Sunday, August 14, 2011

Getting into the IT field

As both an IT professional and an IT instructor, the one question that I get approached about the most is "How do I get a job in IT?". Here is the general advice that I give:

1. Decide what you want to do. You need to try to have an idea of what you want to do or what you enjoy doing most with computers. Fixing computers? Networking? Programming? Wed design?

2. Research. Once you decide on which direction you want to go in IT, do some research to learn what is needed to be successful in that area. Does it require a degree or any certifications? How much experience do companies generally expect in the area you are interested in? Don't walk into the IT field blindly.

3. Be realistic. The tech boom of the '90s has long passed. Don't walk into IT expecting an hugh salary starting out especially if you don't have any experience (or certifications or degrees). That entry-level job on the help desk might suck but it gets your foot in the door.

4. Take classes. This is especially important if you are making a career change. Take some classes at technical college or other continuing education courses that fit the area of IT that you want to enter. Adding some formal training to hands-on experience is great.

5. Practice. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. Volunteer your services for free to get exposure as well as hand-on experience. Additionally, this also helps you build a reference list of people that can speak about your work.

6. Market yourself. You have to be confident in your abilities and sell yourself.

7. Find a mentor. Get in contact with someone who has been in the industry for awhile who can help guide you and provide advice.

8. Get certified. While some people scoff at certifications, it is highly suggested that you earn a few certifications to add some credibility to your skills. Get certified in the areas that you are interested in.

9. Consider going back to school. There are tons of people looking to enter IT for the same reasons that you want to and at the same time there are many IT professionals who are without jobs. Things are competitive so you need to have that extra edge to make you stand out.

10. Join a professional organization. Whatever your interests, find an organization to join locally. This provides you a way to network with other IT professionals. HDI and AITP are two examples.
11. Consider starting a business. I constantly tell my students don't make it your goal to work for the Geek Squad but instead make your goal to start the NEXT Geek Squad. Sell your skills to profit for yourself first but remember not to quit your day job.