Without further ado, here goes my top 6 tips for landing the right IT job:
1. Be honest. Your mother should have taught you this, but it applies to more than just casual conversation. Your resume, interviews, and screening phone calls all apply. What I mean is, don’t list technologies on your resume that you’re not comfortable with. Many interviewers love to tailor their technical interview around items on a candidate’s resume. And why not? If it’s there, it’s fair game. While they may be initially impressed by the idea that you’ve worked with 10 different vendor’s products, they’ll be left with a bad impression if they find out you don’t really know them all very well after all. It’s a waste of the employer’s time, and yours.
2. Emphasize your applicable experience. This doesn’t just apply to IT jobs. For example, if you were formerly the manager of a fast food chain, you have experience managing a team, interacting with customers, and performing under stressful conditions. These are skills that translate to IT jobs. Be sure to not overlook past jobs too quickly. Likewise, don’t take it too far – you don’t want to take the attention off the fact that you want an IT job.
3. Keep studying/learning… and show it! In my most recent position, I was hired as a lead engineer solely because I had taken several certification exams over the past few years. The hiring manager (who became my boss) wasn’t as impressed by the certifications themselves, but by the fact that I kept taking them. He believed it showed a desire to learn, and to continue improving myself. These are traits that all managers look for – or should be looking for. It’s somewhat of a debatable subject, but I always advise people to list certifications in-progress on their resumes. Doing this properly doesn’t claim you are certified, but does show employers that you’re working toward a goal. A bit of a tip, however – it helps if the certification is related to the position you’re applying for. If you’re working on your CCNA, and applying for a software developer position, this might be a flag to the employer that it’s only a temporary gig for you.
4. Don’t quit. Finding a decent IT job can be frustrating. It takes a lot of time, but it can and will happen, if you put the time in. I can’t emphasize enough how professional development will help you find employment.
5. Don’t neglect your social network (no, not the movie). A few months ago, I was a candidate for a position. I was close to getting it, but in the end was told the hiring manager wanted a little more experience in a particular area. Initially I was let down, but then realized I knew the perfect candidate – a former co-worker/friend of mine. I called him up, and connected the recruiter with him. In the end, he was hired. Not too long after, I was considered for a position with the same company, and got a recommendation from this friend. The lesson is, keep in touch with former co-workers and business associates. Helping them can often come back to help you, in a big way.
6. Don’t expect the perfect IT job right away. I wish it wasn’t the truth, but for those who are less skilled, you often have to work “in the trenches” for your first (or second) IT job. Many IT professionals view these positions as “below them,” but the truth is, these positions offer a tremendous opportunity for growth. A helpdesk position might not seem glorious, but you might learn that you want to make a move into virtualization instead of networking – something you would have never discovered had you gone straight to networking, for example.
In the end, it’s a lot of work to find employment in the IT field, but absolutely doable with a positive mindset. Many of these tips allow to those who have never worked in IT, as well as seasoned IT professionals. Regardless of which category you fall into, the best tip I can provide is really quite simple: keep learning. You’ll not only improve your skills on the job, but you’ll be rewarded with better job prospects, and likely more satisfication on the job.