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How to Break into Entry-Level IT Roles

Feb 4, 2020

No IT experience? No problem! Recent degree and certification earners might find their job search daunting and career switchers might have to face an adjustment period, but there's no need to fret. Breaking into entry-level IT roles just means trying new approaches and applying some outside-the-box thinking. With the following strategies, you can crack the code and secure your first job in the IT space.

1. Escape the no-experience cycle.

Bulking up your résumé when you're just starting out is easier said than done, but breaking out of the "You can't get a job unless you have experience!" cycle is possible with some creativity. Essentially, you'll need to redefine what experience means.

Further Reading: Successful IT careers begin with these skills.

Thankfully, work experience isn't limited to gainful employment. You might not need to look any further than your college campus to find experiences that can beef up your résumé, enhance your skill set and expand your circle of contacts in the field. Participate in campus coding groups or volunteer your tech wizardry for a college-approved club. Earn certifications from technology and coding organizations and highlight these on the job applications you submit. Apply for internships. Your initiative and your plump résumé might just impress your next boss.

2. To get hired, go where the jobs are.

After acquiring your first résumé-building experiences, it's time to focus your job search on high-need areas. LinkedIn and WGU's study on the cybersecurity field, for example, found that there are shortages of qualified workers in many U.S. regions; there are more than 15,000 job postings in Washington, D.C., for example, and only half that many cybersecurity professionals in the area to fill them. There were also more than twice the job openings than professionals in major hubs such as New York City, Baltimore, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. Entry-level IT jobs—such as data center technician, systems administrator, and network security engineer—are also booming in places such as Denver and New York City.

To find positions in high-need locations, new grads should try a combination of old-school and modern outreach methods. Start by searching Kompass, DexKnows, or BizWiki for IT-friendly businesses in your target regions, then reach out to professionals at those businesses for informational interviews. You might even want to reach out directly to a hiring manager to inquire about a job posting.

LinkedIn is also a good place to start a job search. You can make connections with hiring managers and other gatekeepers in your target cities. Networking online is a great way to connect to people who matter—just remember to be polite and offer value before asking for any favors. You can also tap your university resources—such as career counselors, resource groups, and career guides—for help navigating the job market.

3. Promote your career by promoting yourself.

While you're pivoting toward high-need areas, you can also build yourself up in your chosen niche. Let's say you want to get an entry-level IT job in the cybersecurity field in Baltimore. You can write a weekly blog centered around IT issues in that area, or post relevant material on LinkedIn or your other professional profiles. Getting involved in the scene in your desired area can help you learn more about the industry and make useful connections.

It's also a good idea to become an active member—and this means contributing useful content—on popular message boards and groups pertaining to your chosen IT niche. LinkedIn has many professional discussion groups, as do leading professional IT organizations like the Association of Independent Information Professionals, the IEEE Computer Society, the Technology Services Industry Association, the Association of Computer Engineers and Technicians, and the Computing Technology Industry Association. Becoming a member of a governing organization in your field helps show potential employers that you're invested in your industry. If you're able, attend conferences led by one of these organizations and use that opportunity to network with future colleagues.

4. Start the next chapter—or better yet, join one.

If you haven't joined a local IT-focused certification chapter, you're missing out on prime opportunities to network and discover essential resources for your burgeoning IT career. Among the most respected and well-known organizations in this space is (ISC)², which has chapters across the globe. If you really want to show some initiative, you can even apply to start your own (ISC)² chapter.

The benefits are manifold, according to (ISC)²: "Not only will you gain a sense of fellowship with colleagues in your profession, you will also be able to network and exchange ideas with fellow (ISC)² credential holders and other information security professionals in your local area." Whether you're exchanging tips of the trade at chapter meetings, assisting with industry events, or participating in community outreach projects, joining a local chapter could be your first step in vital network-building as you work towards your future IT career.

Just get started!

Now that you've learned the essentials of how to break into entry-level IT roles, it's time to put these ideas into action. The most successful job candidates are proactive networkers and opportunity seekers. With the right attitude and tireless persistence, these strategies just might land you that first IT job faster than you ever imagined.

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