You’d love to become a Database Administrator, but how do you get your foot in the door? Ten years ago, Kendra Little was in your position. Since then, she landed her first job as a SQL Server DBA, worked her way up to Senior DBA, and is now a partner in a database consulting company. Along the way, she’s hired Junior and Senior DBAs and she helps employers develop interview procedures for database administrators. In this 30 minute session you’ll learn what employers look for, steps you can take to make yourself a great candidate, and how to build the right resume to get your first DBA job.

Interested in links discussed during the webcast? Scroll on down after the video is over.

One thing I forgot to mention in the webcast: get business cards for when you attend those user group meetings! They don’t have to be expensive or fancy, they just need to help people remember your name and how to contact you.

Need to practice for your next interview?

We’ve got training! For $29 you get 18 months of access to videos helping you prepare and practice for interviews with 100 practice DBA interview questions on on your desktop, laptop, iPad, or iPhone. Learn more or buy it now.

Links for resources I mention in the video

  • Find a Local SQL Server User Group of the Professional Association of SQL Server here
  • Find out about SQLSaturday events here
  • Purchase SQL Server 2008R2 Developer Edition here
  • Or use an evaluation copy (180 days) of SQL Server 2012, available here
Kendra Little
My goal is for you to understand your SQL Server’s behavior– and learn how to change it. When I’m not figuring out the solutions to your database problems, you’ll find me at user group meetings in Portland, Oregon. I also love to draw.
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  1. Hello kendra,

    Could you please provide a link to download this video.

    Rama Sankar

  2. Kendra:

    Starting with “What do I want out this job?” rather than “What do I need to learn to get this job?” is an interesting approach. Using a lab also ties in nicely with your Certification Webcast.

    I like the idea of a SQL Server Skills Summary instead of an Objectives Statement. Do you think a hiring manager would assume your experience is ‘real world’? I’m wondering if you should say something like, “Experienced restoring backups in a lab environment.” Also, if you have a blog, per Jeremiah’s suggestion, you could add that to your resume.

    • Hi Peter,

      Sorry it took me a few days to get to your comment. This is a great comment and I love thinking about this question!

      I think the gist of your comment is that candidates need to avoid over-representing their skills on their resume. I wholeheartedly agree with you there– it’s not only ethically questionable, it’s something that also will kill your chances at a job. Honesty is always best.

      That being said, I personally feel like practicing backups in a lab environment counts as experience. The only way I’d feel that was misleading is if there was something that made it sound like it was in a production environment instead. However, I’m pretty good at immediately scanning a resume to size up how much experience is production, and how active that environment was– it’s pretty much one of my immediate tasks.

      Now, there is a line here. Activities like performance tuning are very specific to a production environment. So if someone says “Experience in performance tuning” and then I find out in a lab, that’s kind of silly. But to me, that’s a little different from backups.

      So, to make a long story short:

      If a candidate isn’t sure if something is over-representing, it’s best to be on the safe side and be very specific. But either way, it’s also best to have someone who’s doing the job review your resume and ask them if there’s wording they would change or improve to make it clear, and make sure nothing is exaggerated.

  3. Thank you. Its really helped alot for entry and middle level dba’s. Could you tell me what are the best blogs you prefer to learn sql server?

    I really interested to know more on performance tuning. Can u advice me a good blogs to learn.

    Thanks & Regards
    Rama Sankar

    • For generally learning SQL Server, if I had to pick my favorite online resource I would go for the “Stairway Series” on SQL Server Central. It’s all based as tutorials and it’s organized to be very friendly for someone starting out, because you can pick topics very easily:

      I do really love blogs as well, but they aren’t always organized to create foundational knowledge. They tend to be article based for digging into more specialized topics.

      For performance tuning, I’d start on the stairway to indexes. That’s certainly not all there is to tuning, but it’s a great way to start.

  4. I really enjoyed your video, i live in the PA. I wanted to know when trying to get the first job, do i need to consider relocation.

  5. Pingback: Something for the Weekend - SQL Server Links 09/03/12 • John Sansom

  6. What books are you suggesting for someone who want to be a DBA ?

  7. Kendra,
    I have an Oracle 11g book and was wondering which version of SQL would be best
    for me to learn. I don’t have the $750 for Oracle nor do I have a computer that runs a 32 bit OS which Oracle Express (free) requires?

  8. Hi I loved the video and I am happy to see I am using some of the tips you recommend. I gained my experience in a small company with a totally different title from dba.

    I am having a tough time verbalizing my skills to place the info on a resume for junior dba or entry level roles. Should I get my certification to be more marketable and show “lab” experience since it is hard to quantify my real world experience?

    I am currently using books and SQL server express to gain more experience and prepare for the test.

    • Certs can be great if they’re meaningful for you or part of your learning process, but I don’t typically find that certifications help people land jobs.

      They can be a sign of investment in a technical area to a hiring manager, but you’d really want to practice verbalizing your skills and making sure you can describe them in the resume and in an interview– because that’s really what’s going to make or break things with hiring managers more.

      It is a great sign that you’re thinking about the challenge of verbalizing those skills! If you have any kind of user group in your area, I’d start going to sessions there. Take your resume along and ask the user group leader if they know anyone in the group who might be a good reference to review it for you and give you feedback on it. You get a double benefit– connecting with people in your local area who know about the market you’re facing, as well as the feedback.

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