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Developing hands-on experience to get first job

I'll be brief. My name is Bob. I'm 36, A+, Net+, MCP and getting ready to be an MCSE. I've actually done this the honest way and know the material; I'm not one of those paper MCSE's. The only experience I have is the last six months of my studying, I have built, loaded, and configured a Windows NT/TCP/IP network at home. With my limited experience, nobody will hire me. So my question is this: With my wife working, I could actually go out and find a company or some one and offer myself to them for free (or minimum wage) in exchange for experience a couple of day's a week. Do I sound desperate or what!!! Help!!

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You are definitely going to need to develop some hands-on experience as quickly as possible. As you suggested, volunteer work can get you moving in the right direction. If you do try this route, be sure to seek opportunities that allow you to work on projects that will assist in your career advancement. By this, I mean you should work with technologies and platforms that leverage the knowledge you already possess. In addition to volunteer work, you might consider project work through an IT staffing firm. You?ll be placed on assignments that reflect your current skill level. It?s a great way to put to work the knowledge you?ve attained through your education. As your experience level grows, you?ll be able to work on increasingly larger projects ? and all at a much quicker pace than through full-time employment. With the flexibility allowed via project work, you should be able to mix in your volunteer efforts, as well as continue your educational pursuits.

This was first published in February 2001

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