Q

What would be the best approach to getting certified after a layoff?

I was wondering on the best approach to getting certified after a layoff from the IT environment. I was working

in the telecom field installing the wiring of cat 5 cat 3 and fiber then took a course in Novell 4 . Then got a job in a outsource company supporting outlook 97,98, and 2000 I took a Microsoft server 4.0 they offer and passed the test to get into Exchange support but the company got into a contract controversy with Microsoft and ended all the contracts. I stayed home with my children for a while and I am looking now to get back into the field. I do not have any certs but I have the knowledge. Could you give me any advice on how to approach going into the field again in a year or so.

Forgive me, but it's not clear to me if you're looking for certification advice or just general career advice, so let me tackle each topic separately.

1. Gearing up to return to work
I believe you're already aware that your knowledge base is now dated, if not outdated, given that most NetWare shops run 5.x or 6.x, and that most Windows shops run 2000 or XP, and many are starting to move toward 2003. Thus, your first order of business is to update your knowledge and move into more current products--it might very well be that getting certified on newer stuff will help you make this jump, so it might be worthwhile from that perspective. You'll also want to install a home network and get as much hands-on experience as you possibly can before returning to work, partly because nothing beats such experience and partly because such experience is more important to getting certified than ever before.

2. New/more certifications
You've got experience with NetWare and Windows, but while you've been out of the picture, Windows has more or less supplanted NetWare in the majority of companies and organizations. That said, there are still jobs for the NetWare savvy, but they're fewer and further between than you may remember. You'll need to decide whether to go after NetWare or Windows certs (if not both), so I'd advise you to check out local job postings, your friend/family networks, and classified ads to see where the jobs are and to direct your efforts accordingly. OTOH, if you're ready to go after both, do so with my complete blessing (you can still take exams to upgrade from NW 4.x to 5.x, then from 5.x to 6.x to get current, but you must requalify for Windows 2000 MCSA/MCSE because upgrade exams from NT 4.0 to Win2K are no longer available).

3. Making the case to re-enter the workforce
You'll want to tweak your resume to its utmost, and be able to stress a burning interest in and passion for IT/technology when you start interviewing. It will also help if you can make an interesting and compelling case for why you took so much time off to help out your family. Whenever there are "holes" in your work history, you've got to be prepared to explain why they're present and how you've kept (or gotten) yourself current and plugged-in again.

HTH. If you have further questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to write again.

This was first published in October 2003

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