For recent graduates, the job market can be daunting. You might have some experience. You might not. If not, then you’re squarely in the experience conundrum. You have the degree, but not enough experience to get a job that’s necessary to gain experience.
Here are three of the best entry-level jobs for recent graduates, along with some career paths, salaries, and other useful information.
Network Technician / Systems Technician
If you enjoy working on computer systems and networks, then this is probably going to be the best place for you to start. Learning how to diagnose networks and computer systems is a core skill that anybody working in the IT industry should have.
If this sounds like a good path to take, then we’d recommend Network+ and its troubleshooting methodologies as a starting point. The fault-finding process will allow you to think laterally and logically when attacking other problems in the workplace, as well.
On the job, you can expect to deal with users, managers, and even upper-level executives in your day-to-day interactions, which will help you to develop soft skills such as communicating with users and suppliers. This is an excellent starting position and will help you form some much needed foundational skills along the way.
Salary: $49,000 to $70,000 per year, depending on geography
Responsibilities: Managing IT infrastructure and equipment, maintaining connectivity, and ensuring uptime of critical systems. Soft skills and user-facing services are often also a requirement.
What you’ll learn: In entry-level positions such as this, there are plenty of useful skills to pick up, from pulling network cables and wiring up network points, to configuring VLANs, firewalls, and servers.
Career Path: Depending on your end goal, you could work your way up to a Systems Administrator, IT Manager, Systems Architect, or even branch out into computer forensics. This is a great central role and will lay a solid foundation for your career in IT.
Technical Support Technician
Not many people realize this, but remote support teaches critical thinking and requires high levels of logical reasoning. It builds expertise in customer support and business etiquette as well, teaching newly qualified IT graduates all the basic skills required for everyday customer communications.
Dealing with people all day can be stressful; it’s not for everybody in the long run. Many people use these roles as a stepping stone to other varied roles, from sales all the way to product development. You’ll get a leg up on the competition with a certification specific to your system, so it might one of the MCSA tracks or even VMware.
Salary: $35,000 to $50,000 per year, depending on geography
Responsibilities: First line support. You will be speaking with users and trying to assist with their technical issues via troubleshooting and remote desktop support. Your understanding of the problems and diagnostics are what lay the foundations for tier 2 and 3 support agents’ work.
What you’ll learn: You will learn people skills, remote support, and troubleshooting, as well as product knowledge and development if you are offering software support for a developer. These skills are useful in the IT world where logical thinking is critical to keeping systems running and users happy.
Career Path: The type of company that you work for will have a big impact in this regard, especially if you find yourself in their employ for a while. In cases where you are offering support on a software product in a software development firm, you may find that your skills in programming and development see you moving through the ranks and into the development team. On the other hand, if you possess managerial qualities, you might work your way up to call-center manager or coordinator.
As a DBA, you will be responsible for maintaining the environment the databases are hosted on. You will be responsible for user access and permissions as well as working with software developers if you have an in-house dev team. If you haven’t already, start down the certification pathways relevant to your system. Microsoft SQL Server is by the far the most ubiquitous, but your role may have you work with Oracle or even IBM.
Salary: $40,000 to $100,000 per year, depending on geography, industry, and education
What you’ll learn: Working with system critical databases can be challenging and rewarding. You will learn how to keep your database environment running smoothly and how to create efficient and streamlined systems with optimal security.
Career Path: There are many opportunities in the DBA space, as far as career growth is concerned. You can branch out into development DBA career paths, leading to product creation and development, or you can stay on the production path, leading to support-intensive roles.
Other Things You Should Know
Graduates with IT qualifications are finding it more difficult than ever to try and land that dream job. A major issue s that contributes to a tight squeeze on this sector in recent years is the need for certified individuals with experience. This is frustrating for IT pros that have just finished their studies because if there is one thing that they don’t have, it is hands-on, practical experience.
Lack of Experience
We see this question coming up time and time again, “How do I get experience if I can’t get an entry-level job to begin with to get any experience!?” This is a real problem for many people, and it is not unique to the realm of IT. As the job market becomes more competitive, employers are no longer looking just for qualified staff to join their operation, but tried and tested employees that can work in the real world, under real-world scenarios.
Specializing Too Early
We often talk about learning deep versus wide, which means being a generalist before becoming a specialist. In addition, some recent graduates may find that their particular certification path makes them suited only to a niche position in a company. When this is the case, candidates will find that employers will prefer hiring more staff that have hands-on experience, as well as the certifications that they deem necessary. In some cases (very rarely), practical, hands-on experience can trump a certification.
Bear in mind that these suggestions may or may not suit everyone, so don’t feel that you have to try all of these ideas, just remember that in times like these, you need to be creative and willing to make some sacrifices.
Offer Your Services For Free
Volunteering is a great way to build up some experience, especially if you are still studying. And it’s actually fairly easy to get started. Devoting a few of your week if you can spare the time are an excellent way to get some experience. There are other benefits to this approach as well, the main one being a job offer if you are proving to be valuable to the organization.
You can also ask for a reference for your resume, and volunteer work can look really good to an HR department. The third and most important value of volunteering is the actual experience that you will log for yourself, especially if you are able to work in an environment where you can apply your newly-learned skills.
Start a Small Consultancy
Depending on your specialty, you could find that you get much-needed experience from working on your own. First, you need to find clients. Network with friends and family, find out what their needs are, and apply your skills to their situation. If you have coding skills, help write an app for a local business or design a software solution for them. If you are trying to break into the sysadmin space, try taking on some private clients first to help you hone your soft skills. Remember, the more time you spend in the trade, the more confident you will be when it comes to your next job interview.