Thursday, December 6, 2012

Career Tips For the Future IT Professional

Last night was the last classroom meeting for the course I have been teaching, CIS 108 - Intro to Technology.  The class met once a week for 3 hours per meeting where I usually offered homework for each week as well containing a quiz on the chapter discussed in class, and a video to watch\discuss in a discussion board.  Most weeks I had chosen videos from that discussed a range of topics from Who Are Hackers to capturing video at fentometer speed to what physically makes up the Internet to data transmission via light.  All in all, my students seemed to enjoy the video topics.

Since we hit the end of the semester, I had compiled a list of items I thought would be helpful to a future IT professional.  The educational model in America has shifted enormously over the past 20 years or so.  A college degree used to be a ticket to a new job\career, where now employment is more of a buyer's market.  Everyone has a degree, you all look the same on paper, and often the question asked is:

How do I get a job if I have no experience, yet I cant get experience because no-one will hire me!?

First of all, I phrased that question in such a way because of how negative it is.  If you find yourself asking this question, in a same negative tone, re-frame your perspective on your job search, don't be a defeatist.  Secondly, you need other means to grow and prove your technical aptitude outside the workplace.  This isn't a bad thing, because all experienced, quality and successful technologists develop and hone their skills both inside AND outside their workplace as well.  Do you want to be successful?  Well.. why not do what other successful people do?  Novel concept, eh?

So, the items below were part of my final presentation to my class.  Some students just started their college career's, others were taking IT classes part time, while remaining in the workforce in other industries.  I wanted to offer suggestions for my students to help them develop a professional resume, while not yet being a true professional.  I'm sure I will twist and tweak these items over time, but wanted to offer them nonetheless.

Career Tips

1. As soon as you can, create a professional profile.. and start building it out. These things can grow over time, but make an excellent resume builder.

  • Go buy a domain name (theyre really cheap), I use
  • Go to, create a new blog
  • Associate your domain name with – online help file helps you. This way, your blog now powers, looking very professional to future employers
  • This whole process takes 10 minutes

2. With your blog setup, publish!

Publish your thoughts, results of your school work, "interesting" tech articles from cnet, slashdot.. whatever.. this becomes a great resource to show your technical aptitude when you otherwise have little to no experience in the workplace.  
  • Create a PROFESSIONAL twitter account - not the one where you tweet how drunk you were last night, or how you ate too much pizza, but one where you can discuss things your mom wouldn't be offended by reading.  Use this account to post\link similar ideas and concepts discussed in your blog above. 
  • Create a LinkedIn account - add EVERYONE you know, and keep in touch, jobs happen because of people more often that a resume submission
  • Associate your domain with your linkedin, resume, wherever you can post it

3. Clean up your FaceBook profile

  • Remember, you can be "tagged" in pics, so anything of you doing anything you shouldn’t be doing, you should get rid of.  After all, if issues like this haven't taught us by now.. nothing ever will

4. Scour Monster, CareerBuilder and Dice for jobs you might be interested in

  • Get a feel for job needs based on the technology
  • Get a feel for salary in the area your researching to live in
  • Get a feel for relevant skills, what types of jobs are out there, but what are these positions looking for? Windows? Linux? Particular networking equipment? Certifications? Programming Languages?

5. And realize that sometimes the best jobs aren’t landed through Monster and CareerBuilder

  • Its also who you know, have that friend of a friend of a friend get you in touch with their boss.. who happens to be looking for an IT pro.  Check out The Power of Who to learn how landing your next job isn't because you filled out 1,000 resume's!
  • It's through Internships - paid\free internships give you great in-field knowledge, and build a resume, and potentially lead to a full time job
  • It's through “free” work, such as charities - much like internships, "free" work lets you build your technical skillset, and look fantastic on a resume.  Reach out to local charities and ask if they need any help from a technical perspective.  Chances are, if they don't need help, they may know someone who does..

6. Books - You should ALWAYS read.. always, always, always. 

Especially in the IT world, concepts are always changing.  If you're not much of a reader, change that habit, challenge yourself and do it.  I hardly ever read Fiction, some of my personal favorites I've read (in no particular order):
  • Drive - Daniel Pink - Misconceptions and solutions to what people's real motivations are in live
  • Total Money Makeover - Dave Ramsey - Solutions for personal finance to help you relinquish debt and build income, I almost feel this should be recommended reading for any student BEFORE they take out school loans!
  • Outliers - Malcolm Gladwell - Discusses topics like why Bill Gates was so great, how Korean airlines went from the worst to among the best airlines because of a cultural issue, or why most professional hockey players are born Jan-March. All in all, great perspective on what can make you great in your career
  • Einstein His Life and Universe - Walter Isaacson - Think of someone influential and learn about them, provides amazing perspective. For me, this was Einstein
  • Linchpin - Seth Godin - Learn how to be a key resource in your workplace, and why you can be almost indespensible
Oh, and you can get all of these used for under 10 bucks each. Remember that you are the same person every year, except for the people you meet and the books you read

7. Take Free Classes, now, or whenever you graduate

  • - Harvard\MIT classes lead and designed by Harvard\MIT professors.. for FREE!
  • iTunes U - recorded presentations from leading universities
  • Never stop learning...
Over time, I try to think of concepts that either helped me land my first job, or things that would have helped me grow my career over time.  In the end, none of these items above are quick wins or silver bullets, they're really just several individual concepts that can help you round out your career and professionalism over time, but the sum total is worth more than it's individual parts.  Hope this helps!

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