Career / Getting Experience

10 Tips for Getting Hands-On Experience

by Raju Woodward
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Published on October 16, 2014

"How do I get experience?"

That's a question we hear a lot. Many, if not most, IT jobs require some experience. But if you recently completed school or training, you probably don't have a ton of experience to list on your resume. Don't worry, with the help of our social media fans, we put together a list of ways to get the experience you need:

10. Keep learning: Take a class or attend workshops that involve using technology or equipment. You'll be able to apply your training or book smarts to real-life situations; plus, learning with your peers can be immensely valuable. A diverse approach to problem solving is a great skill when it comes to IT.

9. Shadow a pro: Identify someone who works in your desired field. Ask if you can shadow him/her. This can give you insight into their day-to-day routine, which also can help you decide if that field is right for you. If you ask smart questions, show interest, and demonstrate solid knowledge, you might get a chance at some hands-on experience. You could even end up with a reference!

8. Land internships: This one is kind of a no-brainer. But make sure you pursue internships that enable you to get relevant experience, not just fetch coffee or handle tasks that aren't tech-related. Internships also are a prime opportunity to find career mentors. You might even land an internship that pays!

7. Put your "expertise" to work: Are you the person family and friends turn to for tech help? Take your services a step further and offer to help classmates or coworkers. Not only does this put your knowledge and skills to work, but sooner or later someone is bound to take notice, which could lead to bigger and better opportunities. Another plus: You'll develop people skills.

6. Take on every task, no matter how small: Jump at the opportunity to perform jobs others don't want to do. If you do well, there's a good chance you'll be asked to perform more important tasks. Decision makers value employees who want to solve problems. When you're starting out, treat everything as an important job. Good first impressions are valuable!

5. Don't overlook roles: If you think working at the help desk or in customer service is beneath you, think again. It's a great way to get your foot in the door. Plus, developing your people skills and experiencing the business side of an organization is invaluable because you come away with a better understanding of what people need and expect.

4. Volunteer your time: Rarely does free help get turned down. Volunteering is an excellent way to get real-world experience, and also looks great on the resume. Maybe the local school district needs help in its server room. Or your church's website needs to be updated. Nonprofits are always looking for IT support help.

3. Set up a home lab: Apply your knowledge right at home. Scour the web for sweet deals on equipment to build your own network, set up a router, etc. Or dig out that discarded computer tower in the back of your closet and have at it.

2. Break stuff: Nothing forces you into action like "breaking" things. We don't mean maliciously destroying an expensive server or anything along those lines. But be curious. Take things apart and work on putting them back together. Even if there are setbacks, you're developing a crucial IT skill: problem solving (if you do follow this tip, ALWAYS have a backup option!).

1. Start your own business: This might not be feasible for you, but owning your own business can give you more experience than you ever imagined. You'll learn and experiment with new technology and equipment without needing approval from a boss. And we can't stress enough how it will help you develop your people skills and your business sense.

What are other ways to get IT experience? Share your thoughts below.


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