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Career Hacker: Starting out in IT

June 26, 2014

If you're interested in technology, the IT field offers a great future—and a wide variety of career paths. With a growing IT skills gap, experienced IT pros are in high demand. But to gain that experience, you have to start somewhere.

Advice for recent computer science grads on starting an IT career

1. Your very first step—even before graduating from college—should be to create a LinkedIn profile. Start inviting your friends, professors, relatives and work contacts to connect. Use LinkedIn to research companies you’d like to work for; the site will tell you if someone you know works at the company, or has a connection who does. Tapping your contacts to pass along your resume will help get it more attention than HR's usual six-second-scan. And let your LinkedIn connections know you’re if looking for IT internships.

2. Create a resume before your ideal job opens up because you’ll want to apply for new jobs within 48 hours. IT job site offers a sample resume for an entry-level IT career.

3. Create a profile of your work and host it online so you can provide a link in your resume.

4. If you still have the opportunity to do so, round out your profile with some business computer classes. Employers increasingly value workers who get how business and IT relate, so earning a business minor or even taking a few classes can help you gain a competitive advantage (you’ll learn all about those in your micro-economics class).

Advice for moving to the IT field from a different career

Getting started in a new IT career doesn’t necessarily mean your old skills don’t count, even if you're a mid-career professional. You’ll need technical savvy for sure, but IT careers don’t all entail programming or knowledge of database architecture. Top-notch project management skills and business savvy are highly in demand in the tech world, and having those skills can help open doors for nontraditional candidates. Have a talent for teaching or writing? Technical training and writing also offer career paths for IT job seekers without computer science degrees.

Have you worked in a specialized industry for a long time? Use that to your advantage. For instance, if you’ve worked as a hotel manager, consider targeting tech companies that support the hospitality industry. From reservations to revenue management to travel apps, the travel industry relies on IT. The same goes for almost any field, from farming to finance. Hiring candidates with insider insight into an industry is often appealing to tech companies.

Many people get their feet in the entry-level IT door by working in tech support. From there you can move into jobs in database administration or start earning more advanced certifications.

Training is likely to be part of your IT career journey. Some companies will pay for your training, but don’t count on it. E-learning courses are an affordable option, and they lend themselves well to IT subjects. CompTIA, a nonprofit IT industry organization that provides testing certifications and training, is a good starting point for IT training. Many newbies start by earning their A+ certificate, which provides employers proof of competency in basic hardware and software support.

For more information about all the training classes in your area and online options, you can visit, a training aggregator. TrainUp offers a free hotline where you can receive personalized advice from experience training providers about which classes are right for you. The site also features training discounts.

Free massive online open enrollment courses (MOOCs) offer a wide array of technology subjects, and many offer certification options for small fees. Read our recent blog post to find out more about how to use free IT MOOCs to help your career.

Think you’re more a DIY type? Coding marathons, aka hackathons, offer another point of entry for new IT professionals. These are truly merit-based places to demonstrate coding talent and possibly snag an engineering job without having the right—or any—college degree.

To read about making the transition to a different IT career, stay tuned for our Career Hacker post next week. And happy hunting! 

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