It’s the entry-level conundrum as baffling as the chicken and the egg. You need a job to get experience, but you need experience to land a job. Most “entry-level” cloud computing jobs ask for years of prior experience, making it difficult to break into the field.
How are you going to get your no-cloud-experience foot in the door? Will a cloud certification help if you don’t have the required experience? Yes, if you use it right.
Here are seven ways to land a cloud career for beginners — how to use a cloud certification to land a cloud computing job without the required work experience.
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1. Choose the right cloud computing certification
If you’re wondering how to start a career in cloud computing, start by knowing what you want to accomplish and what you’re interested in. There are multiple providers out there you could get certified with, but here are the top three public cloud providers.
Amazon Web Services (AWS)
- AWS cloud careers are plentiful. Like nearly all areas of cloud expertise, the demand for cloud skills outpaces the supply. (Which is good for those getting into entry-level cloud computing jobs.)
- AWS certifications are some of the highest-paying certification salaries in tech and they typically appear the most in job board search results for cloud careers.
- Which AWS certification is right for you? There are four levels of certifications and specialties, all with different scopes and prerequisites. Do your homework to know what is expected for each one, and determine which of the aws certifications is right for you.
- Why should you get an Azure certification? AWS may be the public cloud frontrunner, but the gap is closing. Over the past couple of years, Azure adoption has been increasing in enterprises while AWS adoption remained relatively flat. Businesses continue to adopt Azure as Microsoft pushes hard into the enterprise space.
- Also, Azure has historically been the preferred choice for hybrid deployments, and integrates easily with the Microsoft solutions businesses have been using since the days before cloud. Read more on: What is azure?
- Top-paying Azure certifications include the Azure Solutions Architect Expert and the Azure Administrator Associate. There are more than a dozen Microsoft Azure certifications to choose from, and the Azure Fundamentals certification is the starting point for most.
Google Cloud Platform (GCP)
- If you’re looking to start a career in cloud computing, it can be tempting to go with AWS as it’s the closest thing to a household name out there in cloud land. But focusing on other cloud providers (and specializing) can mean great things for your career.
- Case in point: the Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect certification. For 2019 and 2020, it was the highest-paying IT certification out there. Money isn’t everything and probably shouldn’t be your sole motivating factor if deciding to pursue a Google Cloud career, but with an average salary of around $175,000 USD, it’s hard not to take notice.
- Which Google Cloud certification is best for you? GCP certs range from foundational level basics for beginners to role-based certs that tie to some of the most in-demand jobs in cloud.
Which certification route you pick, don’t worry about being locked into a single path. Multi-cloud skills are in high demand, so you can easily hop around between cloud providers and make yourself even more desirable to potential employers in the process. And there are plenty of tools and skills that work across clouds that are worth investing time in, like DevOps skills and Kubernetes.
For building the skills to get certified, make sure you choose a training program that provides hands-on cloud experience so you can put what you learn into action and keep developing your skills while you’re looking for a job.
2. Build your cloud portfolio
Create a portfolio using projects from your training experience. Make sure your work is consistent from one project to the next as this is a characteristic employers want. Redact any confidential information if you use a project from a previous employer or internship, and show your work. How you got there is just as important as the end result. Your certification proves you have knowledge — your online portfolio proves you can put it to use. Be sure and bring a digital and physical copy of your portfolio to your interview.
3. Have reputable references
Compile a list of former or current supervisors, mentors, and colleagues, who can vouch for your knowledge, character, work ethic, and drive. Strong references coupled with a cloud certification and a strong portfolio can beat candidates with more experience.
4. (Temporarily) work for free
You may be able to find non-profit organizations looking for extra help. Performing free work for their IT team gives you the opportunity to build your portfolio, gain references, and gain hands-on experience in a professional setting. It also shows prospective employers that you take initiative and care about your community.
5. Network (yes, with humans)
AWS Serverless Hero Forrest Brazeal has helped many people find their first job in cloud — enough to know that résumé roulette is a losing game … even if you get hired! Networking is key.
