Getting your foot in the door.

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DataCenter
Networking
I have a associates degree in Computer networking, and I also have my network+ certification. I am working on A+ and soon after that MCSA. Even though I have a degree and certification I am finding it almost impossible to find a job. It seems like nobody wants anything to do with someone that is entry level. If anyone who is already working, has been working, or anyone that feels like helping has any suggestions I would greatly appreciate it. I am 23 and do not have a job, so anyone that understands what its like please help out. I would love to hear any advice anyone has.

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The job market *is* different. Employers are being choosy. They have to consider the increased cost of hiring and have more candidates to select, generally. It is not as easy to get IT jobs. You have to do research on the company. You have to customize the resume to each position and use a custom cover letter. You have to specifically follow the application procedure. You have to earnestly and creatively follow-up on each application and job lead without being annoying. Sometimes, it is not what you know, it is who you know. Other times, there is that one elusive credential that seems to disqualify and it doesn’t matter who you know. There are other candidates to choose from, so you need to distinguish yourself. It ain’t easy. I have been unemployed for six months now and getting desperate. I am practicing the phrase “would you like fries with that?” ;-)

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  • Bobkberg
    You could try starting your own business. I got laid off in February, and started my own IT business. I'm not getting rich, but I'm probably making about minimum wage right now, and I put in the extra effort to be thorough so that when I fix something, it STAYS fixed or I don't charge for followup. I spent a lot of time going door to door, cold calling. Not much fun, but things are slowly picking up.
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  • Mpkn3rd
    I am sure all of us feel for you as we went through the same thing, and actually some of us older types have had to re-invent ourselves more than once just to stay up to date. I am going to be honest about this, at least it is my opinion. If at all possible I would get back to school and get the BA/BS. I know many people that have their degrees and are having the same problem. So you are competing with them as well. I also am of the opinion as well that the IT knowlwdge is good, but you may want to broaden your scope and accent it with a businessor accounting major. That will help open up many more doors as you have two or more strengths.
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  • Jrgreenberg
    I can sympathize with your problem. When I was about your age, which was only about 4 years ago, I had just graduated College with a BS in MIS. I had some experience, but I was still considered "entry level". If I were you, the 1st thing I would do is to get one or more well known certification(s). MCSE or CCNA are 2 good ones. As for finding the job, what worked for me was to put my name everywhere. I especially had good luck with head hunting agencies. Many companies will hire though the head hunting agencies because it is cheaper for them. Try not to get too frustrated and keep at it. Eventually you'll get a bite.
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  • Bobkberg
    I started this out as a private reply, but I've received enough followup questions to my "start a business" comment that I'm just going to copy the entire list. Much easier for me, and then others will also be able to contribute to the conversation as well. I'll try this as a Q&A - even though I'm making up both ends. -------------------------------------------------------- How does one get started? Print up business cards, get a business license for at least your local community. Mention to all your friends and neighbors, people at church, any clubs you belong to, etc. that you're starting out in business. I also spent a lot of time walking from door to door to every business in town (took me 2 weeks), and asking to speak with the owner or manager, and then talk about my service. Expect to be told "No thanks, we've got someone" a LOT!!! If you see a "No Soliciting" sign, they say something like "Hi - I see you don't allow solicitors. May I just leave my card here?" Most people will say yes. Don't expect a flood of business. The average return from this type of activity is one percent and below, and it's VERY time intensive. -------------------------------------------------------- How do I get to be known? Have business cards to pass out. I spent a lot of money on brochures touting "wonderful" things, but nobody wants to keep brochures around, they want business cards. They're used to them, and a lot of people keep them in notebooks and the like. Network with people! As someone else mentioned, it's not what you know, it's who you know. Consider joining a service club (Lions, Rotary, one of those) Mention to everyone you know that you're setting up in business. Word of mouth is the best advertising, and it's free. Keep track of the folks you meet and collect their business cards. I've got a 3 ring binder with those plastic pockets for business cards, and every so often, I just call people to see how they're doing, or refer someone else to them. For the customers you do get, follow up with them to make sure that they're happy, and that whatever you did is still working satisfactorily. For a technical business like this, it's really going to boil down to familiarity and trust. Given that, it's important to build and maintain that trust. If you make a boo-boo, and then charge for fixing your own mistake, you will alienate people. One other thing I do when talking to people is if something looks fairly minor, I give away a lot of advice. I