The Subtle Art of Searching for Certification-Related Jobs

You can just do a random Google search when looking for certification-related jobs.

I've been working in and around IT certification and training since the mid-1990s, and I did a brief stint as a course developer at Novell all the way back in 1988-1989. I hope that entitles me to claim that I've been around this game for a while, and have seen and done a lot of different things related to IT certification.


Ultimately, for the people who expend the time, effort and money necessary to earn them, certifications are about workplace status, employability, and pay. That makes searching for employment opportunities especially important for certified IT pros.


As a certified IT professional, it's critical to get good results while seeking to gather intelligence about one's current work situation, as well as when investigating potential future positions. This is the sort of thing that simply cannot be left in the hands of an indifferently formulated Google search.


Searching for Satisfaction


Under another of my compositional avatars, I maintain a collection of articles for Business News Daily (formerly known as Tom's IT Pro). This collection is called Best IT Certifications, and it includes evaluations of the best credentials in 27 different sub-domains in the IT workplace.


Each of those articles uses job board searches to justify and explain the selection of a Top 5 slate for each category. We — that is myself, Kim Lindros, and Mary Kyle Inks — have been running this series for nearly a decade now, and we revisit each element in the series annually, to keep the information current.


Why am I telling you this? Because we've had a LOT of practice searching job boards, looking for relevant job postings that make direct mention of (or significant allusion to) specific IT certifications and related areas of skill, knowledge, and expertise. Read on for some interesting and hopefully useful lesson learned thereby.


1) It's Not Enough to Search by Cert Name or Acronym


There are only so many 3- and 4-letter combinations possible, even with 26 letters in the alphabet. Sometimes, more than one cert shares an acronym with another. Thus, searching simply on the acronym may turn up lots of false positives that don't really match up with a relevant job posting.


2) Remember to Use Quotation Marks


If you want to search on a cert name, remember that search engines, by default, search for words by themselves, as well as in combination. If you really want to find best results for Cisco Certified Network Associate, then you should put that enclose that string with quotation marks, like so: "Cisco Certified Network Associate" — simple enough, right?


If you don't use quotation marks, then you're going to find lots of jobs that include one or two of those terms, but not necessarily all of them, and not necessarily all together, or all in that order.


You can just do a random Google search when looking for certification-related jobs.

3) Add a Little Context to Boost Relevance


Let's assume that you're a newly-minted CCNA in Routing & Switching in search of opportunities as a network analyst or administrator. When you search on CCNA and/or "Cisco Certified Network Associate," you'll also want to include your desired title in that search. In this instance, don't search without adding "network analyst" and "network administrator" (and remember your quotation marks!).


You should probably include something about routing, routing protocols (BGP, OSPF, IS-IS, and so forth), and perhaps even some make/model information for the specific Cisco gear that you know and could work with. The more you paint a picture of the kind of job you want to fill in your search, the better your results will be.


4) Target Focus Also Helps


Let's assume that you know the names of at least some of the companies that you'd like to work for. In that case, you might want to run some searches that include one or more of those names along with the other stuff already mentioned.


Shoot, you'll probably also want to visit their company websites and see if they have a jobs available or jobs open page. That kind of search will quickly tell you whether or not what you've got is what they're looking for.


5) Don't Forget your Social Networks


Sure, job posting sites can tell you what's out there in a general sense, and it may even lead you into an actual, full- or part-time paying position. But please: Don't forget that the best jobs are seldom advertised (or advertised only because of legal, regulatory, or contractual requirements).


How do you find those best jobs? By working your social networks — friends, family, former colleagues, professional societies and associations, schoolmates, and so forth — to let people know what you're looking for (or thinking of looking for).


Be sure to also tell them about what you bring to the party, including relevant certifications and training. These informal social interactions are where the real action is, so make sure you don't overlook this important search avenue and mechanism.


Best of luck in finding what you seek. If you learn from our experience and apply these lessons, then you may just find something terrific.


Would you like more insight into the history of hacking? Check out Calvin's other articles about historical hackery:
About the Author

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran who's worked as a software developer, technical marketer, consultant, author, and researcher. Author of many books and articles, Ed also writes on certification topics for Tech Target, ComputerWorld and Win10.Guru. Check out his website at, where he also blogs daily on Windows 10 and 11 topics.