Certifications have always been ones of those things that either don’t matter to one hiring manager or hire way too much to another hiring manager. Recently, about five years after graduating from a three-year IT technologist program, I’ve decided to set my sights on the CCNA certification and it’s not going as well as I had hoped. I made a glaring mistake studying for the exam and it has cost me about a month of study time as a result.
I graduated from college in 2014 and have kept all of my books that were required for the course, including the four Cisco networking books. Together they are Networking Fundamentals, Routing Protocols and Concepts, LAN Switching and Wireless, and Accessing the WAN, all published in 2010.
They are an incredible collection of networking topics. But they aren’t nearly sufficient for the exams, as I unfortunately discovered. I decided to use an online course to supplement the books knowing that there were some topics that the new CCNA 200-125 exam required that my books don’t include. I won’t mention which course, because people are entitled to their opinions, and mine is no more valuable. But I found the course to be terrible, despite being recommended by many people.
I spent a week or two following the course. I thought it was rather disorganized and lacking direction at many points. It included random YouTube vlogs rather than quality content. I was not pleased with the overall quality, so I was refunded the cost of the course after a very quick and pleasant exchange with the customer service department. But at this point, I was discouraged from the online courses altogether.
I decided to stick with my books. Yeah, the ones from 2010. I spent about a month studying and decided to take an online CCENT preparation exam. The exam was throwing questions at me about specific Cisco hardware related problems that my books did not mention whatsoever. Not to mention that the books themselves predated the hardware in question. This is when I realized something crucial.
The self-study route is a difficult one. This is something I’ve always known, but my recent experience only reaffirmed the fact. This last month has definitely been very productive with refreshing my knowledge of the deeper network concepts, and most certainly with the Cisco command line. But I feel as though the effort I’ve sunken into my goal has been taking me in a direction that is no straight toward my goal, but some sort of meandering path.
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After feeling somewhat defeated by my own ignorance, I decided to buck-up and just buy the appropriate books from Cisco Press. No study guides, no online courses, no shortcuts or cutting corners. The next several weeks will be me, the two books, and cramming in whatever spare time I find myself with.
For those of you that are studying for a certification exam of any sort, be sure to plan and plot your study with respect to goals outlined by the certification body. Vendor-neutral certifications tend to be less intensive given that they include primarily theory whereas vendor-specific certifications often include implementation details specific to their platform. So take your time meeting the individual objectives of your exam. And, lastly, for the sake of using your time efficiently, take my word and ensure that your study material is up-to-date.