How Should We Train To Be Competitive?

Those in the military know one anxious answer to this question. You train as you fight! The United States Military does a great job of doing it’s best to simulate the real conditions they are going to fight in, and then train to be best prepared. But, how well does that translate in the civilian IT industry?

That question really has two sides to the coin. In one aspect like the military, a training plan is developed based upon the current or predicted future conditions that the employees will be facing. For instance, when an organization purchases a new Cisco Unified Communications suite, that organization is going to gear their training specifically toward the UC suite. We’ll call this Training, “Type A.”

On the other side is the current job seeker. What type of training plan should an individual develop in order to get the edge in their next interview over the competition? The answer is not so easy and most likely depends upon those who are doing the hiring. We’ll call this Training, “Type B.”

For Type A, a company does not want to invest into any training that they cannot see a return benefit on. The company purchases Cisco UC training in response to a project to implement a UC environment. Now the new IT personnel who are hired on are expected to have a UC skillset to bring to the organization, a skillset that was not required prior to this new project.

This may not seem fair to new job seekers with this company, but the truth of the matter is that the company is most likely not going to pay for the training again. So now, in order to reduce training costs only personnel that have the newly required skillset will be hired.

So how do we keep up with the growing demand of new technology skillsets around the world in various companies? There are certainly way too many technologies to prepare for them all when searching for a job. But that is, to some extent, the point regarding Type B, as we cannot know it all.

We have to make a decision in which career path we would like to pursue, and tailor our training to meet the baseline expected knowledge in that niche. If you’re trying to become a network technician, than starting with the base CompTIA Network+ and Cisco Certified Entry Network Technician (CCENT) should be a good starting point and then following the trail up the Cisco Routing and Switching Certification Path.

The reason for this particular choice is due to sheer market share. In general, most companies employ Cisco network equipment, but if the company you are trying to apply for uses another vendor, a vendor such as “Brocade” and “Juniper,” then adjust accordingly.

Most employers have an expectation that a prospective employee can meet the baseline expectations for the position that they are applying for. This is where certifications come in wonderfully; they validate an expected baseline knowledge (or at least are supposed to).

Any IT technician, no matter the field or level of skillset, has an adjustment period whenever beginning to work for a new employer. This can be a stressful time for the employee and perhaps for the employer who has unrealistic expectations. Each IT environment is unique and must be learned when starting a new position.

The star employees can adjust quickly and begin contributing to an organization after a short time, identifying shortfalls in current operational processes, and formulate a strategy to improve the organization and its employees.

There is no magic answer to Type B other than do your best in the field you are pursuing. Go above and beyond to communicate effectively to your prospective employer that you are a cut above the rest. Some ideas to do this are; start a blog, start a technical website (or join and become a part of one), and anything else that you can add to your resume.

The hard truth is, experience and relationships go further than any resume. For instance, when a new managerial position comes up, everyone wants it. However, who is the company going to hire? Promoting from the senior personnel within the company would seem to make the most logical sense, but what about those trying to come into a company at above an entry level position? This can prove troublesome.

You have to know how to sell yourself in a way that clearly demonstrates your skillset and ability to lead an organization. You have to do this in a way that will supercede the experienced personnel that a company already has.

The most appropriate course of action is to come into a company at a lower position than you may have the skillset for, and then work your way up. Employers cannot be blamed for not knowing your true value without having worked with you before, even if your resume is clearly above those that you work for.

Build your work history and experience, document the projects you’ve done and implemented, and continue to train in the areas relevant to your craft that can translate to a resume. With time and patience you should be able to work to the position that you deserve.

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