In an article entitled “Beef up your resume by doing volunteer IT work” that dates back to January of 2000, Jeff Davis makes the very interesting point that on-the-job experience is an important leavening agent for classroom training and IT certifications. He goes so far as to mention the “paper MCSE” phenomenon and the essential missing ingredient that often comes up in job interviews for candidates with degrees and credentials but not much time in the workplace. In fact, I make the same point myself in another story for Certification Magazine entitled “Real World Experience Aids Certification Preparation” as well.
Key points to recall in this context might be recounted as follows:
- Look for volunteer gigs where you can develop skills you need, or sharpen skills you haven’t used for a while
- Be sure to stress the “doing good, while learning” aspect of your experience. Mention it briefly in your cover letter, add a short “Volunteer Work” section to your resume, and be ready to talk it up in the interview situation.
- As always, stress what you learned, what problems you solved, and what you did when referring to volunteer experience.
- Be ready with a reference from each volunteer gig you mention, and make getting a reference part of what you do each time you tackle some kind of volunteer IT task.
If you’re not going to get paid for earning your experience, you will want to have something to show for that work and effort. What better than another tool to help you advance your IT career?