Enterprise IT Watch Blog

Aug 17 2010   6:00AM GMT

ITKE responds: IT career planning, in your own words

Melanie Yarbrough Profile: MelanieYarbrough

Here at ITKnowledgeExchange.com, one of the evergreen questions we see in the IT answers forum is the recent IT grad asking for advice on what to do next. With so many possible certifications and paths available, figuring out your course of action is a daunting task. Never fear: At ITKnowledgeExchange we have members with decades of experience to provide their two cents to those in need of IT career guidance. One of our newer members, ITstudentGrad, asked for suggestions of good entry level IT jobs. He’s received some great advice from members who were once in his shoes.

Tip 1: Exhaust your resources.

As our very own EmNichs points out, bloggers like Ed Tittel offer advice such as 7 Questions for Highly Effective Career or Certification Advice. There are myriad resources for jobseekers in all industries, and IT is no exception. Whether you’re searching for general career advice or a more complete picture of specific areas in IT such as business service management, cloud computing, or IT consulting, more and more IT professionals are jumping on the blogwagon to share their insights, predictions and experiences across all areas of IT.

Tip 2: Start at the beginning.

Shanekearney, a network engineer in Ireland, has a DIP in Computer Science, CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate), MCSA (Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator), MCP (Microsoft Certified Pro), A+, ECDL (European Computer Driving License) and is currently studying for MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer).

His advice for ITstudentGrad is to get a taste of every flavor of IT: “You should start in service desk tech support as it deals with so many different areas and allows you to gain much needed real world work experience.” Despite Shane’s complaints about his position, he assures that it is a good jumping off point to get to a more technically demanding position. In a hands-on industry such as IT, nothing teaches better than real-world experience.

Tip 3: Change your mind.

Stevesz began his career in IT in the late 1970s, advancing from part-time to full-time for over two decades. His company, LAN Doctor, Inc. lends him experience from “break/fix” tasks to computing strategy and network installation and maintenance. His advice is to go after what interests you, but also what will sharpen your skills and knowledge. Get experience troubleshooting hardware and software problems at a help desk position. Don’t approach anything without a dose of flexibility; change your path as your interests change.

Stevesz shares his own story of changing interests: “I started out as a dBASE III programmer (if anyone still remembers dBASE at all) then actually went to a help desk type of situation for a company that had its own propietary database program. From there I went to a company that basically did break/fix work. We also branched out into servers and networking, and other things surrounding computers, concentrating on small, very small, businesses, and I am still at that company, as a partner in the business.”

Always keep feelers out there and if something strikes your interest, send a query! IT is an industry constantly in motion, requiring you to be just as fluid in your pursuits.

Tip 4: Give a little, get a little.

Labnuke99 is an IT manager at a company that designs, manufactures and sells electronic components and assemblies primarily to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). He provides support for international and domestic data network and security. Labnuke99 advises searching out a symbiotic relationship with a non-profit organization; what the work lacks in remuneration will be made up for in other ways. Learn how organizations require and use IT services on a tight budget.

Aside from gaining invaluable real-world experience and making contacts as an IT professional, you can get satisfaction from giving charity and advocacy organizations the help they need. Treat any volunteer prospect like a potential job: Send along a polite inquiry and resume along with your motivations for helping out. Be sure to detail your availability; promising hours or skills you can’t deliver will only hurt you in the end. Do your research beforehand and outline specific areas where you’d like to help them improve: fix their confusing website, for example, or ask them for what IT headaches you can help them with. Build your resume, connections, skills and karma points all in one fell swoop.

Melanie Yarbrough is the assistant community editor at ITKnowledgeExchange.com. Follow her on Twitter or send her an email at Melanie@ITKnowledgeExchange.com.

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