10 Tips for First-Time IT Job Seekers
You have finally done it! You have made the conscious decision to pursue your dream career in Information Technology! Whether you’re a recent graduate or an experienced professional looking to change fields, finding your first IT job can be a daunting task. The good news is that there has never been a better time to jump into IT…. It’s a job seeker’s market and IT jobs are in high demand! Follow the below tips and you’ll be on your way in no time at all!
10 Tips for First-Time IT Job Seekers
When building your resume, focus on the skills you currently have that will translate well to the IT field. For example, if applying for an entry-level help desk position, be sure to highlight any customer service, data entry, and similar skills. While not strictly technical in nature, they are applicable and translate well. Remember, over 50% of the duties for any given tech job will not be in technical in nature.
Don’t be afraid to start at the bottom (or even start over). Prior to entering the IT field, I spent 6+ years in Social Work. The majority of those years were spent as a manager, however, to get my foot in the IT door I took a position as a tier 1 help desk specialist answering phones. By focusing on my top 4 skills for IT Career Growth, I was promoted within 3 months and have never looked back! Swallowing your pride (and possibly taking a pay cut if you can afford it) will set you up for long term success provided you build the skills listed above.
Think of your job search as a full time job. Finding a job, particularly in a new field, is not easy! It will require a significant time and energy investment. Put the same amount of effort into your job search that you would into an actual full time job. It’s not enough just to check a few job boards and send a generic resume. You must go the extra mile. Customize your resume for every application. Obsess over your accomplishments. Research tips and tricks for resume writing, cover letter writing, and submitting applications. Familiarize yourself with Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and how they work (e.g, does a given ATS parse PDFs?). And most importantly, follow application instructions to the T! If they ask for a cover letter, be sure to write it!
Join local IT professional groups and meetings in your area. This one is fairly self explanatory; as I’m sure you know, networking is key. In fact, more than likely you will get your first IT job through someone you know.
Carefully cultivate your LinkedIn profile. It’s not Facebook. Be sure to put as much effort in your online Job Board presence as you do your actual resume and portray yourself in a professional manner.
Reach out to external recruiters/staffing agencies. This one may be somewhat controversial, but external recruiters can be a huge help if you are starting fresh in the industry. They can advise you on how you can make your experience/skillset profile more attractive to employers as well as get your resume past the ATS/initial screen if they have a good relationship with the hiring manager. Just be careful with who you are dealing with, and NEVER pay a recruiter for any services. They will be paid by the employer once you are hired; you will never be responsible for paying a recruiter (if they ask you to provide any type of payment, end the meeting immediately).
Proactively reach out to Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs), especially those in the tech field. As an example, Managed Service Providers (MSPs) are always looking to build a talent pipeline to assist with scaling when new customers come on board. Build a relationship with those providers and you will be the first person they call when they are in a bind and need someone on their help desk ASAP. The key is to take a proactive approach to your job hunt.
Invest in yourself (and not just financially). Commit to building your skills, honing your craft, and otherwise consistently improving in all areas. There are a multitude of trainings, certifications, college programs, coding boot camps, and trade programs available at a variety of price points. Check out MOOCs and other freely available, high quality learning opportunities. The key here is to actively seek and complete the opportunities; don’t expect anyone to push you or ask you to learn something - invest in yourself and level up. There are too many good options for me to list them all here, but check out Coursera or Udemy for a quick intro to some of the available options. Google’s IT Support Professional Certification may be a good fit for you as well.
Increase your overall comfort level with technology. IT professionals generally have a solid intuition for how a given technology works, simply by being exposed to it day after day. This comfort level allows them to interact with new tech in a confident manner. You can pick this skill up simply by dedicating yourself to technology and diving head-first into situations you are not familiar with. For example, find a technology that you have always wondered about and start trying to use it. Once you get to a point where you can’t do something or get frustrated, then stop. Research the issue, find a solution, and implement it. Then, reverse your solution and implement it again and again, until it is second nature. Once you have the overall process down, picking up new tech will be much easier and you will be more comfortable (and confident) doing so.
Build (and practice) your troubleshooting skills. As an IT professional dealing with broken equipment, software, and processes on a daily basis. Therefore, they have a solid understanding of how to identify patterns and the associated root causes fairly quickly (at least that is the hope). You can actually pick this up easily by remembering that replicating the issue is the first and most important step to solving a problem. Once you can replicate the issue, you can then make incremental changes (make a change - test - make another change - test) while documenting your steps so you can reverse them if needed.
Bonus Tip: Don’t give up!
You WILL obtain your first IT job and experience success if you are passionate about doing so. What’s great about IT is that there are so many different ways to contribute. You don’t need a specific degree, you don’t need a specific certification, and the most widely used tool is something I am sure you are intimately familiar with: the Google Search! It won’t be easy, but if you work hard, act with integrity, follow the above steps, and work on developing the 4 traits outlined here, you can and will be an IT professional.