IT Employment



What factors weigh greatest in seeking employment?

By nhawkins3 ·
I'm a 53 year old African American having difficulty gaining networking jobs in my area of Charlotte, NC. I've been in the Tech industry since 1989 with many OEM certs, MCSE, MCP, A+, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Technology. The MCSE and MCP are not current. I have baseline Cisco routing skills but no CCNA and little workplace experience except working manager positions at satellite centers where WAN responsibilites were outsourced to providers..

Most of my experience has been on the hardware break-fix side, but the last 6 years has been devoted to developing networking skills.

Everyone has humble beginnings in that no one engineer walks into the door knowing it all, but some companies are willing to give them a chance. I must admit, there are proportionally less African American network engineers in the market than white or Indian counterparts and employers tend to look at me as an oddity. What factors weigh greatest against my odds:


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Certs without experience mean nothing, so don't brag about them

by Why Me Worry? In reply to What factors weigh greate ...

on a resume or an interview unless they are current certification and you have at least 5 or more years experience in the technology behind the cetification. If your MCSE was for NT 4.0, don't even mention it on your resume or interview because you are no longer considered to be certified by Microsoft unless you hold a valid MCSE in Windows Server 2003. From what I gather, your experience is lacking in many of the core networking technologies to take on a position as a network admin or engineer, so settle for desktop support if you can. Also, your age is big factor in this, and even though age discrimination is illegal, you will be overlooked for a younger candidate whose skills are current and is deemed as learning quicker. In your position, I would recommend that you not seek employment from large corporations and become an independent contractor who works on a 1099 basis. Sure, the assignments may be short term, but you will gain plenty of experience and can even develop good relationships with companies that will keep you busy by referring you to others. Companies want to hire people for the long haul and the older you are, the less time you will spend in the company as your retirement age quickly approaches. Regarding race, don't play the race card because you don't see many African Americans in this field, because I have see quite many to discount any arguments about it being dominated by white Europeans or Indians. Again, I think your age is a factor more than the color of your skin is. Stick to'll make more money anyway.

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Ok Point Well Taken

by nhawkins3 In reply to Certs without experience ...

However, I have spent a great deal of time grooming myself to do something other than desktop support and have actually done 2003 domain controllers and file and print servers builds, router and switch configurations.

I'm currently working on a CCNA using a 2-router Cisco lab and is close to taking the exam based on my Cert Blaster test results.

Is this too little too late considering my age? Also, is it worth my time to re-certify with Microsoft?

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Not too little, too late

by Tig2 In reply to Ok Point Well Taken

Just challenging.

What do you want? I mean REALLY want?

And what are you willing to do to get it?

Look at all the alternatives available. I have seen people go into 3 month contracts and stay forever. What do you want?

What have you been doing in IT and how can you leverage that experience to what you want to do?

I know that a change at this time of your life can be done. I know you can do it. Just be able to clearly define WHAT you want to do.

Best of luck to you!

Edited because I hate typos...

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I have to agree with WhyWorry

by Tig2 In reply to What factors weigh greate ...

Your age may be the biggest factor against you. I would consider contracting as it tends to take age off the table as a consideration. It also provides you with an opportunity to present yourself differently to a prospective client. Think of it this way- you aren't getting married, you're just dating. The client is going to look at your skill set with a different eye as well.

There are many contract houses that offer good benefits as well as things like 401(k) and even vacation time. Start by interviewing some.

If you go this road, your experience becomes the greater factor and your ability to sell yourself to the prospective client is enhanced.

The best of luck to you!

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by nhawkins3 In reply to I have to agree with WhyW ...

That's encouraging TiggerTwo. I fell hopeful now

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My vote is for age and overhead

by gremcg In reply to What factors weigh greate ...

Dear nhawkins3:
I'm 51 White with a lot of great experience but haven't finished up my MCSA yet which I'm really struggling with at this point. I think a lot of it is age though they don't want to mention it in the interview. I don't get any callbacks.
The second aspect is that you're American. I don't know if you've noticed but in the job market being a citizen and a tax payer means your prospective employer will be paying lots of benefits - health insurance, retirement plans, etc. I saw it in a former employer that businesses want to get away from hiring people(American citizens with family) with a lot of 'overhead'. Businesses don't have to pay foreigners or illegals the overhead. With the free benefits they get from the federal and state governments - food, clothes, shelter, health care,education, and don't forget all kinds of other taxes businesses can avoid - workers comp. etc. businesses avoid paying well into hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. I have seen the figures first hand and with there being no enforcement of laws, too many are just going the route of 'no one else is observing the law - why should I'.
So when we walk into a place to apply for a job, the employer sees us as a huge expense. Call me cynical but that's what I've run into the last months job hunting.
Good luck.

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My vote is for age and overhead

by nhawkins3 In reply to My vote is for age and ov ...


