I’m often asked I how was able to write so many books or earn so many certifications. The answer I commonly give is “one at a time.” When it comes to writing books, it’s one page at a time.
Don’t repeat this if there’s an elephant in the room, but the old saying goes like this: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
This is the same for any large complex project. Break it down into manageable chunks and then start on those chunks.
Many times, you’ll find that an expert has already chunked it down for you. All you have to do is follow the steps provided by the expert. As a simple example, if you want to bake a cake for the first time, you can follow a recipe. You don’t have to create a recipe from scratch.
Sometimes, you have to break it down yourself. For example, Amazon’s dream of using drones to deliver packages has never been done before. Amazon engineers have to figure out all the steps on their own. Using a mind-mapping exercise such as the one in the The Success Principles book is useful to identify all the tasks. You can then group and prioritize them.
Whether you follow the advice of an expert or identify all the tasks and priorities yourself, a key step is to start.
Chunk It Down for the Security+ Exam
The CompTIA Security+ exam is a difficult exam to pass. If you’re considering pursuing it, you might choose to break it down into the following smaller tasks.
Learn about the exam.This set of pages provides detailed information about the exam including the number of questions, duration of the exam, prerequisites, types of questions you’ll encounter and more. It also includes a listing of the objectives.
Whatever you’re seeking to do, don’t let the size of it overwhelm you. Any project can be broken down into smaller tasks.
If you’re blazing a trail that no one else has blazed before, use a tool such as a mind mapping exercise. If other people have done this before you, look for their guidance. If they have already chunked it down into smaller tasks, use their plan. You don’t need to recreate the wheel.
Either way though, as with anything else, a key step is to start.
Help desk technicians (and all IT professionals) need a full range of hard and soft skills to excel in their career. Hard skills are specific, measurable abilities, such as configuring Windows or troubleshooting a Cisco network, while soft skills refer to a person’s capacity to effectively interact with others. As demand for IT talent continues to rise and the workforce becomes more competitive, those who compliment their knowledge and training with superior soft skills will be in the best position for long-term success.
Here are five of the most advantageous soft skills for IT help desk technicians:
A certification helps you land an interview but is only a small part of a larger picture. Most companies are looking for someone that will be a good fit in the job within the company but they are interested in much more than just what tests you can pass. However, if you can’t pass the test, you often never get the interview.
Here’s the typical process for someone pursuing and being offered a job:
An organization advertises for a job
You submit a resume (with or without a cover letter)
Your resume is picked as a possible candidate
You might be asked to complete one or more tests
You are asked to do one or more interviews
You are given an offer
You start your new job
Your certification and the underlying knowledge is important when your resume is reviewed, when you complete some technical pre-interview tests, and when you’re interviewed. However, it is isn’t the only important element.
With very few exceptions, you need more than a certification to get a job. Here’s an example of a rare exception.
Imagine someone named Joe who recently left the U.S. military with a security clearance. Joe has very little IT experience but decides to pursue the A+ certification and earns it.
A contractor (called Acme of Wiley E. Coyote and Road Runner fame) has a contract with the U.S. DoD. One position recently opened up. It requires someone with an A+ certification and a security clearance. Normally, Acme gets $50 an hour for every hour a person is working in this position and they pay $30 an hour to someone working in it. Acme is losing $20 an hour (or about $800 a week) for every hour this position remains unfilled.
If Joe applies and can prove he has an A+ certification, the clearance, and a pulse, he has the job.
When pursuing a new job, you often have two short-term goals.
Get an interview. The first goal is to get an interview. You have the best chance of success here if your resume has the certifications and the knowledge/skillset required for the job. A cover letter (or email introduction) also helps.
Shine during the interview to get an offer. You need to demonstrate that have the knowledge/skillset required by the job and you are a good fit on the organization’s team. This is often much more than your technical ability.
If you’re not getting interviews, improve your resume and introduction process.
Check out this article: Skills mismatch hinders the hiring of new graduates, survey finds. It mentions that “Forty-nine percent of human resource officials polled by the professional organization said this year’s college graduates lack basic English skills in grammar and spelling.” This is often reflected in applicant’s resumes. A single typo can get your resume thrown in the rejection pile.
If you’re not getting jobs after interviews, improve your interview techniques. Check out this article for five tips to help you during your next interview.
