When people ask me for career advice, especially as it touches on IT certification, their questions often cut straight to the subject of interest as in “If I earn a A+, Network+, and a CCNA can I get a good job?” Alas, I really can’t provide meaningful answers to such questions without a fair amount of additional information to consider. Here is a sample list of questions, to which I will add over time, that advice-seekers would be well-advised to answer before raising such questions, whether they want answers from me or from somebody else:
1. What is your educational background? High school diploma? Associate’s degree? Bachelor’s degree? Graduate degree(s)? Please also briefly describe any incomplete progress on any of these items (for example “two years of computer science grad courses, 2/3 of MS completed”).
2. What is your prior work experience? How many years of work, and what kind of work have you done? Any volunteer work? Part-time work in school or elsewhere? (You’d be surprised how much value employers give to those who show evidence of being able to hold a job, and how much credit they give to people willing to work for nothing as volunteers or part-time to get experience in their chosen fields.)
3. Where do you live? What is the job market like there? How much opportunity for entry-level people? mid-career people? senior people?
4. Are you interested in working in management, or would you prefer to stay on a technical track? Have you ever done any project management (and again, school, part-time, and volunteer experience all help)?
5. What kinds of certifications interest you? Please describe any certification held, currency status (if applicable), and when earned.
6. Do your long-term career goals include staying in your current position (or in the same field as the next position you’re seeking, if applicable)?
7. What kind of job are you doing now? What kind of job would you like to be doing? How important is salary to you? How important is job satisfaction? If you could have any job at all, what would that be?
With answers to these questions, I get to know something about the person as well as the various options they may be pondering. This helps me to provide answers that have a better chance of helping both in the short and long terms, and that can be tailored to their specific location, circumstances, needs, and goals.
I hope this makes sense, and that future advice seekers will understand why it’s very helpful to me, and ultimately to them, to provide this kind of data.