Posted by: berencamlost | 2009 September 18

Life Changes- College at 39

Having been unemployed since July 1st, I’ve been frantically looking for work and finding no one is hiring me.  Not that I don’t have any experience or anything to offer, it’s just a tough job market.  Given that it’s tough, I’ve been looking into ways to make myself more employable.  And what better way to make myself more employable than to get some IT certifications.

In the past, I’ve tried the self study method.  Problem is, that method assumes you won’t be constantly interrupted by screaming kids, fights, barfing, and a wife who wants to spend time with you.  Taking classes is a much better way, as you can get away and focus.  So, with that in mind, I began exploring some of the CCNA certification courses in the area.

After much web searching and a trip to the unemployment office to find out what providers they can help pay for, I narrowed my options down to 2:  Heald College and PCC.

The folks at Heald were very friendly and not pushy (which I was expecting).  The gal in recruitment said she probably wouldn’t be able to answer my questions, so she called the director of IT and arranged for me to meet him.  My meeting with him was excellent; this guy was an IT pro, and he was heavily involved with the Cisco training in the whole Northwest.  His advice to me was this:  To be employable, I need experience, education, and certifications.

I have experience, don’t have a degree, and only have one certification.

This changed my thinking dramatically.  If I have several months I can make it on unemployment (albeit barely), I should take advantage of this time and finish a degree and get some certs.  Heald’s program does gear you towards that path, but I wanted to check out another school that I knew was more widely recognized.

Portland Community College:  A massive, sprawling institution with 4 campuses across the greater Portland/Metro area.  Information from them was widely available on the web.  They even have Associates degrees in Computer Information Systems.  So, I began the quest to see what they can offer.  Talking with someone in person was quite problematic, since it was getting close to classes starting.  I applied for the school, was accepted, and got my transcripts ordered.  Then I went to speak with an advisor.

The advisor wasn’t really much help, however, since she was a generalist and I had some very specific questions on the programs and which direction I needed to take.  She did give me an email address for the department advisor, and that person actually responded to my emails.

Now, this process has taken several weeks, and I’ve been really wrestling with how to make this happen and which direction I should go.  Should I go for the Associates?  Should I take the certification path?  Should I try to squeeze my Multnomah University credits in and finish my degree from there (I’m only 21 semester credits away from a Bachelors there).  And, how is school going to look with my chaotic life?

Well, I still have questions.  I know I’m getting a Pell grant, but I have no idea when they’re going to pay out.  I can get extra assistance through Unemployment, but have to jump through all their hoops to do it.  Life will still go on, and that means unforseen expenses, which I have no idea how we’re going to pay for.  And, to take my certification exams will cost money as well, ranging from $150 to $300 an exam, depending on which one I take.

But, between the chaotic and tumultuous moments, I’ve been asking God to direct me, and asking for strength.  I can’t do this on my own.  Tracy can’t do this without God’s help, either.  This is a big unknown, and that scares her.  I’m going to be too darn busy to think about it, as classes start Tuesday (12 credits in general ed and roughly another 12 in non-credit classes geared for IT certifications.)  I also have no idea what textbooks I need or how much they’ll cost.

So, pray for us.  I need direction, and Tracy needs reassurance.  I hope I can handle this, my track record at being a student hasn’t been that great.  But, this time, I know I can’t screw around.  This is my future and my family’s future, and I need to make the most of it.


  1. I can completely relate to your situation. As a public school teacher I have been laid off twice in the past six years due to state budget issues. Both times, I had to suck it up (which was harder than it sounds) and get out there, even when there were only a few positions available. I am fortunate enough to have a Clear Credential in both English and History, so that helped me get in the door both times. but it wasn’t immediate and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel like a complete loser of a husband (I even apologized to my in-laws for “letting them down”) but God opened a door for us. Even though we had to relocate to San Bernardino, CA it ended up being the absolute best thing for me. I pray that you do not give up. Keep looking. Keep the faith. God will take care of you!

  2. Wow. I’m really glad you’re looking in to this right now. But man, it’s a tough decision. Honestly, I don’t think you can go wrong either way. Were it me personally, I’d look to finish by bachelor’s degree if I were that close, however, you have to decide if it’s going to serve the purpose you need it to right now. I think that the certs at Heald might be the better route in the short term, just to get you in the door and cashflow in the right direction, but you can always make one choice, then when you’re done, see what transfers back to earn you bachelors later! (or vice-a-versa, bachelor’s now, then certs/IT degree later).

    OK, brother, I’m praying for you!

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