Hiring managers often have a very short time to look at a resume. When a job requires a certification, resumes without the certification are quickly eliminated. A hiring manager might have 100 resumes to fill a single job and this job requires a specific certification. He looks through them and sees that only about 10 include the certification. The rest are tossed aside.
If you have the certification they require, you’ll make it to the next phase. However, just having this on your resume won’t be enough.
~~~ Resume Tip ~~~ Take the time to target your resume for every new position. Ensure each resume includes the key words of the position you’re applying for, so that it has a better chance of being noticed. Many employers and head hunters accept resumes online and put them into a database. They then search the databases with specific keywords. If you use a one-size-fits-all resume, you have less of a chance to get the interview and ultimately the job.
Some jobs require candidates to take one or more tests. Some tests are strictly technical asking you multiple-choice technical questions. You aren’t expected to ace them, but they often give the hiring managers an idea of your technical knowledge.
Other tests are deeper. Organizations sometimes use psychological tests to gauge how someone might interact with customers or how they might respond in a highly stressful environment. Again, perfect answers aren’t expected, but they do give the hiring managers some insight.
One test that will surely eliminate you is a drug test. Many companies require you to submit to drug testing to see if you are a drug user.
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It’s common for an organization to do a background check on a potential employee at just about any point in the hiring process. A background check typically includes legal and financial checks.
Legal checks often include local, state, and national sources to see if a potential employee has any legal issues that might impact their employment. Legal issues won’t necessarily eliminate a person from a job. As an example, it probably won’t matter if a person with a recent speeding ticket is applying for a technical job that doesn’t require driving. On the other hand, if a person is asked and they lie about it, it will matter.
Financial checks are used in many different ways. I remember a student in a class telling me that insurance companies frequently use financial checks when pricing insurance policies. A poor credit score typically results in a higher priced policy. Similarly, hiring managers might equate a poor credit score with a lower level of responsibility and use this as an elimination factor.
During the interview phase, you have an opportunity to shine. You can expect to be asked about your knowledge and skill set related to the job and you should be able to easily talk about anything you’ve included on your resume.
If you list a Security+ certification, you might be asked about the certification, or content that someone that passed the certification would be expected to know. If your answers indicate that your resume claim is incorrect, expect to be eliminated. As an example, if your resume indicates you have a certification but you admit during the interview that you don’t have it, expect to be eliminated.
You can also expect to be asked questions that will bring out your personality. These types of questions are rarely direct. However, how you respond, especially to questions you aren’t prepared to answer, help people understand you better. You won’t hear questions like the following list, but interviewers are often curious about the answers to them just the same.
Are you a goal-setting achiever? Or are you are a quitter?
Do you enjoy participating in a team to help the company succeed? Or are you out for yourself only.
Are you friendly and look for the best in people? Or do you carry a chip on your shoulder looking for the worst in others?
Over 300 realistic Security+ practice test questions
All questions include explanations so you'll know why the correct answers are correct,
and why the incorrect answers are incorrect.
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Multiple quiz formats to let you use these questions based on the way you learn.
Learn mode - randomized. View each of the questions in random order. Learn mode allows you to keep selecting answers until you select the correct answer. Once you select the correct answer, you'll see the explanation. Click here to see how learn mode works.
Learn mode - not randomized. View each of the questions in the same order. Use this if you want to make sure that you see all of the questions. Learn mode allows you to keep selecting answers until you select the correct answer. Once you select the correct answer, you'll see the explanation. Click here to see how learn mode works.
Test mode - randomized. View each of the questions in random order. In test mode, you can only see the correct answers and explanations after you complete the test. Click here to see how test mode works.
Test mode - not randomized. View each of the questions in the same order. In test mode, you can only see the correct answers and explanations after you complete the test. Click here to see how test mode works.
Test mode - 75 random questions. View 75 random questions from the full test bank similar to how the Security+ exam has a potential maximum of 75 multiple choice questions. In test mode, you can only see the correct answers and explanations after you complete the test. Click here to see how test mode works.
Three sets of performance-based questions including over 30 questions. These questions show you what you can expect in the live exam. They include drag and drop, matching, sorting, and fill in the blank questions. See a demo here.
Bonus - Extra Practice Test Questions
New multiple-choice questions in the extra test bank. Questions are added occasionally. You can see what has been added recently here.
In summary, a certification can certainly make you marketable, but it isn’t the only consideration for any job. You cannot expect any certification to get you a job. You can expect a certification to make you more marketable and help you land an interview. After that, it’s up to you.
