Many newcomers to the IT field are surprised when they find out it’s tougher to get that first job than they thought it would be. I know exactly what that’s like. I’ve had a great career in IT and I’d recommend it to anyone, but I had a tough time breaking in as well. I’d like to share some tips with you on how to get started on what can be a financially rewarding and personally satisfying career in Information Technology.
School systems are a great place to start. A lot of newcomers forget that schools around the world need IT personnel to support school networks, printers, etc. I began my career with a public school system and it was the best move I could ever have made. If you land such a job, you’ll be doing everything from un-jamming printers to supporting the school’s Local Area Network (LAN). You get experience that is going to look great on your resume – you’ll have a big advantage over those whose job responsibilities are narrower. You won’t make a lot of money, but what you need at the beginning of your career is experience, not money. Which brings me to my second point ….
Don’t chase the dollars. I know, I know. We all like money, and besides, maybe you’ve got some bills to pay! I’m not suggesting you work for free, but the question you must ask yourself when starting your IT career is this: “What do I want my resume to look like in three years?” The money will be there – if your resume shows a broad range of experience. That’s what you need to get when you’re considering your first job. Use your long-term vision to decide what kind of IT job you want to be in three years from now, and get a job that will give you the necessary experience.
Get certified. You have entered a field where you are always learning – or at least, you better be! If you stand still and stop learning, your skills will become obsolete and your IT career will stall. Start adding certifications to your resume to go along with your experience. Look into programs that deal primarily with PCs, such as A+, and then look at more advanced certifications such as the MCSE and the CCNA. When you are certified in all three major networking areas (hardware, server OS, and routers), you are a “triple threat”! Combine that with some experience and you will end up with a very impressive resume.
Network. Networking has two different meanings in IT, and you know the first one. But besides computer networking, there’s human networking. Get out there and meet people. Your local newspaper has a business section -check it for IT group meetings. The more you’re seen, the more chance you have of being remembered. It’s a small world, and IT is a small world as well. Meet the business leaders of your area as well. It is amazing how a quick face-to-face meeting or conversation can lead to great things down the road.
Having a successful IT career isn’t just about knowing a lot about computers and networks. It’s knowing the right way to get started, getting the right combination of experience and certifications, and meeting people. I know from experience that it’s tough to get started. I also know from experience that no career field rewards individual drive like IT does. So get started today – and if you feel your IT career is stalled, take a step back, list the reasons why this has happened, and then do something about it!