As May approaches, graduations happen all over the U.S. and thousands of new grads will receive their diplomas, toss their caps in the air, and dream about that first job. Unfortunately for many, that dream will not be reality. Over the last 17 years, I’ve worked with many newbies in the IT field, and as I look back on the success I have had in helping them find work, three characteristics ring true.
- Get Experience – Most of us have seen “The Secret of My Success”, when Michael J. Fox defends his lack of experience by saying, “how can I get experience if no one will give me a job to get me that experience?” Well, there ARE ways to get experience. The #1 way I have seen success is from internships. This is huge with IT candidates. Working in a professional environment and gaining expertise from others, and being able to add that to your resume is priceless. If you cannot get a paid internship, get an unpaid one. It will pay you back later. Lastly, if you cannot get an internship – volunteer. I have had people develop databases for charity organizations, churches, sports teams, etc. Get creative. Find a one-man computer repair shop and offer to work free side by side the owner and all you ask is the ability to ask a lot of questions, get your hands a little dirty, and receive a good written recommendation at the end of apprenticeship.
- Be Flexible – This is HUGE. I recently had a client call me wanting help filling two helpdesk position. Pretty easy fill actually. But they were on the third shift, working some weekends. That’s a little trickier. I cannot tell you how many candidates we called that were unemployed, but would not consider third shift. We ended up submitting two candidates, and both were hired. The interesting thing was this is one of the most reputable firms in the area, and at a salary $15,000 above industry average. The two candidates are now hooked up. They are getting corporate experience that will ensure a bright career. I had another client that needed help installing new desktops at very isolated locations all over the State. There was lots of travel, the work was very demanding, and they had to carpool as a team to save money and stay in hotels overnight. A few entry level people quit, or said they were not interested. The ones that stayed got hired by the client full time, or I have placed them with other clients because the references and work ethic were so solid. Also, be flexible with pay. Use a recruiter that you trust and ask his/her opinion of the going rate, and accept it as long as it is in line with what you are doing. You have to pay your dues. Pay them knowing that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
- Be Passionate – This is twofold. Be passionate about yourself and what you do! I am interviewing right now for an entry level support technician job. I interviewed “Sam” yesterday. He came in disheveled, no resume, and because there was not a whole lot of real world experience to talk about, I just talked about why Sam chose IT in school. He actually had a hard time answering this and eventually somewhat chuckled and said, “I hear you can make decent money and my friends were in the same major.” Trust me…this is not an isolated occurrence. I then interviewed “Nick.” Nick came in, pressed slacks, button down (I actually request no suits), had his resume in a binder, was 10 minutes early. The guy was passionate before I even asked my first question. When asked the same questions, he went on to talk about keeping up with CNET daily, installing Linux on his home computer, and understanding a few command lines, had built a home network. He went on to say how he was in the Criminal Justice program, but quickly switched because his whole life he had been taking computers apart and was the “go-to” guy for all of his friends and family’s computer issues, and gave me specific examples. Technical Support was what he wanted to do. It was his passion. I could tell and it got ME excited about helping him!
I firmly believe these three tips can absolutely be the golden ticket to help any new grad land their first career opportunity. Nick is in his final stage of interviews with a Fortune 100 Client. Sam was not selected to continue. Good luck to all the new grads as you embark on such an incredible journey. Please feel free to let the Triumph Team know if we can ever help you as you search for your first IT gig (or your last), or if we can help you fill an IT position with a lower cost candidate with a little experience and a bright future!