Master Security+ Performance Based Questions Video
A children’s book by Miriam Laundry with pictures by Jenniffer Julich.
My good friend Miriam Laundry recently released this book and even though it’s outside the scope of this blog, I loved it so much I wanted to share it with you.If you have any children and you want to start a conversation with them about their confidence and self-esteem, this is the perfect book. It is so easy for children to grow up with an inner voice constantly saying “I can’t” and if that’s the only message they hear, they might start to believe it.Ideally, parents would be able to hear that inner voice as soon is starts to attack their child’s confidence and self-esteem. Sadly, only the child hears it.
However, parents can read this book to their children and help counter that inner voice with words to build their child’s confidence and self-esteem.
Instead of a message of “I Can’t”, parents can help their children develop an attitude of “I Can.”
Parents might even help their children grow up with a mindset of no limitations, realizing they can do anything.
Although I don’t have any children to read to, I loved the messages in the I CAN Believe in Myself book so much, I bought a copy for my local library. You can to.
Recently, I received a lengthy email from a 24 year old reader in Bosnia asking for career advice. He identified himself as Elvis which I’ve since learned is a rather popular name in Bosnia. While his background is different than many other people, his questions are similar.
“What should I do next?”
“What should I actually pursue?”
Despite having a B.A. and being able to speak multiple languages (Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian, English, German, and Spanish), he hasn’t had much luck finding a job or finding a path out of his country. His cousin gave him a copy of the CompTIA A+ Training Kit (Exam 220-801 and Exam 220-802) and he plans on getting the A+ certification, then Network+, and then other IT-related certifications with the hope that these will help him get a job and possibly emigrate to Germany.
Perhaps they will.
But what he should do next? What should he actually pursue?
My answers to readers aren’t always very lengthy but something inspired me to give Elvis a more complete answer. After writing it, I realized that the same answer can apply to just about anyone no matter where they live so I’ve included it here.
======================================== Hi Elvis,
The best recommendation I can give you is to look inside yourself and ask what you really want to be doing five years from now (or even a year from now).
Sit down and imagine yourself five years in the future. You look around at all you’ve achieved and accomplished and you decide to write out a list of everything that you’re grateful for in your life.
Write the date (five years from today) at the top of the page and then start your list. Start each sentence with:
I am grateful …..
And then finish the sentence with something that you are grateful for.
Dream big. Don’t limit yourself and don’t let your current situation affect you. Imagine that your friends, family, and the Universe all conspired to help you on your path and you’ve enjoyed fabulous success pursuing your dreams.
Be as specific as possible. For example, instead of listing something like “I am grateful I have a job” list the actual job that would give you the most joy. For example, you might list “I am grateful I am a system administrator in a large data center.”
Make sure you include exactly what you want, not what you don’t want. For example, you might include “I am grateful I am living in Saxony, Germany.” You should not list something like “I am grateful I am not living in Bosnia.” If any statement includes the word “not” in it, change it.
Include at least one item indicating your gratitude for being able to help others with something specific. It could be gratitude that you’ve been able to donate a specific amount of money or time to a cause. You might indicate your gratitude for being able to create a specific product or service that has helped others. It could be something that you’ve been able to do that has provided joy or happiness to others.Don’t skip this step.You’ll find that the Universe is much more willing to help you when you’re willing to help others.
Don’t stop until you have at least ten items in your list. More is better.
Once you’ve completed your list, identify one of the items that you consider important or appealing to you and create a goal to do it.
Write out your goal starting with “I will…”. Next include exactly what you want such as “have a rewarding job as a systems administrator in a large data center.” Next, add a date and time such as “by midnight April 5th, 2018.” Last include the phrase “or something better” to ensure you are open to something better. For example, instead of being a systems administrator in a large data center you might actually be more suited to owning and running the data center and by including “or something better” you remain open to other possibilities that are better for you.
Your goal might look like “I will have a rewarding job as a systems administrator in a large data center, or something better, by midnight April 5th, 2018.”
You don’t have to know how you’ll achieve this goal right now. You only need to know that you want to. If you take the time to write out your goal and keep it at the forefront of your mind, you’ll figure out how.
There are many ways you can keep the goal at the forefront of your mind and find inspiration to accomplish it. A simple method is to simply read your written goal every day.
The next time someone asks you “What should I do next?” or “What should I actually pursue?” consider giving them this answer. It will help them find the answer from within themselves. Here are two books that might help.
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