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IT Experience for Newcomers - Tips, Advice on how get a Job In IT
“How do I get a job in IT without experience?” “I am a newcomer to IT but I don't have experience. I've been obtaining certifications, yet I still haven't gotten an IT job.”
One of the biggest challenges
facing beginners in the IT profession is getting hands-on practical experience.
Newcomers in IT are caught in a catch-22: You want a job to gain experience but
employers only want people with experience. This experience can be quite
frustrating. But new people are coming into IT daily. Some are able to break in
because opportunities exist. But these opportunities don't usually come on a
platter of gold. As a newcomer, what can you do to brighten your chances?
Training and certification
is a good place to start acquiring IT skills and knowledge. Training is usually
the first organized point of contact for most people who come into the
profession without a formal background in IT. Click here for more about achieving your IT education in a traditional college
/ university setting: (http://jidaw.com/certarticles/dinosaur3.html).
However training is useful for
all newcomers; irrespective of whether you have a formal background in IT or not. IT training centers offer a wide
variety of programs on weekdays, weekend or evening, part time or full time.
These programs cover most of the high demand areas in IT such as tech support,
programming, database development and administration, Web development and
But beware of training and certification myths.
A popular myth is that the acquisition of several popular advanced level
certifications eliminates or reduces the need for work experience. Another
fairy tale is that these popular certifications guarantee jobs, and work
experience. Indeed some unscrupulous training providers use job guarantees to
entice prospective students. “Run, don't walk away, from any training
provider that says you're guaranteed a job if you register for classes with
them. Be wise. Are you more interested in giving somebody money than your
education or career?”
Listen to the news:
certifications don't guarantee jobs. Getting a top-notch certification or
first class training is often more straightforward for motivated newcomers than
getting an IT job. Training and
certification alone are not all you need for a career in IT. Unfortunately,
many still can't see that experience has no substitute.
Avoid the temptation to go for a
massively popular training program, unless it fits into your career plan (http://www.jidaw.com/careerplan.html)
and it will help with gaining work experience. How do you determine which
training program to choose? Is your decision based on popularity or work
expectations? Choose your training option with your career growth, including
experience in mind. According to H. Spencer, “The aim of education is action,
As a beginner it makes sense to
master the basics before moving to the advanced. I have met Oracle Certified
DBAs who didn't have a clue about what MS Access was. Even MCSEs that
couldn't format hard disks. They didn't have a clue about IT basics or
fundamentals; and even with their OCBAs and MCSEs, they still couldn't get IT
jobs. Why waste your money and time on advanced level training and
certification that is not useful to you at your level?
Don't just plan for training
and certification, plan for experience as well. When starting out don't aim too high in training and certification, but make
sure your experience and learning options match. Always start with the
fundamentals - entry-level training and certifications. Basic fundamental
knowledge and skills are a necessity for sustainable career growth.
Although there are opportunities in all areas of IT, training
in tech support and related areas creates more opportunities for newcomers to get useful work experience once training is concluded. Such tech support
programs are usually instructor-led with an emphasis on learning by doing
through hands-on exercises. This is quite unlike training in more complex
applications where opportunities for newcomers to gain experience are limited. Tech support experience often opens doors to these other
career paths that may otherwise be inaccessible.
To get a job, IT or non IT you
need to market yourself. Your tech skills and training decisions are
important, but if you can't market yourself, getting a job will be an uphill
task. What do you have to offer to prospective employers? Do your resumes
and cover letters promote you effectively?
How effective are your interview
skills? Marketing yourself entails developing your soft skills and being ready
to demonstrate them. Soft skills such as basic business understanding and
communications skills can be very useful in job interviews. Highlight and use
soft skills and hands-on experience you have gained from training, part-time
positions, temporary jobs, etc.
Incorporate and identify your
personal traits and skills you already have that companies will consider
valuable such as attitude, reliability, communications, time management, etc.
Emphasize these attributes in your job search activities. Furthermore, since
you're a newcomer, your desire to work hard, learn and contribute to the
bottom line should also be evident in interviews and on your resume. Keep
perspective: It's not just about you, your certification and your career.
It's not about sympathy or begging for a job. Do you package yourself as a
value provider? Listen good: nobody owes you a job - what organizations are
looking for are people who add value - solution providers and problem
solvers. Let your value proposition stand out.
Work on your interview and job
search efforts. Do research on the company and be well prepared before the
interview. Which organizations, markets are you targeting? Where are people
with your background and skills employed? How creative are you in getting
exposure to the employers you're targeting? Don't limit your job search
efforts just to the newspapers or your local area. Job hunt wisely at every
opportunity you have. Take your job search as your job - 8 hours a day!
Everybody has connections.
