It can be daunting to start a new career path, but breaking things down into smaller parts can help the process become much more manageable.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide to illustrate what a career path in information technology might look like. Here’s to taking your next step!
1. Finding the right program
IT is a large and interesting field. Whether you see yourself working behind the scenes as a computer systems analyst, managing a team as a systems manager, or troubleshooting security issues as an administrator, figuring out your area of interest is an important first step.
Consider whether you’d prefer to work alone, with colleagues, or with clients. For instance, solitary workers may prefer programming tasks, while team players may like to work setting up small business networks. Here are some resources that can help you keep up with the changing job titles for IT.
2. Finding the right school
The next step will be researching the schools you’re considering attending. Do you prefer to take classes online or on-campus? Will your class schedule need to be flexible in order to fit around your current job? How much are you planning to spend on your education?
You may want to browse specific course offerings online. CollegeAmerica offers a variety of IT programs and degree levels.
You can also schedule a campus tour with an admissions consultant or get in touch with current students to learn more about their experience and how they plan to use their degrees. If you have financial questions, explore your financial aid options with a financial planner.
3. Perfecting your application
IT program applications usually require transcripts from your high school, personal information, and sometimes the answers to essay questions. Review your application carefully and speak to your admissions consultant if any questions come to mind along the way.
When you’re writing your admissions essay, think of ways you can set yourself apart and highlight your unique skills. Be sure to have a trusted friend or mentor proofread your application, and don’t forget to submit it on time!
4. Making the right connections
Once you’ve begun your IT studies, begin building your professional network by being vocal in class, creating study groups with other students, and taking your professors up on their offers to help. You never know: the new friendships you forge now could turn into potential employers down the road.
When you are just starting out in IT, build your skills and gain experience by helping friends, relatives, non-profits, or other community groups with their IT tasks. Doing so not only feels good—because, hey, helping out feels good—it also helps you practice communicating with others about technology while giving you hands-on experience with coding, network troubleshooting, and/or website building.
6. Charging for your services
Once you’ve practiced doing work for free; consider entering the world of paid IT services! Whether you’re offering services as an independent contractor or scouting for entry-level positions, make sure to research current jobs and salaries in your local area. Check in with mentors and fellow students to see how others are marketing their skills.
As you search for jobs in IT, there are many different ways to put yourself out there. Invite local tech leaders out for coffee to pick their brains about their work and learn of possible job openings. Stay active with college IT chapters and alumni groups. Attend conferences and panels organized by leaders in the IT industry. Connect with people who share your interest in IT and you’ll grow your understanding of the field as you build a path to employment.
8. Making your qualifications known
While a job application can certainly get your foot in the door, don’t wait for an opening to market yourself. Build up your online profile, create a website that features your resume as an easy download, and provide samples of your work (if applicable). All of this ensures that employers can easily find you and your job skills.
9. Staying current
Don’t be afraid to contact businesses that aren’t currently advertising positions–it’s always good for them to have your resume on file. Keep your web domains active and up-to-date, while also requesting that friends and colleagues “recommend” you for certain skills on online networks like LinkedIn. You never know when a recruiter will stumble upon your profile!
Through your years of hard work, dedication, and careful resume building, you’ve now found your dream job! Pay it forward by mentoring the next generation of IT professionals, continuing to stay involved with industry organizations and events, and staying current on the changing IT landscape. Your new journey is just beginning.