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I'm a 30-year-old mom studying at home for MCSE. How do I restart my career?

I am currently working hard at home studying my MCSE 2000 and A+ certifications. Being 30 with two children, how do I restart my career? I love working with computers, especially networking, and I love learning new things. But where do I go from here? Thank you.

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You're touching on a particularly crazy catch-22 in your question. It might be stated in this case as "how do I get a job that requires working experience when I have no working experience?" or perhaps as "how can I get experience when I don't have any experience?" Fortunately, there are ways to make this happen (but they either don't pay at all, or don't pay very well, so please be prepared to "pay your dues"):

  • Volunteer: Schools, churches, charities, and non-profits pretty much all have networks nowadays. You can probably find a way to volunteer for one or more such organizations to help out with software or networking installation, cabling, maintenance and management, upgrades, and all kinds of other routine tasks that you will be able to handle with proper supervision. These kinds of organizations are also used to making do with volunteer help, so you'll get more opportunities for training, hand-holding, and support from them than you might in a real job situation anyway.

  • Temporary, part-time, or occasional work: once you get your certs and a little volunteer experience under your belt, you can probably talk your way into some kinds of low-paying work. Assuming the economy really is getting better, as Mr. Greenspan told Congress earlier this week, demand for temporary workers should pick up real soon now. Same for part-time. By "occasional work" in this context, I mean finding temporary, short-term work helping out a company (or the consulting or service company to whom a company outsources IT work) handle peak or unusual load situations, like installing or upgrading a network, upgrading client or server computers in bulk, performing system audits and inventories and other such periodic tasks that happen every once in a while.

    These are good ways to get the necessary foot in the door, so I sincerely hope they work for you. Good luck with your certs, and with restarting your career.

    --Ed--

    This was first published in July 2002

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