have what I call my 15 minute rule (the number is arbitrary). Last night for example, I got a call from a woman I'd met at a seminar who said that Spybot kept crashing, so I walked her through getting Stinger from McAfee (nai.com still), and running it. Then I told her to call back when it was done. My total time was about 10 minutes on the phone, but when her system was cleaned, she emailed me with her thanks, and asked if there was anything she could do to help me build my business. -------------------------------------------------------- How much do you charge? I charge quite a bit - but I'm a security specialist with 15 years of network and network security. Most IT people I know charge in a range of 50-75 per hour. For some jobs, I bid a flat rate. This is important for areas in which you KNOW that you're going to spend some time learning, and it's not fair to charge the customer for your learning curve. But that's not actually as important. Don't charge below $50. If necessary, give away the extra time, but don't change your nominal billing rate. -------------------------------------------------------- Ongoing Education Spend time learning the ins and outs of whatever specialty. Collect, learn and use software tools. There's a ton of free information out there on the web. -------------------------------------------------------- How about liability? There are two general types of liability insurance for people in our collective line of work. General liability (like knocking over the expensive statue in their lobby), and E&O (Errors & Omissions) insurance - sometimes called "Professional Liability". I HATE having to lay out about $2700 a year for that, but I do it. Small outfits and individuals won't care, but larger businesses do! I don't bother with general liability myself, but you should be aware of the distinction. -------------------------------------------------------- I don't know if this is enough or what, but hopefully it'll help get the conversation started. I'm sure that a lot of other folks will be able to carry this conversation forward. Bob
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  • ArrghOff2Pillage
    Was there about 3 years ago. I had been doing IT for the better part of 12 years and was let go. Was off for four months asnwering every ad I could find, trying the networking path, etc. If anything I was over-qualified for the times. (EE, MCSA)I took a number of one day to one week tasks to supplement the unemployment, even considered moving back to Illinois from Tennessee (>-p). With one week to go on my reserves, I answered an ad and was hired the next day. I spent the next two and a half years commuting 120 miles one way to the job site. Have seen a lot of good advice here. The certs are key, mainly the MS and Cisco. A+ does not hurt. If you plan to go towards a BS/BA, consider emphasis towards security, or project management. Project management has it's own cert, as does security. You will still be a new comer, but the BS holds more standing with employers than a BA and is almost a standard requirement any more. (I have a freind, best Exchange person I have seen, couldn't get hired for a year, mainly because of the degree) The new business is a good path, but be sure you know the financial ground. You need to be sure to be saving toward a buffer when times are good, as there will be times when business dries up for no particular reason. It is a good idea for anyone, but essential for one self employed. The rates recommended here are appropriat. The consulting company I work for charges a $65/hr flat rate, and we have plenty to keep us busy. Most of all be honest with the customer. If you don't know, tell them. Then also tell them you will find out. One additional place to get aquainted is with the sales and tech staff of local ISPs. Many have no desire to do anything but supply the internet service and appreciate having someone who knows networking and software who they can send their smaller customers to to straighten out their problems. MANY of these maller businesses are woefully inadequate at protecting their systems from viruses, spyware or intrusion. Chances are if they have a wireless access point, it is unsecure. If they have DSL or cable, there is no firewall. Learn how to set up these basic devices, and you can do well. Treat each customer as though they are your first, and let them know you would appreciate any referrals. Give them a break after so many billable hours from referrals to sweeten the pot.
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  • Chronister
    This is the toughest part of the IT industry. I have A+ and I'm working on my associates degree in Networking, and will be focusing in Security. Just last week, I got lucky and landed a job with H&R Block. I am the Field Service Technician for about 21 offices (most of them are temporary with the tax season and will be gone in May.)I am in charge of getting all the offices up and running for the upcoming tax season.I stumbled upon the job through my college's job services person. I did not even think about H&R Block having an IT dept, but they do. I got the job because I was patient, persistent, and above all kept my name in the mind of the Hiring Manager. Keep your eyes open, and be persistent without being annoying. Let any possible employers know how intrested you are, and show a positive attitude. Think about any business that uses computers, and could possibly have an IT dept, or just a tech or 2 on staff. I got lucky, and did not have to use many of the techniques others have had to employ, but just goes to show, that if you try, try and try again...you will land that first job. Hell, try H&R Block. Call your local office, and try to find out who the Regional IT manager is, and see if they need any more FST's. Its a great company, and has a wealth of knowledge to offer. I hope this helps a little bit. Good Luck, and keep trying, persistance pays off.
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