How to break into the IT industry

I was recently asked for advice on how someone could get that all important first IT job? Like any industry, all IT jobs require 2 things: training and experience, and it’s the experience part that’s hard to get. It’s catch 22, how do you get a job to get experience, without having the experience in the first place? I’m assuming here that the typical entry level approach is not an option, e.g. enrolling on a company’s graduate training scheme, which is the normal way into a new industry.

The short answer is, it’s tricky! You need to look at your own situation to see how you can manage to engineer up some experience. For example the person who asked me did have a couple of things in his favour, he had a Masters degree in Computer Systems, albeit from 20 years ago and he had never used any of the (now way out of date) skills he’d learnt. He was also a senior manager in a small company, which gave him some latitude to implement his own initiatives. This is the advice I gave him on getting that all important IT experience and first job:

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To be honest I think you’re going to find it tough breaking in at a technical IT level with 20 year old classroom skills, despite the MSc from Manchester. I would suggest you spend some time on www.ItJobsWatch.co.uk to get an understanding of what skills are in demand, which are going up and which are going down, what skills apply to which industries and in what combinations. There’s a lot of data there!

Personally if it were me, I’d get into SharePoint (which is a document management and collaboration tool from Microsoft). It seems to be on the rise at the moment. Putting “sharepoint” in the skills section of www.JobServe.com reveals 447 job adverts [at the time of writing] for both contract and permie over the last 7 days for example, and sticking “sharepoint” into itjobswatch shows every role on the rise from last year.

Start like this:

  • Get a copy of the Microsoft Action Pack You have to become a Microsoft Partner and take a small test, but it’s not hard to learn what you need to pass in a weekend.
  • Install the SharePoint software, MOSS etc and learn all you can about it.
  • As it looks like you have some authority at your company, that’s a bonus. Get SharePoint rolled out at your company and take 3 months to personally install it, customise it, tweak it etc.
  • Pass these 2 Microsoft SharePoint exams:
  • Then armed with that experience, you should be able to apply for a job as a SharePoint developer / specialist / consultant. Whether you get one will be down to how you present your CV and yourself at interview.

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The 2 key points to take away here are these:

  1. Pick a specialist subject that is in rising demand and learn it.  You stand more chance of getting a job if demand is out stripping supply.
  2. Find some way to get some practical experience, even if that’s just doing it at home.  SharePoint for example is a web based technology, so you could deploy it and make it available on the web as a demonstration of your abilities.

Good luck!

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Marcus 25 October 2008, 1:45 pm

    I thought this was some lind of fitness site? you should check out http://www.innerfight.com thats some nice stuff

  • Colin McNulty 27 October 2008, 8:49 pm

    It is, sort of. It’s my personal site, and I mostly talk about fitness and diet related stuff. Fortunately I do have a life outside of health too.

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