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Preparing for a Career in Information Technology
by: John Gall
So you want to work in the Information Technology field? In this article i'll provide some advice to those seeking employment in this field. Keep in mind these are my opinions, others may agree or disagree.
Mechanic or Engineer?
The first question to answer is which direction do you want to go? Typically there are two types of IT Staff. Those who administer and and those who create. What do I mean by this? Ask yourself if you'd rather sit in a cube and write software, create and maintain databases and develop applications, or would you rather install software, manage an e-mail system or create a network or remote access solution.
The two areas are usually comprised of employees with very different mind sets.
The administrators tend to follow a career path that goes something like this. IT Intern or PC Technician performing break/fix tasks on PC's. As they advance they may manage the larger rollout of operating systems or software applications. Keep in mind the focus is on more mechanical or problem solving tasks. Later in their career they may move on to network or server administration. The larger the impact of a mistake the further up the ladder in their career. Eventually they may manage a team of other administrators or perform some consulting services.
The engineers typically come from computer science backgrounds. They may have learned programming of various languages in college. The particular language is not important only the fact that they are creating or maintaining applications for systems and databases rather than focusing on the workings of the system its self. Many of these employees are introverts. They would prefer to work within their group and make a cube or office their home. The administrator would be perfectly happy being "visable" within the company.
First let me say that a four year Bachelors degree is valuable to anyone seeking employment in the IT industry. Not sure what direction you want to go? Get a basic Business BA because it will teach you how a business operates and get you the open door to most job interviews. More accurately it will prevent you from being excluded simply because you do not have a degree. If you are the administrator type i'd also recommend a basic BA unless you find a program that has the current skills you are seeking. Mainly a variety of desktop and server operating system and networking skill path focusing on TCP/IP , DNS, WINS, DHCP and routing.
If you are on the applications path than a Computer Science major is going to get you headed in the right direction. Often companies hire right out of college because they have been teaching login and application development for decades.
Those looking into administration can count on resuming their education either by self-study using technical books, certification paths, home built networks and lastly for those with the money private non-accredited coursework at various ATEC's
Once your in your in. Until your in your way out....
When I got into this field ten years ago I took a pay cut to move from my sales position to my PC Technician position. This is because it is VERY difficult to get hired if you've never been hired. There are so many great applicants that there is no reason to take a chance on someone who only can tell you what they know. Multiply this statement X 10 with the economic downturn after the dot com boom. So get whatever resume worthy experience and references you can as fast as you can. To land even the most entry level job you'll need it.
How to get experience?
Internships are a great way to get in the door anywhere. These are positions that everyone understands and they are the mark of a hungry student. If you can get an internship (preferably paid) at a company so much the better. If you can't start volunteering for any organization that will take your skills. Churches and schools or charity's are a good start. The key is to get something on your resume that says you've been in the business.
The IT world is great for the self employed. For those who want to accept side work there are many ways to find it and you can do as much or little as you want. When your first starting out why not perform PC Technician or entry level web or application development and get paid? Individuals are more likely to hire you for a few hour of work and you'll gain business skills and have yet another thing to add to that resume. Remember the key is to walk into your first interview as if you've been in the biz.
In closing keep in mind, know your direction, get an education, and its never too early to start building that resume. Good Luck
Gall Consulting - Elk River Minnesota
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