Wait! Don’t skip to the next point!
I get it. Networking is a four-letter word to some. While you may prefer computer networks, your professional network can be more effective in landing you a job.
As Forrest puts it: “I’ve noticed that a lot of engineers kind of tend to bristle at this idea that might have to go out and meet people and make connections in order to get the job they want in the career direction they want. A lot of us tend to think, ‘My skills should speak for themselves. I should be able to go and get a job just by passing a coding test and demonstrating that I can do the job — I shouldn’t have to go and meet people and gladhand.’ And that’s not what I’m saying. I think that what a lot of people miss is that connections go two ways.”
Making human connections is a good way to get a sense of what potential jobs might be like, so you’re not throwing your hat in the ring for a gig that you’re going to end up being miserable at.
Check out the video from Forrest below to get a better idea of how to network for an awesome cloud career — and how networking can look quite a bit different than you think.
You’ll also want to start reaching out to people you know. Let them know you’re interested in career opportunities in the cloud and are pursuing training. They can help you find the best training programs, introduce you to other contacts who can help you in your job search, act as references, and help you find projects to expand your portfolio.
If you don’t have a deep network or many contacts in the cloud computing field, proactively find people in your desired field and ask for advice or a meeting (see the video above for more on this). Build those relationships with a focus on your mutual interest in cloud computing. If you can prove your value to those contacts, they will help you land a job.
6. Be curious enough to play in the cloud
Cloud technology changes so often a person’s skillset needs to change with it. Curiosity is an important trait for cloud engineers and can be a bigger asset than experience because it means you’ll take the initiative to grow your skills.
Earning your cloud certification already shows initiative and curiosity. Let curiosity lead you into hands-on experience playing with cloud applications and services.
There are plenty of opportunities to do this for free or with minimal cost. The more hands-on experience you have, even if it’s just playing around, the more you’ll be able to discuss the elements of cloud applications and services. Highlight your curious nature in your interview, and discuss how it led you to gain cloud experience.
“The big things I look for are ownership and curiosity. You’re looking for that desire to learn, be flexible, and think differently about how you approach service and technology — and how you look at these things in 2021 . . . That’s what I’m looking for in candidates: that key piece of curiosity and cloud knowledge and awareness and how they bring that to their day-to-day tasks.”
7. Show determination
Don’t give up if you get rejected a few times or fail to land interviews. Commit to your goal and let those rejections drive you to work harder.
As you wait for the right opportunity, stay on top of the latest cloud trends as they are ever-evolving, and keep you skills sharp with cloud labs and exercises. The more you immerse yourself in the cloud community and practice using cloud technologies, the closer you’ll be to landing your ideal job.
Earning a certification proves you have the knowledge for cloud computing. Your hands-on experience, even if it’s not work experience, shows you can put it into action. The best cloud engineering jobs are always tough to land, and you will face stiff competition. Earning certifications can give you a competitive advantage and taking the right steps to ensure you put your knowledge into practice will advance your career. While a certification doesn’t guarantee you’ll land your dream job, it will definitely get you closer to it than you are right now.
How can you jump-start your cloud career?
Entry-level cloud career FAQs
Cloud skills are in high demand, to a point where some analysts have said a career in cloud may be almost futureproof. The future may not be certain, but the path to the present tells a convincing story: cloud computing has been one of and often the single most in-demand hard skills for 6 years running, according to LinkedIn.
Cloud skills are in high demand across the board, but you can look at some of the top-paying certifications in IT to get a good sense of what employers are (literally) valuing the most.
Study! And get hands on with cloud technology. Learning by doing is key to understanding the cloud. Most cloud providers make it easy to get started with free accounts to play around. Or, if you’re using a skills development platform like A Cloud Guru, Hands-on Labs and Cloud Playground make it easy to learn by doing without any fears of breaking anything or racking up a huge cloud bill. When you’re ready to get certified, you can now take your exam online or in person, making getting certified on your time easier than ever.