How Do I Get My First Information Technology Job?

Dear Work Coach,

I come across your site looking for blog sites involving Information Technology and breaking into IT. I have graduated with my IT degree about 2 years ago and have been trying to break in since I was in school. All I want to do is start from the bottom, yet the bottom won’t take me.

I need help because I really want to get started and grow and just getting the Help Desk or Desktop support is hard and I’m getting to the point where my situation is calling me to make a choice to go back to retail.

I’m working in a mail room and I’m there as a vendor, outsourced, and the chances to get into the IT departments here are also not in reach. I need help. Ask me anything because I’m just giving you the bare basics at this time.

Thanks!
EC

***

Hi EC!

Let’s see what we can do about helping you get to an entry-level job in IT. First, you are right. I need to ask some preliminary questions…and then probably some more. But if you’re game, so am I!

1.) What were your main areas of study and what did you enjoy most?

2.) Was this a 4-year program in IT or some other kind of program; and if the answer is “other” what kind?

3.) What are your strongest IT skills? Have you had internships or any real-world experience at all using these skills?

4.) Exactly what are you doing in the mail room? Is it IT related?

5.) Do you still have any contacts at the place you got the degree? Also, do they have a career placement office that can help you?

6.) Are you getting interviews and then not getting hired, or are you having problems even getting an interview? What are you specifically looking for and/or what IT jobs would you be willing to do?

7.) Do you have a strong resume and cover letter? Are there typos or other things about them that may get you weeded out?

8.) Why do you say you can’t even get a break where you are? If they meet you and know you and you’re good, usually companies at least try to help. Have you made friends there? Have you done special favors for people (within the boundaries of your job of course)?

9.) Following up on number 8, do you know the basics of how to network? Have you asked all your friends and relatives if they know of anything?

10.) Are there some skills you don’t have yet (IT or non-IT) that you’re realizing you still need?

11.) Is there another temp agency for desk top/help desk support that you can work for instead? At the university I worked for, we used to hire help desk people from our temp agency if they stood out in some way (such as good customer service attitude and solid relevant IT skills).

12.) Do you live where there are a lot of jobs or are you in a small town with few options?

Ok. I know that’s a lot of questions. 🙂 Answer as much as you feel comfortable answering, and I’ll see if there are some things we can zero in on to help. And please feel free to ask more questions of me. I can’t guarantee anything, but I’m willing to try. And maybe my readers will have ideas too.

Ronnie Ann

(See UPDATE below in comments for more thoughts.)

 

About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.

Comments

  1. susan kennedy says:

    Not sure if this will help you but I just got a job using a job matching site called realmatch.com – I work in Telecommunications but Im sure they cover all industries….good luck!

  2. Thanks Susan. The indeed Job Finder I have on my site [no longer there] is a meta-search engine and pulls from major and local online search engines. I see jobs from Monster and DICE and the New York Times and all over. So I think it’s pretty good. But I certainly would suggest people try all kinds of things, so I appreciate your suggestion.

  3. Update: I haven’t heard back from EC even though I e-mailed him privately. Hope I didn’t scare him away with all my questions!

    The main things for anyone to remember in this situation is that, in a tight market (especially with so many of these types of jobs being outsourced) you have to find a way to get yourself noticed. That includes things like a flawless resume and excellent cover letter, finding people to champion you in a company, temping or taking part-time work somewhere and then making connections, and using your own personal and school networking connections.

    Unfortunately, most places want experience before they’ll hire you; but if you can’t get a job without experience, you feel trapped. So whatever it takes – even if you volunteer at a non-profit or friend’s company – get some real IT experience. Also, make sure you keep up with state-of-the art technology and terminology.

    If you need better writing skills, take an extra class. You are competing against a lot of qualified people and the one thing companies really want (and have trouble finding) are IT people with great language/communication skills, including writing e-mails, website updates, and documentation.

    Finally, if you can’t get direct real-world experience doing what you want to do, then you have to sell yourself in your resume and cover letter by highlighting the skills you do have that apply. And that includes customer service, analytic skills, communication, and excellent follow through. (Use a professional if needed. I know it costs money, but it can make all the difference. Or you can try The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Perfect Resume for help with both cover letters and resumes.)

    Good luck EC and everyone else!

    Ronnie Ann

  4. I’m having the same issues. I’m just trying to get my foot in the door in IT. I graduated in 1999 with a BS in CIS. I’ve been working in NYC since then as Admin./Executive Assistant. Now married and moved to ATL seeking to enter the IT industry. My original love, but have no formal IT Corporate experience. I’m willing to start from the ground up, but nobodys biting. I’ve sent my resume all over. What advice you have for me. I welcome private emails.

    Sincerely,
    Marc

  5. Hi Marc!

    You ask a simple question, but the answer is not so simple.

    I have many posts that mention ways to get your foot in the door (see Creative Job Search category), and IT uses a lot of the same tips. And the post How A New Resume Can Totally Change Your Job Search explains why your resume may not be as good as you need it to be. (You may need help.)

    But basically the answer is a combination of intense, focused daily search (there’s a post on that too), networking, (yup…it’s in my posts), a GREAT resume, and willingness to go the extra mile, even if it means an IT temp job or volunteer work at a non-profit to get you some concrete experience.

    You don’t mention what area of IT (it’s a field I’m very familiar with.) Help desk? Programming? Enterprise system support? Project management? Functional/business analysis? There are endless IT jobs. It will help if you focus on something to start.

    And since your degree is so old (in IT 9 years is a lifetime), I’d suggest taking a specialized course or two to help jump start things. Besides it giving you a recent credential, it will also get you to meet other people in the field (students and professors) and let you take advantage of the school’s career resources.

    And of course, get out and meet people. Being new to an area is a perfect excuse to find alumni from your school or maybe friends of friends/family. Ask for help. Reach out. Look for local conferences or seminars. Write to people for informationals. (You can use the search on my site to find more about that.)

    This is very doable if you make it your job. 🙂 And if you need help, find a job coach in Atlanta right away. The money will be well spent if it gets you to where you need to be. And sometimes, there are even local resources that provide such help for free.

    Make it your goal to find at least 2-3 new people to contact or meet with every week. And you might also read Job Search: The Simplest Job Networking Tip of All.

    I know I referred you to a lot of posts, but to do it right, read them all – and any others that look interesting. There’s a lot of advice here, but it would be hard for me to put it all in one comment! (Although I sure tried.)

    Oh…and FYI…I try to stay away from private e-mails, because then it becomes private coaching (something I do on occasion professionally) and also my other readers don’t benefit.

    Good luck with Atlanta and finding the job you want, Marc. I know you can do it! 🙂

    Ronnie Ann

  6. Mashaole says:

    Am a grade 12 lerner am interested in eletronics nd computers nd i realize that i cn do IT next year.now i want to knw what kind of job are there in IT.

  7. There are many good career paths in IT. A thorough answer would require an entire article 😉 and depend on your areas of interest. I think if you do a search on “types of IT jobs” or something like that, you’ll find results with plenty of helpful information within just a page or two.

    Good luck!

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