Are you using your connections?
A mistake many make is in looking
for experience only through the formal and traditional means. Market yourself using your connections. How effectively do you use your
personal network of friends, family and acquaintances? How about your social or
religious clubs or associations? Over 80% of all career opportunities are
gotten through personal networking; not through adverts. People will connect
with those they know and trust. Continue to use your previous connections and
make new connections. Where do your friends work? Do they need IT
professionals? Do they know of organizations that need IT staff?
Do members of your network know
what sort of job you need? Do they know what sort of skills you have? Why not
become the “go-to” computer support person for your friends, family and
acquaintances? This gives them a better idea of what you have to offer. And you
are actually gaining some useful experience.
A reliable and powerful personal
network, however, doesn't work for you alone. It isn't a self-centered one-man
show. The key to having a dependable personal network that works is not
"receive only" or "give to receive", but instead it is
"give more than you receive."
Many newcomers assume that their advanced level certifications will
translate to high paying, high level jobs. No matter your background, if you
don't have experience, it pays to be realistic. Having multiple
certifications, or degrees doesn't guarantee anything without experience.
This can be frustrating if you had to shell out good money for training and
certification. But this is reality, not a training sales gimmick. Don't waste
your time and effort applying for senior level jobs. Focus on entry-level jobs.
You need to have the right attitude: Be ready to start from the ground floor. Start low and work your way up.
Work for a Small Company
with little experience find it easier to get jobs with small companies rather
than big ones. Small companies obviously won't have the facilities and
benefits of large companies, but they can offer you real world experience. Many
small companies need IT professionals and if experience for your career growth
is your priority, the size or glamour is immaterial, as long you have as you
have the opportunity to grow and develop
As a beginner, is your priority
good career growth or job titles, salaries or conditions? Can you make the
sacrifice? It may not be your ideal, but there
is no substitute for experience.
Volunteering is an option
overlooked by many. You can volunteer for your Old school, religious body
(Mosque, Church, associations), NGO or your community group. Many of these
organizations need computer professionals. And they aren't too fussy about
previous work experience. Most of these organizations may not pay much or even
pay at all. But volunteering creates opportunities for you to gain not only
experience, but also valuable references. It further helps in building your
personal network and developing your soft skills.
Another related way to gain
experience is through internships or industrial attachment. Again internships
may not pay well but just like volunteering, it is an effective way to build
your personal network and gain valuable experience.
By taking some of these
paths you are indirectly paying for experience. But is that so strange? If you
can pay for training and certification, why can't you pay for experience,
which is even more difficult to obtain as a newcomer?
Hands-on experience is not
limited to the workplace. You can gain useful experience by
building a personal network of computers in your home - a home lab. You can
setup your home lab instead of spending huge amounts on unprofitable advanced
level training and certification. Unprofitable? Yes! With some these expensive
ventures, you get heavily certified but you're still left jobless, with no
opportunities for growth! The cost of training and certification of some of
these exotic programs is more than double the cost of both an effective
entry-level course and setting up a home lab.
a home lab has its limitations, especially in terms of workplace interaction,
there is a lot to gain in terms of hands-on experience that adds value.
Keep yourself up-to-date
in IT, not just newcomers, needs to know how to monitor technology and career
trends in the IT industry. The Internet is particularly useful for current IT
trends, learning and networking with other IT professionals. Keep your skills
current through books, seminars, conferences, exhibitions, etc. Listen to
career talks, either formally or informally, especially those that provide
insights on IT, jobs and career opportunities. A popular and enlightening
career forum is the free IT Career seminar series (http://www.jidaw.com/netseminar.html)
I have listed here are suggestions. But there is no magic formula for creating
career opportunity. What works for you may not work for me. Lack of self-belief
is often a major hindrance. Many rather than believe in themselves hanker after
silver bullets, magic keys or 100% guarantees. So when rejection comes, it hits
hard. When the jobs don't come, it is quite frustrating. Rejection can be
quite painful especially when hopes are based on unrealistic expectations.
Unfortunately while rejection should be seen as a challenge, it is often seen
as failure. "Failure is a perception, not an option for those willing to
learn and grow from their experiences."
if you've taken wrong steps like investing in unprofitable programs, or
you're simply not getting results, the solution is not to give up. If you
truly have a passion for IT you must know how to develop and toughen your
backbone. Face the reality and get back on track.
by believing that you can add value and that you deserve to be successful. Then
get creative. Be resourceful and persevere.
is tough for newcomers but opportunities always exist for the resilient.
note that experience is not an end in itself. Indeed experience is a big fat zero without
initiative. What is experience without passion?
hope you have found these suggestions helpful.
Awe is the Founder of Jidaw.com
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