the key, consider Windows 2000 or a MCSD (Microsoft certified solutions developer).
Check your CV and get advice from someone specialising in the area. I suspect there are aspects of previous roles that you have not included relevant to the jobs you are applying for. Make sure you emphasise experience in key areas that may be overlooked by recruiters. Demonstrate "soft skills" - whether you are a team worker/leader, good communicator and so on. Training companies offer a variety of soft-skill courses that may help.
Finally, try approaching smaller companies that are struggling to maintain competitive edge owing to the cost of more experienced IT staff. This may solve the problem of gaining the commercial experience you need.
The panel: Apex, MSB International, Best International Group, Computer Futures, Computer People, Elan, E-skills NTO, Monarch Recruitment, Reed Computing, Prince Training
This was first published in February 2001