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For students who have, or are about to obtain their online information technology degree, getting that first job requires a little more than an excellent resume and high grade point average. As the old adage goes, "it's all about who you know," and having a few connections at your disposal will go a long way when entering the IT job market. Networking has long been one of the primary factors in building bridges to your desired career path, and making and maintaining professional contacts has never been more crucial. Effective networking is how graduate students can get their foot in the door for the job interview of their dreams, and will also set you apart from other potential work candidates in the eyes of employers. From receiving professional advice to building a quality list of references, here are some key networking tips for those aspiring to careers in information technology:
If you're not spending your college years getting out to every IT conference or function available, you're missing out on golden networking opportunities. Making the most out of your education means taking advantage of all the easy ways networking is made available to you as a student. First and foremost, this applies to your classes. If you're not on a first name basis with all your professors, you're not doing it right. You should be answering questions, as well as asking them, during every lesson to help make you stand out in every way possible. Ask your teachers about any advice they have for entering the IT job market, and odds are if you establish a good relationship with them, they'll be more inclined to have you use them as a reference for your resume.
Even if you don't think so, odds are that you already have a few connections in your arsenal of which you might be unaware. Ask your parents if they know anyone with experience in the IT world, or who can at least offer you further insight into what its like getting your foot into the door of a workplace. Reach out to them by explaining who you are and that you'd like to meet up for a cup of coffee to chat about entering the job market. More likely than not, you'll find that the smallest of connections may be able to lead to the biggest of references. Experienced office workers love to help out aspiring young professionals, and worse case scenario is that they don't respond to your email or phone call.
In addition to your family, make sure you're reaching out to friends to see if they know anyone who can help out as well. You never know if your best friend's cousin's aunt is the CEO for one of the leading IT businesses in the country, and no matter how much of a long shot a connection may appear, the fact that someone is mentioning your name to a IT professional already shows that you have their attention.
If you're struggling to find the right position for you in your job search, the answer may simply be that most businesses aren't posting them to the public. Greg Simpson, a Senior Vice President and Career Transition Practice Leader at Lee Hecht Harrison, works for a company that serves to fit employers with employees that best suit them. Simpson alludes networking is the primary way to land a job that you would have otherwise never found.
"The reality is that most job openings are never advertised or posted, which means tapping your network is an essential job search resource to uncover hidden opportunities," Simpson said in a press release. "In fact, 63 percent of job seekers land new jobs through networking. Developing a strong network and fruitful relationships takes real work. Individuals must be proactive and devote time to building and nurturing a strong career network of contacts."
All it takes is simple math to understand how the more people you have within your network, the higher probability you have of landing at least a job interview.
Social media has not only revolutionized 21st century communication, but has essentially changed the landscape of how young professionals are networking today. Many companies prefer applicants sending their resumes through sites such as LinkedIn or Google+, mainly because it allows them to see other people you're connected with online. The connections and references you build online can be just as important as the people you've met throughout your life. If you have built a strong social media following that is backed by multiple professional references, you'll definitely catch the attention of the IT employer you've been waiting for.
Western Governors University is a nonprofit, accredited, online university. WGU offers bachelor's and master's online degree programs in IT. Find out more about WGU's online degree programs in IT.
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