Arguably, the most powerful tool in your toolbox as you seek out career opportunities is experience. How you use your experience profoundly impacts your ability to get the interviews you want, and ultimately, the job and career of your dreams.
CBT Nuggets trainer Jeremy Cioara believes that experience is critical to your IT career success. “Experience is the most helpful, but that is something that just happens once you get started.” Jeremy continued, “Even what you learn during certification study can count as experience.”
Trainer Michael Watkins agrees that experience is critical to advancing your IT career. “An an IT professional advances in their career, it is experience, perhaps more so than either a degree or certifications, that helps them to stand out and compete for their next role.” Michael went on to say, “Being able to articulate your experience and any responsibilities you may have had on past projects will help employers to recognize how you can address their current needs.”
Simply having experience isn’t enough. You must learn how to articulate your experience effectively, both in writing and in conversation, if you plan to use it to elevate your IT career.
Using Experience On the Job Hunt
“Experience is a fantastic career advancement [tool], as long as the IT pro never settles in their knowledge,” said Jeremy. In order to get everything you can out of your experience, you have to challenge yourself to constantly be learning. The next step, is learning how to succinctly articulate your experience, particularly to those who may not have technical expertise. Trainer Simona Millham considers experience to be a critical component to your success. “I think the key is being able to articulate how your skills have solved problems in the real world.”
Consider using these practical, experience-related tips to take your career to the next level:
- Craft your resume and cover letter well!
Do your research as you craft your resume and cover letter. Your cover letter should be specific to the needs of the job for which you are applying, including how your experience meets the organization’s needs. Consider using a skills- or experience-based resume to help capture the attention of those who are reviewing candidate materials.
- Clearly articulate your experience
If you are relying exclusively on your experience to help you earn an interview and job, take some time to draft descriptions of your technical experience and ask others to read and critique your writing! Get feedback from people with, and without, technical expertise. And practice your conversational descriptions of your experience with people as well!
- Your experience is only the beginning!
To be successful in IT, you must be a passionate and committed learner. As technology continues to evolve and change, you must be prepared to grow and learn along with it. Be prepared to let your interviewer(s) know how you plan to stay on top of emerging technologies and stay current. Trainer Michael Watkins said, “It’s a candidate’s willingness to learn and continue to explore and learn more that will help them be successful as an IT professional. The field of IT is constantly evolving and the best thing I believe a candidate can demonstrate is their willingness to evolve with the field as well by developing a love of learning and a desire to be the best they can be.”
- Connect the dots!
If your experience is the key to your candidacy for a job, be prepared to connect the dots between your past experience and your future goals. As trainer Steve Caseley said, “The challenge with experience is that it can be hard to apply experience with one employer to another [because] the needs, environment, and technology are almost always unique from one workplace to the next.” So you need to be prepared to help your interviewer(s) understand how your past experiences will, indeed, translate to this new work environment.
- Be prepared for technical questions!
It’s critical that you be prepared to answer technical questions. Your interviewer(s) will likely have a few (or many!) questions that are designed to really test your knowledge. “The interview is about your ability to think fast on your feet,” trainer Jeremy Cioara said. Take advantage of the great resources available to help you identify what kinds of technical questions might come up in your interview (i.e., www.job-interview-site.com, www.roberthalf.com, and www.jobsearch.about.com).
- Practice makes perfect!
It might seem a little childish, but take the time to practice your interview! Ask a friend or colleague to be your interviewer and practice how you want to frame your experience, your fit for the job, etc. Being prepared will help you to be more relaxed and much more yourself during your interview!