Get a Job in Computers
The job market for computer based jobs is constantly expanding, so this is a great time to get your foot in the door. Whether or not you have previous experience with computers, it's not too hard to increase your chance of getting a job working with computers. The best thing you can do is try to gain some experience working odd temp jobs.
How to get a career in IT
- Get Qualified. When an employer looks at a CV that person is going to want to see evidence that you are capable of applying yourself, have an ability to learn and have experience of the tool or functional area you are applying for. I cannot stress how important it is to demonstrate to employers that you have that capability. If you have Prince2 Practitioner or your are a qualified ISO 9001 auditor then make sure these are included in your CV. If you feel you have gaps in your IT professional qualifications then do something about it. Don't let that be the reason you are not getting interviews.
- Know your ITIL. Nearly all service orientated IT roles these days, especially with medium to large companies, are going to require you to have experience of a or exposure to ITIL. If you are not at least qualified to foundation level then your CV will not get past the first cut. ITIL v3 Foundation Level is the entry level qualification which offers practitioners a general awareness of the key elements, concepts and terminology used in the ITIL Service Lifecycle, including the linkages between Lifecycle stages, the processes used and their contribution to Service Management practices.
- Be aggressive when job hunting. One of the most common ways to job hunt these days is to apply to online adverts from sites like job serve.co.uk or monster.com. That is fine and you will find a lot of good stuff out there.
- Hot Tip - Make a note of the job you are applying for, especially the person who has lodged the advert. Make sure you get their phone number also. Even if this is not known you can call the companies main line number from their website to speak to that person. You will need to allow about 24 hours so you can be sure your CV has arrived and then give them a call. Ask them if they have received your CV and maybe they can tell you more about the role? Your CV now comes out from in the middle of the very large stack and is now on top of the queue. This is a very effective way of getting past that first stage. Remember recruitment agents get hundreds of CVs every day. All they want is to get 5 or so CV's in front of the recruiting company. Once they have 5 they will discard the rest.
- Prepare a quality CV. Your CV is your marketing brochure. If this is poor quality, contains spelling and grammar errors or even contains too many pages then you are already at a disadvantage.
- Start networking. This is by far the most popular and common way of getting a job today. Networking can take many forms. The obvious is to to get yourself out to job fairs, seminars and symposiums and meet people. Make sure your peers know who you are. Of course the stereotypical IT person does not usually have such personality traits. If you do then I can assure you that this is the best way of getting your foot in the door. For the rest of us, and I do include myself here, then a more subtle and understated approach is to get yourself signed up for professional social networking sites like LinkedIn (). This has become a very popular place for companies to recruit directly without incurring recruitment charges why not take a look at the job section and include this in your marketing plan. The site allows you to build your own profile so effectively becomes an online CV that has a more personal look and feel.
- Don't give up. In reality you are very likely to be rejected even after all your good efforts. Whether that be not making the final candidates for interview or even if you get an interview and are not selected. Always be proactive and brave. Call the recruiter and ask them why you were not selected? Be confident enough to ask them what you could do better? This does not always work as they really just want to move on and get commission, but if you have built a rapport with an agency representative then they are more likely to give you some free advice. If you do make it to interview, take that as a positive. Your CV is working for you for starters. Again ask for feedback, learn from the interview process. Go through a lessons learned process yourself, right down what you did well and what was not so good and practice so you do it better next time. The marketplace right now in the IT industry is competitive, but there are plenty of really good roles out there and employers are looking for really good candidates. Be positive, keep improving your CV, keep practicing interview technique and keep applying for those jobs.
The Job Market
- Survey the field. The first thing you need to think about is exactly what kind of job in computing you want. Each job has its own special requirements, so you should assess your own skills and then decide which job might be best for you. Supply and demand is important too. Remember that traditional programming and help desk jobs are moving to places like China and India. However, new roles are coming up like Business Analysis, Testing and Compliance. Please see Types of Computing Jobs below for an overview of the most common types of computer jobs.
