After years of leading successful projects I notice who I liked to work on my projects. It was the guys with the know-how AND the make-it-happen attitude that helped make my projects successful and allowed the team to stay happy.
It takes education and experience to build a good track record. Track record means a lot, but I would also look for personality.
The real source for education is books. It may be nice to have a professor teach you (from books!) but a few dedicated people have taught themselves.
Experience comes from similar tasks (not jobs), and is required to build relevant skills.
Attitude comes from passion, a supportive team, and good past experiences.
I look for people who are easy to work with, helpful, share their knowledge, are dedicated to the team, driven for project success, a good attitude, and have relevant knowledge, specific education, and a proven track record.
Right now, certification doesn't show capability, nor does education. The best have successful track records.
What should a rookie do? This can be a new (helpful) thread.
Gain knowledge, skills with utilities and administration and some programming, collect and database cool tips, save solutions, know the best sources for help, build a library, be helpful, and weight and measure the advice to follow from others.
Good luck, have fun, and share!
Network Design Engineer for process monitoring & control (wireless) with SQL Server and VB .NET programming.