Measuring the Supply Side of the Networking Job Market

Gauging the Best Networking Technology Choices to Get that Next Job

I hear you loud and clear: the overwhelming reason to go for your next Cisco cert is to help you get the next job. Our survey from last week currently shows an overwhelming 75% claiming that they will choose their next Cisco cert for the purpose of helping them get their next job. It's not what's interesting, or what's best for the long term career, it's what gets you the job now. So today we'll look at some ideas of how to figure out what networking technology area is the best choice to help you get that next job, and I'll ask for your help.

As usual, let me give you the broad picture first, and give some background on a related story. Until a couple of years ago, I didn't pay a lot of attention to used Cisco gear market, or what gear you should buy for certification prep. Occasionally I'd get a question about what to buy, and I'd give advice off the top of my head.  However, a while back, I blogged about used lab gear, and it was popular. Fast forward a few years, and now I've now got a web site with a wide array of reference info about how to build your own Cisco cert lab, and several blog series where we all discussed the topic. The process of starting a discussion here in the blog, and getting your input and feedback, turned into some very useful discussions and useful reference info.

Well, I'm not a career counselor, recruiter, or watcher of the job markets. However, folks like you wrote in that you'd like to see more about careers, so I've been noodling whether there's a way to do some informal data collection about the job market, something that over time might give us all some perspectives about jobs. I have no idea if this will be a hit or a bust, but hey, this is a good forum to give it a try. If this turns out to be useful, then maybe we'll end up with something I can track over time, like the informal used gear pricing history on my site.

To do this, we need to define some "technology areas" - subsets of the networking job market that we can measure the job market. It'd be sweet if we could simply refer to Cisco certs, but I think it's probably better to list by topic. I'll be examining:

  • Wireless
  • Security
  • Voice
  • Routing/Switching
  • Data Center (no career cert yet, only specialization certs)
  • Service Provider (Includes SP Ops, CCIP, both SP-oriented CCIEs)

Next, let's look at the job market, and focus on the supply side of the equation today. I'm thinking that it makes sense to try and somehow quantify the number of jobs in each technology area. And keeping with the microeconomic view, I'm theorizing that if we pick a few sample geographies, and measure the number of jobs, and see those trends over time, it might give us some useful data beyond just checking your favorite job web site today.

The process that I'm hoping might be useful to follow goes something like this:

  1. Use four US geographies of varying size
  2. Pick consistent search terms for each technology area
  3. Search with a consistent search radius, larger in larger cities
  4. Search at the same day of the month each month to track over time

I figure if I search the same places, same radius, same search terms, and do this over time, the data might give us a better indication than just the search any of us do on a whim to start looking for a job. Your job: help me refine this process and search criteria.

As for cities, I googled for lists of the largest US cities, intending to choose a top 3, 10th, 25th, and 50th in terms of metropolitan population. The lists differ a little here and there, so I ended up with:

  • Los Angeles: #2 in size, West Cost, 50 mile radius
  • Atlanta: #10 in size, Southeast, 40 mile radius 
  • Cincinnati, Ohio: #25 in size, Midwest, 30 mile radius
  • Rochester, NY: #50 in size, Northeast, 30 mile radius

I did give some though into picking these cities. I wanted a very large city, but not New York, since it seems to be so unique. I wanted another top 10, but geographically separated from the largest one in the list, so I picked Atlanta (my home town). I wanted one around 25 and 50, so I picked Cincinnati, Ohio (where I live) and Rochester, NY, where some colleagues live. 

As for search criteria, I went with the larger radius for the bigger cities, as it seems that folks in larger cities tend to be more willing to travel. Also, the smaller cities often have influencing neighboring populations. For example, Cincinnati and Dayton (#61 in one list) are roughly 60 miles apart, so with a 30 mile radius in job site searches, it should keep the job markets separated a bit.

The last consideration for my initial testing was the actual search phrases to use. I searched for the obvious Cisco cert acronyms. But I also searched for what I thought would be good phrases. For example, I used "Cisco voice" as a phrase in my searches, but I didn't simply type in the words, because that gives you "cisco or voice" logic, which of course lists lots of jobs that require no voice skills.

I have picked monster.com for gathering data. I'm not trying to count the literal number of jobs from all sources, because I know I won't take that much time for this ongoing overhead task. But I do think it would be interesting to see the trend over time. I tried lots of search phrases for each technology area, including the related certs. (I didn't include the Data Center and SP topics yet, in part because I wanted to work through the others first, but I'll take input on all of them.) I included most of the CCNA and CCxP level certs, plus related phrases. I also did some searches with simply "cisco" for perspective. So, my first round of raw data - truly raw and unfiltered at this point - is listed here:

This is the first baby step. We'll see if this little effort can grow into something useful. Now it's your turn. Help me refine what I'm doing here, and tell me:

  1. What sites would you search for Cisco jobs?
  2. What search phrases would you use to best find jobs for any of the technology areas? I really want some input here (please please please!)
  3. If you were trying to measure the number of jobs - not just find a job today - what would you do differently than what I'm trying here?
  4. What other ways have you used to get an idea of the size of your local job market? 
  5. Any other advice?

Also, if you list job sites, and you have any affiliation with the site other than as a consumer, please state so in your post. Thanks for your help!

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