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Network engineer career advice amid the COVID-19 pandemic

As COVID-19 dramatically affects the global economy, people may ask, 'What's next for my career?' No one is sure, but these tips can help network engineers feel and stay secure.

It's not news that these are unprecedented times. No one has seen anything like the novel coronavirus -- dubbed COVID-19 -- or the global response to the virus before. Many people worry how this situation will evolve and how it will affect economies, careers and personal bottom lines.

I don't have a crystal ball, but I have been writing resumes since the last major economic crisis -- the banking crisis of 2008 -- and the years following. While this situation is substantially different, some lessons learned 12 years ago may be relevant to network engineer careers today.

The known vs. the unknown of the economic fallout

The long-term economic fallout after the crisis passes is unknown. It's possible it will be bad and last a couple of years. It may be shorter. There's no way to tell. Either way, here's some good news: Even in 2008 and 2009, people still got interviews, and they still got jobs. While it was extremely competitive and salaries were lower than in a better economy, jobs for good candidates existed.

Whatever happens, it's best to be ready, whether the situation becomes extremely difficult or resolves relatively quickly. To quote Louis Pasteur, "Fortune favors the prepared mind," and that's true in every aspect of one's network engineer career.

Here's some good news: Even in 2008 and 2009, people still got interviews, and they still got jobs.

So, then as now, the best advice for a networking professional concerned about a future downturn in the economy is to be prepared and be the best candidate possible.

4 pieces of network engineer career advice

Preparing is not as hard as it sounds. Here are a few tips to increase network engineers' chances if the coronavirus downturn lasts more than a few months and they want to hold onto their jobs or search for new ones if they were laid off.

  1. Excel in one's work. That sounds obvious, but it must be stated. Go above and beyond. Get the job done, even if it's tough or boring. Build a reputation as the go-to networking professional -- the one people go to for the tough jobs. Build a reputation as the professional who always gets the job done. This can increase network engineers' chances of keeping their jobs even if layoffs happen.
  2. Communicate effectively and cooperatively with end users, technical peers and management. The importance of this can't be overstated. Being a network engineer who connects into the broader organization and who is a networking professional people know, like and respect can make an enormous difference if there is a reduction in the workforce.
  3. Think business value. This also can't be overstated. Network engineers should always think about what their work delivers to the business, users and customers. If engineers can get numbers for how their work has improved operations, they should keep those handy because numbers pop when a hiring authority reads a resume -- they stand out to the eye and make accomplishments immediately clear.
  4. Keep resumes updated regularly. Throughout one's network engineer career, engineers should ensure their resumes are current, communicate key accomplishments and are written to express the challenge, action and results -- or CAR -- idea rather than simple lists of duties and responsibilities, which are relatively similar for many network engineer careers.

Globally, people hope this crisis will pass fairly soon, without the sort of long-term economic damage seen in 2008. Yet, however things develop, if network engineers keep the above points in mind, their careers will be more secure, and chances of finding a new opportunity will be significantly greater.

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