So, you want to start a new career in IT. Before you jump into a time-intensive, expensive training program, or give up your current job for the new one, first consider how to prepare to succeed in your new IT career. Do you know which career is right for you or which is the best training option to help you build the career you want?
If you have such questions, you are in the right place. Here are 10 tips that will help you move into your new IT career with confidence.
Consider your interests and determine if they align with your desired IT career. For example, do you desire to you use your computer for more than just work or web browsing? If your main interest is in computer gaming, you may be suited for a career in game testing, writing game code or gaming customer support.
Many people working in IT, are required to work independently. Do you prefer working on your own or collaborating with a group? Having the ability to solve problems and experiment with ideas until a solution is found is another characteristic needed by IT professionals. Is that of interest to you? Before pursuing the new career, explore what interests you and test if your interest would be fulfilled in the new career.
Finding a good fit goes beyond matching your interests to the job. Since a career change is a life changing event, it is wise to evaluate it carefully. Find out what your new career in IT involves and if your background, skills and interests fit well with it. Try to learn as much as you can about IT job prospects, salary estimates, required skills, work-life balance etc.
Talk to others in the field, get information on the pros and cons but remember you then need to evaluate the information against your personal career wants and needs. Essentially you need to know if this potential career will complement or give you the type of lifestyle you want.
Research the industry as well. This includes knowing the decision makers and key companies in the field. Narrow down potential companies you want to work with. Find out what problems or issues are the most pressing for these industries or companies, and examine if you have the required knowledge, skills and experience to solve these problems or offer possible solutions.
Before taking any new job, it’s important to know the goals of your prospective employers and if they align with your career goals (both long- and short-term).
Many IT professionals love to advise, help, or mentor others. If you have someone in your professional or personal network who know such people, request an introduction or reach out to them. Don’t be shy about asking questions related to their education, career, skills they wish they had before etc.
Even if you can’t find or know such mentors, try browsing LinkedIn pages for IT professionals with jobs you admire and send requests to connect with them. Also, find what kind of education they have, the experience they gained and the characteristics they emphasize about themselves. Take note of what you learn and how the information can be used to help you secure or advance your own career.
Research different training programs and educational courses that suit your requirements. Choose the best program based on your existing educational and professional experiences, your desired career path and the amount of time you can invest in learning. This will help you form an education plan.
As part of the research, take note of the entry requirements for the courses or training programs. Be open to learn on your own as this will open up many options for you. There are a wide variety of manuals, documents and free information online along with operating systems that you can use to aid your learning. As you plan your education, make the most of free IT resources to learn on your own.
Studying at tech schools, though lucrative, can be extremely expensive. Yet, pursuing certifications from Cisco, Microsoft, or other vendor certifications such as Network+ and CompTIA A+ can help you secure great jobs ranging from entry level positions to jobs with six figure salaries. Whichever level you are interested in, certifications are important. The right certification can help you earn 8 to 16% more than uncertified candidates. So, you should weigh your options carefully and evaluate the value of tech schools and vendor certifications.
Once you’ve completed the evaluation, choose the most in-demand, relevant useful training for your job. Training is available through community colleges, online IT companies and even free of charge from reputed schools like Stanford and Michigan.
Since work experience on your resume would give you an advantage in your IT career, apply for internships at various companies – big, small and those in-between. While some internships are well paid, others can be lightly paid or even unpaid. When you are looking to start a new IT career, doing some gratis work for a non-profit or a large company will give you the information to be showcased under “work experience”. In addition, you could view it as a try before you buy experience. Use internships to really test out your potential career.
Use clear, easy to understand language in your resume and don’t shy away from showing yourself in a positive light. Emphasize your education and certifications, include relevant accomplishments and experiences. The key is to demonstrate to potential employers how you used your skills and expertise to help companies achieve their goals and objectives.
When applying for various jobs, be sure to tweak your resume to make it fit each job post. Once your resume displays you in the best light, post it to relevant jobsites including LinkedIn.
Don’t just rely on traditional job search methods like job boards, online applications etc. Instead, tap into your immediate and extended network (including your friends, family members, mentors, former colleague etc.). With networking, you can get recommendations for vacant positions and relevant job referrals.
Compared to submitting resumes only, personal recommendations go further on any given day. So, start seeking your desired IT job by leveraging your network.
While some interviewers ask generic or basic questions that you can find on several websites, others may ask logic questions or dig deeper to uncover what you know and test how you react when you don’t know the answers (your reaction to stress). While it is important to know your stuff, remember that your interviewer isn’t looking for a know-it-all. Rather, they want to test your resourcefulness, stress management abilities and they want to get an understanding of your personality. They are interested in if you are a good fit for their company so prepare to be yourself and impress.
Your decision to start a new career in IT is a great step. Many individuals desire to take this step but they often neglect the necessary planning and execution that would get them the results they want. To help you successfully navigate your career switch, use the tips above to arm yourself with the right skills and experience that will help you get your desired job in the IT field.
A. P. Samuel is the co-founder of SkillsBuild Training. He has a passion for helping people develop the skills they need to thrive in today’s IT job market. A.P. has spent over 20 years in the IT industry. He has worked as an IT Trainer and IT Consultant in Europe, North America, and The Caribbean. He has earned IT Certifications from Microsoft, CompTIA, Citrix and Symantec.