I'm embarrased that I didn't consider the age factor that strongly. That's why it's important to start growing that nest egg early. Although I don't think it's fair for the older workforce to be treated like over-the-hill athletes; some of us still out smart and out think many of the younger generation. Good point.

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A little cynicism never hurt.

by jgmsys In reply to My vote is for age and ov ...

I'm only 40, and I can't switch into networking. It's like an elitist field, where the only available jobs are for senior-level people only. Add the now-mandatory requirement of a BS in Computer Science (which I think is BS anyway for net admin - you really don't need it as long as you've gone to a reputable tech school), and I'm looking at a door slammed in my face. I'm sorry, but I don't ahve a good enough salary, nor have enough time to go back to school for a complete BS in Computer Science. I've gotten to the point where I'm about to walk away from IT because of the impossible and nonsensical job requirements most areas are posting. Business and the governement are so worried about an IT worker shortage? They'd better change their admission requirements, or there won't be anybody to do the work.

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Secret Society

by nhawkins3 In reply to A little cynicism never h ...

I agree, it like a secret society of Mensa-styled techies. How do you get the experience if no one is willing to hire you in our respective age groups? People in the 40 - 50 years age bracket are more stable and will give you 10-20 years dedicated sevice because of age discrimination than the 20-30 year old job hoppers. You get what you pay for, young, cheap hopper vs. older, more expensive, but more commtited workers. These companies are asking for qualifications that will only ensure a re-cycling of the techs already at these levels. Beyond that, a cheaper, younger recuit is waiting in the wings for these positions thus leaving middle-aged and older like us out of work.

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Leverage your disadvantages into advantages

by DrMicro In reply to What factors weigh greate ...

I tend to agree with the other posters who identified age as the probable culprit. I lost my corporate job during the bust and spent a lot of time searching the job market, upgrading my skills... all to no avail because of my age (mid-50's at the time). I would see interviewers look at my white hair and I soon learned that it didn't matter how smart I was, or what my experience or qualifications... only my age.

Certs are fine for large corporations, and they are good for you personally as a basis for building your experience, but without experience, they don't mean much. I'm sure you've read blogs and commentary about the many "paper MCSE's".

You have a very good baseline knowledge and I wouldn't discount an older MCSE entirely. TCP/IP is still TCP/IP whether you've got an NT4 server or a 2003 Enterprise server. Cisco equipment change and add features all the time, but the basics remain remakably similar.

Large IT organizations may prefer to hire bright young kids, but the reasons are a little different than just age alone. First of all, they can pay the young kids less for doing more, and they frequently have less external baggage than us oldsters (family, health, dental, etc.) Also, a young bright kid right out of college or MCSE boot camp is a blank slate. The company doesn't have to deal with any perceived bad habits ("When I was with XYZ, we always did it this way" syndrome).

Having a lot of education, training and experience will work against you at a large IT organization because they don't want to PAY for your education, training and experience.

I personally gave up and started my own consulting business and have been successful at it. As a consultant, my age, education and experience are positive factors. I know it seems paradoxial, but it's true. The same company that wouldn't hire you because of your age, education and experience is ecstatic to see you walk in the door as a consultant. I can't tell you how many times I've had middle aged managers & office staff tell me, "Oh thank God they didn't send me some young kid!"

As a consultant, you can leverage your age disadvantage into an advantage. To get the consulting job requires salesmanship. The difference is you're selling yourself for a specific task (Exchange upgrade, new server roll-out assistance, XP/Vista roll-out, expanding and enhancing existing IT structure and security, etc.) rather than trying to sign on as a permanent employee.

I don't think race has anything to do with it, but you can even leverage that into more of an advantage. There are many minority-owned businesses who have just as much need (if not more) for IT expertise as any other company and they may be more inclined to give you the nod than a young raver with tattoos and lip piercings, if you know what I mean.

Talk to a lawyer. Incorporate yourself. You can be an LLC, S-Corp or C-Corp. Pick a name for your business and get a domain with a static website and a domain-based email address (nothing says amateur more than a hotmail or yahoo email address). Take out a small yellow page ad to start with and join your local chamber of commerce and Better Business bureau. Most Chambers of Commerce have weekly and monthly events that are inexpensive to attend and offer excellent opportunities to network and promote yourself. Bring lots of business cards!

Be agressive in finding consulting jobs. Make a list of small to medium businesses (those that have a small IT infrastructure, but don't have an in-house IT capability) and make appointments to visit them, introduce yourself, leave a business card and offer your services. Don't expect an immediate job or call, just make sure they know they can call you whenever they have a need.

You could also do a targeted mass-mailing (using company names and addresses you can get for free from the Chamber of Commerce lists), but I would follow that up with a personal visit as that is not nearly as effective as personal contact.

Good luck to you!

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