Getting That First I.T. Job
You can’t visit an IT forum anymore without seeing a ton of posts regarding employment in the IT industry. The age-old question keeps popping up again and again – “How can I get experience if nobody will hire me?”
Before we answer this question, let’s first discuss our perspective on what has happened in the IT marketplace over the last few years. Within the last 5 years the job market has exploded. The growth of the Internet and the great economic prosperity in many of the world’s countries created an atmosphere that allowed for the inception of thousands of new startup companies, massive growth in existing IT corporations and greater amounts of money dedicated to R&D. This created what seemed like an endless supply of high-paying IT jobs.
However, the inevitable laws of supply and demand lured countless numbers of individuals into the field. The MCSE certification played a big role in this phenomenon. IT journals, newspapers, websites, salary surveys, etc. contributed to the hype that falsely led many into believing that an MCSE certification would guarantee them a high-paying job. There was rarely any mention regarding experience or other requirements that needed to accompany the certification in order to attain these positions.
So where do we find ourselves now? Well, the IT industry is saturated with certified individuals with little or no real-world experience, also known as “Paper MCSEs”, who feel antagonized in the forums and looked down upon by those “in the know”. They find themselves accepting jobs that pay less than they were making in their previous industry or unable to get a job at all. In light of all of this, we have some good news and bad news for you. Let’s get the bad news over with.
BAD NEWS #1: You did everything out of order. The correct way to go about a career in the IT industry is to get a job, work there for a while, and then get certified after you gain some experience. Having an MCSE with no experience can hurt you more than it helps. Some employers may be wary that an MCSE with no experience, may be looking for a way to build their resume and move on to greener pastures and more money. Others may think that you are over-qualified for an entry-level position.
BAD NEWS #2: Some will automatically assume that you used braindumps to pass your exams. Enough said.
BAD NEWS #3: This is the most important one of them all. The overwhelming majority of you will have to start at the bottom of the food chain (even with an MCSE)! You will not start out as a network administrator, in fact you may even find it difficult to get a job at a help desk. You will have to work your way up in the field like everyone else in every other industry. This MAY mean that you start out at less than $10/hr.
And now for some more pleasant news.
GOOD NEWS #1: You do not need an MCSE or any other certification to get a job in the IT industry.
GOOD NEWS #2: If you work really hard, you will eventually get one of the coveted high-paying jobs.
GOOD NEWS #3: There are a ton of these high-paying jobs available for those that are qualified. There is still a great shortage of qualified IT professionals.
For those of you that are new to the industry or those that are thinking about moving into this field, we highly recommend getting an I.T. job first. Spend around 6 months to a year at this job before thinking about certification. As quoted from Microsoft’s website, “A Windows 2000 MCSE candidate should have at least one year of experience implementing and administering a network operating system.” CompTIA has a similar statement that recommends 6 months of experience. So now we have come full circle and you are probably still asking yourself, “How do I get that first job with no experience?” The majority of college students find themselves asking this same question after graduation. You see, the question is not specific to the IT industry and certification is not necessarily the answer.
Now we are going to discuss strategies and methods for obtaining a job in the IT industry, particularly if this is your first attempt at obtaining a computer job.
The very first step in getting your first I.T. job is believing that there are actually jobs out there that do not require experience and knowing how to sell the skills that you do have. We have found a lot of self-defeating behavior when it comes to this subject. People will apply for a few jobs and when they don’t get one of them, they give up and develop the attitude that nobody will hire them because they lack experience and that they now need to get an MCSE in order to get a job.
YOU MUST BELIEVE that you have valuable skills to offer a company. What determines whether or not you get a computer job is rarely based on computer skills alone. Everybody has experience! Maybe your experience isn’t in troubleshooting network problems, but you probably have other skills that will be considered valuable to a company that is willing to train. Accentuate those skills in your interviews and on your resume. Always remember that the way to a company’s heart is how you can better their bottom line. Before applying for a job, ask yourself this question: “How can I make/save money for this company?” Remember that an interview is very much like a sales call. You are selling yourself and the company is the consumer. They want to know what they are purchasing before they hire you. Want to know what we think employers are looking for? Read this article located here
BLANKET YOUR RESUME. Send it to every company that you can think of. Sending your resume to 5 companies probably isn’t going to get you a job, especially if you are lacking experience. Apply for at least 100 jobs per week. Need help with your resume? Check out mcmcse.com
UTILIZE YOUR CONNECTIONS. Where do your friends, family and acquaintances work? Do these businesses have I.T. departments? One of the easier ways to get a job is through someone that you know. Get in touch with the people that you know and get them to help you. Many companies offer bonuses to employees that refer new hires so your friends may be more eager to help than you expected. Make sure that you don’t let them down! Remember, they may be going out on a limb for you.
BE REALISTIC. If you are new to the industry, odds are that you will not start at $50,000 per year. You may be lucky to start at $20,000 per year. Check out help desks, 3rd party tech support companies, ISPs, etc. Don’t waste your time applying for senior-level positions. Look for entry-level positions and accept the fact that you will have to pay your dues. Don’t worry – this is a temporary situation. If you work hard, there is a lot of room to move up and increase your salary in this industry. I speak from experience – at my first tech job, my salary increased by $9,000 in the first year.
GET EXPERIENCE. A job isn’t the only place that you can acquire experience. Build a home computer lab and read some books. At your current position, try to become the go to person for computer problems for the people in your department. We have spoken with many people that have assumed this role at their company (usually because their I.T. department takes a while to be dispatched) and it is a great way to get a little hands on. Volunteer at a non-profit organization. Start a website. Become the computer support person for your friends and family. The point is that there are a lot of ways that you can get experience, some you can put on your resume and others you can’t. Regardless, you can certainly discuss them in an interview so turn off the television and get to work.
Enough lecturing! Now we need to give you the resources that you need to get your resume out there. Don’t just look in the newspaper classifieds – the jobs listed there represent a very, very small percentage of available jobs.
Every major city has a ton of job placement agencies. Sign up at every single one of them. You will probably find that these organizations will keep you pretty busy and are a very useful free resource for you.
Use your online resources. Applying for jobs online not only works, but saves a ton of time. Check out our job database to get started with your online job search. If you are looking for your first job, try keywords such as entry-level, help desk, tech support, call center, MCP (if you have one), beginner- and junior-level. If you don’t find what you are looking for here, there are dozens of major employment websites out there.
Check out your local Department of Labor. They will usually have quite a few job listings and often provide other free resources.
Keep your eyes peeled for job fairs. If these resources don’t keep you busy enough, start popping into companies that you would like to work for and drop off your resume. It is helpful if you can do a little research beforehand and find out who is actually in charge of hiring. Give them a call, or when dropping off your resume ask if you can speak with them briefly and introduce yourself. It will make you stand out in their mind when they are reviewing resumes.
MC MCSE is a popular computer certification website devoted to providing free learning materials to candidates pursuing Microsoft, CompTIA and Cisco certifications. To access these resources visit http://www.mcmcse.com