- Revise your resume. You'll need to add a "Skills" section that lists all of the skills you've acquired with computers. You might also want to mention something about computers in an "Interests" or "Hobbies" section. Make sure your resume looks extremely professional and is free of grammar/spelling errors.
- Staffing agencies. This is a great way to get initial exposure to computer related jobs in your area. Companies often don't have time or willingness to advertise for or fill positions themselves, so they rely on staffing agencies to do it for them. Draft a resume, call your local staffing agency directly and tell them you want an entry-level position with computers.
- Don't be picky about the job the staffing agency offers. If the rep offers you something, take it. You can always find something more rewarding and better paying once you have a bit of experience under your belt.
- Temp to hire positions. The odds of getting a direct hire job without previous experience are slim. These jobs don't offer benefits, but do provide a steady paycheck.
- After 90 days, you are NOT obligated to continue on with the position if you find it isn't a good fit. Simply let your staffing agency know and they will be happy to place you elsewhere. Once you have experience working for them and have gained a good reputation, it will be easier to get work elsewhere.
- Network. Find out where the computer guys (or girls) hang out. You'll be surprised how much info you can get just by talking to people in the field. You might also find that it's not your cup of tea.
- Play around. Sit down in front of the computer and just play and experiment. This is a great way to learn new programs, but isn't the best way to learn how to configure an operating system or write programs. At the very least, you'll become comfortable with computers by doing this.
- Find a mentor. You probably know someone who knows more about computers than you do. Learn from them. Once their knowledge is used up, find someone even more knowledgeable to learn from. Soon, you'll be the expert and people will start coming to you!
- Read a book or a website. There are websites that teach you just about anything to do with computers, from basics all the way through advanced programming. If you Google any specific problem you have, you are sure to find an answer. If you want to find random computer tips, just Google "computer tips" or other phrases like that. Many websites have random tips that help you learn more about computers as well.
- Get certified. Some companies that offer software (Red Hat, Sun, Microsoft, Oracle and many others) may offer paid official exams. Since they do not teach you and just test your existing knowledge, this is frequently very cheap in comparison to paid courses. This is a great way to prove you understand technologies that a company may be looking for.
- Get on the job training. If you already have a computer-related job (but want a better one), find someone at work you can learn from or take on new projects where you can learn as you go along. It will be hard at first, but your skills will improve and you'll become eligible for promotions or for better jobs at other companies.
- Take a course. This is the most obvious approach, yet many in the industry have had long careers in computing without any formal training. Still, not all computer skills are easy to teach yourself, and as more students graduate with degrees in computer science, the competition will make it harder for the self-trained to land good jobs. A degree, certificate course, or specialized certification such as an MCSE will greatly improve your odds.
Types of Computing Jobs
- Data Entry - This is a job just about anyone can get. You take information from a piece of paper and use it to fill out a form on the computer. Many old hands who started out in this role are now heading up computer departments.
- Secretarial/Administrative - This position involves some basic office skills. Not only must you understand the basics of using your computer and a few applications, but you'll probably also be expected to take dictation, answer phones, type letters, and keep things organized. In terms of computer skills, you should know how to use word processing, accounting, and spreadsheet programs at the very least. People in this role often move into other computing roles such as Managers, Meeting Organizers and Human Resources. Naturally you can move into mainstream computing areas, particularly QA and Testing.
- Power User - Not so much a position as a status of being an extremely proficient user of (typically) Microsoft Office or similar tools. Advanced users of these tools become familiar with the basics of computer programming through starting with Excel macros or Access database programming. One can become very valuable to a small business by learning such skills and even start to consult with other small businesses at rates typically starting around $50 an hour.
- Customer Service/Telesales - These positions usually place a higher emphasis on phone skills than computer skills, but you should know at least the basics of how to use your computer.
