Having worked in consulting for over ten years, I’ve worked with countless customers, colleagues, and internal IT departments. Since becoming a Senior Engineer, many of those colleagues, etc. asked me how I became a Senior Engineer. This is when I began to give advice.
Being in consulting has made me keep up with trends, as customers always ask about how to integrate the latest and greatest software or solutions into their systems. My employers have required me to keep certain certifications in place for our partnerships, so I’ve kept a pulse on certifications and changes over the last years.
With all this advice and knowledge, I created a guide to help people out. Whether they are just starting out or looking to level up, I created the guide to help any IT pro succeed long term. Simply providing the information is one thing, but I know that putting that info into action when applying or job hunting can be tough. With the guide, I included a sample cover letter and resume template and my own personal resume. The resume format has helped me successfully land my last three positions.
Below are my top five tips for getting you into the IT field.
Well rounded skill set + IT certifications
In today’s market, having a wide range of skills is preferred. Even in smaller companies, there are numerous technologies in use. Most entry-level jobs require you to field calls from end-users and troubleshoot a variety of issues. You may get a call from someone and need to fix a wireless issue on their laptop and then have to install a printer. Building a wider set of skills is optimal.
A common mistake I see people starting out is saying, “I will study Cisco CCNA and land a job in networking.” You shouldn’t focus solely on one specific certification and view it as your key into the industry. I recommend gaining 2-3 certifications that will provide you with a solid foundation. For example, CompTIA’s A+ and Network+ certifications, and Microsoft’s MTA or Cisco’s CCNA (depending on your job) are excellent choices to start with.
Don’t be afraid to apply
The application process can be daunting. Most IT job postings are a “wish list.” Don’t be afraid to apply!
I always tell people wanting to get into the IT industry is that your first job may not be your dream job. I did this early on in my own career. I kept searching and searching and only applied if I found a position that was perfect or a company I really wanted to work for. I’d find a job which I thought was perfect and when I either didn’t get a response or was told I didn’t get an interview, it crushed me. You need to look at applying to as many places within reason and view them as a stepping-stone. Most people first starting out in IT don’t stay at their first job/position or company long term.
Create a blog or portfolio
Setting up a blog or portfolio is a perfect way to show prospective employers what skills you have. By building a portfolio, you can delve deeper into your knowledge and experience to give yourself a level up on the competition. It also can provide more insight into how you think and how you tackle certain problems. Sometimes these items don’t always come across in interviews. You may get nervous or forget one detail that you later regret when answering a job interview question. If you had a detailed blog post explaining an issue you faced and how you solved it, there’s nothing to forget. It’s in writing.
Start off small. Building your blog/portfolio doesn’t mean you need to build a completely new open source app. Use a free site like Blogger or GitHub pages. The main thought is to focus your time and energy on creating the content than worrying about the technical side of the website.
Don’t underestimate a good resume. It can immediately eliminate you or get you an interview. For someone with little experience, a resume should not exceed one page. Ideally, the resume should be action-based wording with clear, concise information. The goal of a resume is to give the employer a clear picture of you as a professional. Refrain from lengthy paragraphs and instead post bullet points for each quality that you have. Depending on your experience, adjust it for your strength. If you lack experience, put the education and certification part at the top with the job experience below. If your job experience is better than your education or certifications, then put the job experience first as you will want your biggest strength to be the first impression.
In the guide, I’ve included a resume template along with my personal Resume so you can see this in action.
Learn to interview well
Interviewing is a crucial part of starting any career, and IT is no different. I’ve seen cases where someone might not have been as “technical” on paper but had a better interview land the job. Learning to interview well is extremely important.
Below are several key points I recommend:
- Do your homework on the company. Check their website for details such as recent projects/initiatives they are doing in the community, how many offices they have, etc.
- Make a bullet point list of the main qualifications that you possess that mirror the job posting.
- Dress appropriately.
- Study your resume and know dates and specifics to recite them quickly.
- Don’t exaggerate your qualifications. This is common and blatantly obvious to an astute interviewer.
In the end, don’t psych yourself out too much. Most entry-level positions are merely an exercise to meet you in person and get a better understanding of your communication skills.
As the technology landscape changes, you need to learn to adapt and continue to grow. The field will pass you by if you don’t keep up on your skills and learn new technologies. IT is a wonderful field to get into if you love learning. It never ends!