How To Start an IT Career

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Information Technology (IT) is a great field for anyone who enjoys creative, challenging, and ever-changing work. It gives you the opportunity to work in a variety of areas. Finance, healthcare, high technology, entertainment - you name it, there are IT jobs in the field. Your best first step is to take IT classes in the specialty of your choice; luckily, these classes are easy to take online.  In many cases, you can complete entire IT degree programs online.

There are also an ever-growing number of IT jobs once you have your first job. But contrary to what some think, getting that first job requires more than knowing HTML, having your own website, or even being a hardware wizard. However, if you follow the following steps, you will be well-prepared to start a great IT career.

  1. Consider what part of IT you would like to work in. If you would like to work in computer animation, then preparing for your IT career by learning computer languages geared towards business applications won't work. This isn't to suggest you need to decide what you ultimately want to do immediately. If you don't know, then consider starting some basic IT classes and see what you like. It might surprise you - you might have a hidden knack for graphic design, networking, hardware, technical writing, or even project management. But once you have a general sense of where you would like to go with your IT career (at least initially), it will be much easier to start your career.
  2. Locate a good program and apply. Most IT jobs these days require at least a Bachelor's degree in computer science or a related degree. Employers want to see that a candidate has a solid background - not just that you assembled a computer in your basement. Step 1 will give you a better sense of what school to look at; if you are interested in networking, but the college you attend does not offer any networking classes (or does not have a strong program), you will not be prepared. Try to find a list of companies that recruit from a particular school's computer science program. If you see companies that you would like to work for, it's probably a good program for you.
  3. Do some networking (the social kind). It's good to get contacts as early as possible. If your school has a Computer Club, join it. It's a good way to get to know professors, and for them to get to know you. In IT, professors get constant calls from employers looking for talented students for either internships or jobs. Even if you're not the most talented student, your name will come to mind if a professor knows you in a setting other than the standard classroom. Also, recruiters and IT professionals will often come to speak at Computer Clubs. Have a resume ready, no matter how short, and keep the business cards you get from these professionals. They'll keep your resume on file and probably give you a call every once in awhile to see if you have anything new to add to your resume, or if you're ready to interview for a job.
  4. Attend user groups. Along the lines of Step 3, user groups are meetings held for those who have interest in similar aspects of IT. The members are great connections since they often know of other jobs within their companies or of other companies offering jobs in the area. You also get your feet wet as far as what it is like to work in different aspects of technology - a great step if you are still trying to pinpoint your interests.
  5. Get an internship. Most colleges require an internship to graduate, but you can also get one on your own. It may not be the compensation you would get as an employee, but usually internships in IT are paid. And quite frequently, if you are a good fit in the company, they will offer you a full-time position after your internship. At the very least, hopefully you will have a reference available for your resume.
  6. Consider doing contract work. Many smaller firms do not need a full-time IT staff, but instead just need a database or a network here and there. This is a great way to build your resume. And often, these are the kind of jobs that come to the attention of professors. So, by doing some contract work, you can have a great-looking resume by the time you finish your degree.
  7. Post your resume on reputable job boards. Popular resume sites like allow employers and recruiters to find your resume and contact you.
  8. Stay current with technology in your field. IT is fast-moving. If you don't keep your skills current, you will be phased from the market. See if your company has a tuition-reimbursement program, and take advantage of it. You may not need an advanced degree, but you do need to keep abreast of the technologies being deployed in your company (and companies you might want to work for at some other time), and become skilled in them.

IT careers are lucrative, fun, and flexible.  Best of all, you can advance quickly in the field if you keep your education up-to-date with online IT courses.  Follow the above steps and you won't just get a job in IT - you'll have a career in IT.


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