- Technical Support (Production Support) - Most companies consider technical support to be an entry-level computer job. You are expected to know the operating systems on which the product you'll support will run, and you'll also need to know the basics of any programs that product might interact with. The good news is that the company will teach you what you need to know about their products - you just need to learn everything else. Success in technical support requires good problem-solving skills and a great deal of attention to detail. Technical Support and Problem Management is a rapidly growing area. Users now rely heavily on Help Lines, International Support Centers and the like.
- Software Quality Assurance (SQA) Engineer - You need to know as much as the best technical support personnel. You need to be a problem solver, a detective, and sometimes even a Customer Service representative. You'll also need some basic programming skills, since more and more companies are beginning to rely on automated testing. The best SQA engineers understand a little (or a lot) about every aspect of computers, from building them to using them to programming them.
- Software Engineer (Developer or Programmer) - To get a job at a top software shop such as Microsoft or Google, you'll need a degree in computer science and detailed understanding of the field. However getting a developer position in some small company may be easier. What do you need to know is the language in which you'll be programming. It is also important to know database fundamentals and (if programming for Windows) the Windows API. Knowing more than one programming language is very helpful. Understanding many of the basic fundamentals of computer science (e.g. linked lists, arrays, pointers, object oriented programming) will be essential in demonstrating your proficiency.
- Business Analyst (Analyst or Systems Analyst or Analyst/Programmer or User Analyst) - This is a relatively new title, but the role is as "old as the hills". People can become a BA with any mix of business and computing skills. It is simply looking at what the company is really after. A good BA should know the process from end to end. The BA is primarily the connection between the business and the developers. To get into this job, and into computing, good knowledge of a business is helpful. So, if you gain good knowledge through your job, and maybe do a computer course, you can get your foot in the door.
- Tester (Test Manager) - This one may not seem glamorous, but testing is seen by the employers as being number one in importance. It is often an easy way to break into computing and not an especially desired job. Once in this job, you really get to know the whole process and can easily get into Compliance or Management. Be aware that it's usually the test manager who gets the blame if the implementation goes wrong.
- Graphic Designer - A graphic designer creates digital art such as designs for company logos, advertising brochures, and websites.
- Database Administrator/Programmer (DBA) - Database specialists are often software engineers, but not all software engineers work with databases and some database specialists do not have formal software engineering or computer science training. DBA's are highly compensated and command considerable influence in typical corporate IT settings. Some DBA's get started by programming Access databases, move to SQL Server, and then to Oracle through pursuing applied, product-specific certifications. Once a DBA, one can then move into data architecture and systems analysis.
- MIS/Network Administration/User Support - MIS (Management of Information Systems) is responsible for making sure that a company's network of computers is working properly at all times. This includes everything from showing the users how to send an e-mail, to upgrading or repairing the computers and managing network resources such as file servers, network printers, and Internet firewalls. For user support positions, you need to be an expert at the operating systems in use by computers on the network, as well as the network itself. You also need to know the fundamentals of hardware repair, the Internet, and the applications in use on the network. Network administrators also need to know how to set up network hardware, cabling and network resources. Larger companies prefer their MIS personnel to have (or at least be pursuing) special certifications that prove they know their stuff.
- Technical Writer (Technical Author, Documentation Analyst) - To be a Technical Writer, you must understand computer basics and the product about which you're writing. You also need to know the programs you'll be using for your writing, such as word processors, desktop publishing programs, web languages such as HTML, and Windows Help-authoring tools. You'll also need to be a good writer (or trick people into thinking you are). The best technical authors tend to be ex or trained journalists or English teachers. Ex-teachers do have a reputation of doing very well in the computer arena, possibly due to their presentation and management skills.
- Compliance - This is a rapidly increasing area due to reasons ranging from exposure of companies to large payouts (can run into billions) to government authorities breaking the rules. To get into this area, you just need to show an interest in checking what others do and making rules. Employers are interested primarily in your knowledge of computer processes (for example, how the Accounts Receivable system works, end to end). Compliance sections generally have large budgets too!
