Networking Career: How To Make It To The Big League

Networking pros who want to make the leap from a small shop to a big network environment can learn from how our newest network engineer got the job.

August 4, 2015

3 Min Read
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There definitely are opportunities for ambitious IT pros who want to migrate from small network environments to large organizations. But that jump isn’t an easy one; it takes courage and knowing how to sell your limited experience to convince prospective employers to give you a shot.

I work on a sizeable IT team that maintains a very large, city-sized network environment. We have specialized functional groups  -- including core networking, edge technicians, Active Directory folks, and data center staff --  with really great working relationships that allow us to get a lot done while also delivering stability and reliability. Like any good team, we’ve evolved over time to take on more and different network services.

When we recently found ourselves with a core networking position open, we put out the typical networking engineer job ad and started working through the screening and interview processes as applications came in. The person we ended up hiring was a bit surprising as his resume wasn’t the strongest. He also came from a small environment where he was a one-man soup-to-nuts IT shop unto himself, with a wide skillset that wasn’t all that deep. So how did our new guy land a network job that arguably was too big for him at the time of hiring?

In this case, our guy was out of his depth on paper but had the fire in his belly to shoot for bigger things. On top of that, he actually took the time to read the job description carefully and tailored his resume to address as many of our requirements as he could, based on his small-shop experience. Many applicants skipped this step and sent a canned, dated resume that left the search committee wondering if they even bothered to read the advertisement very carefully. Our fellow found a way to convey, “I might come from a small place, but I’m ready for bigger things and you can trust me on that enough to invite me to talk.”

Figure 1: (Image: geralt/Pixabay)(Image: geralt/Pixabay)

Once he secured an interview, our new engineer also did well what more experienced competitors didn’t: He sold himself instead of talking vaguely about what his entire department did at his last place of employment. In the interview, clear statements such as, “I had to learn how to configure an L2TP/IPsec VPN server with firewall rules and set up the remote clients,” sounded a lot better than, “Yeah, we had VPN where I used to work.” Regardless of what was asked, his answers were well-thought out in relation to the position that we had posted. It sounds so simple, yet many fail here.

And as hard as we tried to find it, there was no embellishment on his resume whatsoever. Embellishment is another trap that many IT job candidates fall into, and it raises red flags to those doing the interview. There’s a huge difference between knowing Pearl or Python, and simply having done a few hours with either back in college.  Many people hope they don’t get caught stretching the truth, but nothing sucks the life out of an interview more than getting caught in a fib about your true capabilities.

Our new network engineer came in with courage, integrity, attention to detail, and an absolute obvious passion for networking that more experienced candidates seemed to have lost along the way.  His love of the networking he had done in the small environment was palpable. He also knew where his skills ended, and what he would do to expand them in specific terms and with realistic timelines.

Looking back at the process, he basically distinguished himself without being a rock star in a way that let us see the potential rock star inside if we were willing to take a chance on him. That in itself is a critical skill for anyone looking to make their way up to the network big leagues.

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