- Medicine/Diagnostic Imaging - There are lots of new jobs for computer literate people in Medicine. CT, PET, and MRI scanners all run complex software that should be operated by people with good computer skills.
- Production Analyst - Another key position. This guy runs the "real" system and also is in charge of "OKAY-ing" the new systems that the developers are writing. If you are into power, this is the job for you.
- Computer Manager (Project Leader, Executive Director, Vice President) - There are probably more of these jobs in computing than anything else, so don't rule it out. The industry is top heavy and full of titles, especially now that much of the real work is being done in India! Remember that these guys can earn very big money. The key job of a manager in computing is to convince users to keep funding computer projects.
- Computer Contractor - Even though this role has been around for a long time, there is still a demand. Computer Contractors are usually experienced professionals, but not managers. Typical contractor roles include business analyst, tester and developer. Remember that many computer teams are made up predominantly of contractors and that they can make good money in a booming economy.
- Onshore Consultant - Typically a senior position, but based in a foreign country. Onshore Consultants can be anything from Senior Managers to Developers. An example of an onshore consultant is a professional from China or Pakistan working in Canada.
- Offshore Consultant - A growing industry. The Offshore Consultant is based in his own country and gets his work from overseas,
- A good all-around computer tutorial is The Secret Guide to Computers by Russ Walter. Like the "Dummies" series, it's good for getting your feet wet, but rather than a fair amount about one particular topic, it includes a smaller amount about almost any computer topic, from buying a computer all the way through the basics of programming in several different languages. If you're teaching yourself how to be a software engineer, check out the "Teach Yourself in 21 Days" series by Sams Publishing, "How to Program" by Deitel & Deitel, or the "No Experience Required" series by Sybex.
- The hot languages for programmers to know are Java, C/C++, Visual Basic, PHP, Perl and C#. The languages of choice change every so often, so check the Tiobe index and other similar review sites for the current popularity.
- The best bet if you don't have a 4 year degree is to go to a junior college. Most have certificate programs in PC Support/Help Desk or Local Area Network/Networking or Programming. The curriculum from these programs are essentially what you would get if you attended a 4 year college and got a degree in computer science, but the certificate program leaves out the unrelated classes. This is a great way to get a good educational background in IT and is cheaper than a technical school.
- Learn as many operating systems as you can. With the growing markets in Macintosh and Linux and an apparent shortage of professionals in these areas, being knowledgeable in multiple operating systems, in addition to Windows can give you an edge in the technical job market.
- It really helps to know someone on the inside. If a resume is submitted by an employee for a friend, most companies will conduct an interview as a courtesy, even if the resume doesn't quite meet their qualification requirements. In the interview, you can show them what you know. Be prepared for them to quiz you and be careful not to put something on your resume unless you're actually competent in it.
- Special computer software certifications are a good way to prove industry standard knowledge and make you somewhat more independent of a rock-solid IT background and years of experience. These certifications exist for Microsoft OS's and products, but also for the most common databases and they are fortunately coming up for some of the Linux distributions now. Contact a training center for the status on certified Linux training and cost.
- Business skills and communications skills are highly valued by employers. Programmers who can communicate effectively both verbally and in writing have an edge in the job market. Those who have an MBA are also more desirable to employers.
- College is great for getting a job of any type. It's the best investment you'll ever make.
- Some careers involving computers require that you use a PC, so if you learn on a Mac or a Linux box, you may have a problem (and vice versa). It's best to be comfortable with all three major operating systems.
- Once you're hired, it doesn't end there. Keep learning new skills constantly. This industry is always evolving. If you don't evolve with it, you'll be replaced by someone who will.
- You may lose a lot of money if the company where you take courses or certifications does not count as reliable itself. Usually only the owner / author of the technology can issue a serious certificate.
- Soft skills are also important in computing and office politics is present even in this field.
- Get a Software Development Job
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- Learn a Programming Language
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- Exercise While Sitting at Your Computer
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- Become Computer Literate
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