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Building experience - how to find a way into the IT field

guarguar Registered User regular
edited August 2009 in Help / Advice Forum
First a little background: I graduated from college a little under a year ago. Following that, I took a trip up to NY to stay with some family that turned into an extended visit through September of last year. After returning home, my dad let me move in with him under the condition that I find a job and move out before September of this year. It took me a while, but I managed to find something, albeit part-time, back in May. About a month after, I moved out and into an apartment, which I'm sharing with my sister until she heads off to college in January.

Now I'm trying to find something more suited to my degree. Obviously, I'm not making nearly enough to offset my expenses, so I need to find something that pays better and can offer me more hours. The problem I seem to be having is that while I have a degree, I lack any experience to compliment it. I can't find anything for an entry level position or contractor work that includes training. I've tried, off and on, to apply to Lowe's corporate, as their new headquarters is located literally within walking distance of where I am right now, but I've been consistently turned down. I tried a place located in Charleston, SC around the time I graduated, but again was turned down. From then to now, I have had zero leads. No interviews, nothing.

I'm signed up at a couple job posting sites and I check a few others almost daily, but things are not looking up. Being stuck at a part-time job with crappy hours, where everything I make goes to paying bills, the entire situation is frustrating. What can I do, what should I be doing, to better my chances at finding a job?

guar on

Posts

  • PirateJonPirateJon Registered User regular
    edited August 2009
    Hi, I'm jon, and I'm in IT. Been away a while as I moved from Charleston (where the IT market essentially is non-existent) to DC.

    1) bad timing. the job market is tight as hell, I've heard 50-100 qualified applicants per position. I've seen PhD's applying for helpdesk stuff. I'm not trying to discourage you, just let you know what's up and reassure you it's not just you.

    2) Beef up the resume. Many places could use volunteer IT people which means free experience for you. Also I see no mention of certifications. They are almost essential to getting you in for an interview as typically the HR people are clueless about the 1's and 0's so they look for keywords like MCSE or A+. Adding one or more can only help.

    3) Get Linux skills. OSS is the future of many IT shops and being able to list bind or sendmail or apache can only help you stand out.

    PirateJon on
    all perfectionists are mediocre in their own eyes
  • MisterGrokMisterGrok Registered User regular
    edited August 2009
    Get with technical temp agencies like TekSystems, Robert Half Tech, and Eastridge Infotech. A lot of these companies get positions that don't even get listed online; the company I work for hires almost exclusively through Eastridge for example. Some of them also offer resources for training new skills or towards the aforementioned certifications.

    MisterGrok on
    GamerTag: aintnodancer
  • underdonkunderdonk __BANNED USERS regular
    edited August 2009
    PirateJon wrote: »
    1) bad timing. the job market is tight as hell, I've heard 50-100 qualified applicants per position. I've seen PhD's applying for helpdesk stuff. I'm not trying to discourage you, just let you know what's up and reassure you it's not just you.

    This sounds like a huge exaggeration of how "bad" things are. Things aren't great, but things aren't bad. At my place of employment, we recently had a new management team come in and clean house. They got rid of a lot of the dead weight from IT. Every one of the people they booted was able to find employment within two to three weeks in the same area... and we're not in an area that is a hot-bed for the IT industry by any means. Bottom line, if you are willing to move where the work is, you will be able to find something quite easily.

    This is the type of post where I generally say, "Congratulations on getting your degree. Now go get some certifications and experience, as they actually mean something in IT." That's really not far from the truth. A college degree, which is a good thing to have, isn't going to count for a whole lot in the technical areas of the IT field unless you're academics or research (and both of those usually require advanced degrees). Start doing the certification dance (they will get your foot in the door) and get some good experience under your belt (it will keep your foot in the door).

    Good luck!

    underdonk on
    Back in the day, bucko, we just had an A and a B button... and we liked it.
  • TomantaTomanta Registered User regular
    edited August 2009
    Go to the temp agencies and apply for any technical support/help desk position you see while working on certifications. Underdonk is entirely right, in IT a degree does little more than look good on your resume (and it does look good). Experience is king, but in order to GET experience you need certifications. With A+ / Network+ you should be able to get a help desk job without too much trouble (you might be able to without them, too, but I'd still grab 'em), and both are easy. From there decide what path you want to take and start working on certs in that area while looking for jobs in that area as well.

    But when you go for a certification be sure you know the material and don't get ahead of yourself (you don't need the CCIE before you've ever held a networking position!).

    Tomanta on
  • ErandusErandus Registered User
    edited August 2009
    What's your degree in? And what sort of jobs are you applying for? Helpdesk & break/fix? Sys admin? Coding?

    Erandus on
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
  • 3lwap03lwap0 Registered User regular
    edited August 2009
    I'm not sure how my story can help you get a job right now, but it's how I got into the IT field, and maybe it can help you plan something out.


    Basically, I dropped out of college to work a 6 month contract putting PBX servers together for prison systems. Really, it was marginally computer related at best. Sure, some servers were involved, but I didn't configure or do much with them - I was more of a hardware monkey.

    When that contract ended, I took what little experience i'd gleaned from it, and threw it into my resume. From there, I went into a few short contracts, less than a month really, of setting up new PC's, or doing hardware migrations. Once I'd finished those, more contracts started opening up to me, and eventually, many years later, I'm working for a big defense contractor, pulling down damn decent dollars.

    During most of those contracts, there were gaps. A week, a month, sometimes longer. Those were lean times for me, sleeping on friends couches, always on the hunt for a new contract to hop on - but I wouldn't trade them for anything. I got exposed to a very wide variety of gear, skills, and environments, and everything I did, no matter how short a contract, ended up on my resume. It was a gravel scratch living, I'm not gonna lie. It's tough to find consistent work as a contractor in certain regional areas (mine was Alabama, round the gulf coast). Areas with bigger cities, like D.C. or L.A. are certain to have more you can sink your teeth into - but at my time, it wasn't much, but I took what I could find. I eventually relocated to Baltimore, and the contracting jobs up here are fairly plentiful (if you have a security clearance).

    Things seem easier to me know, than when I started out. There are plenty of entry level help desk and geek jobs. You've got Firedog, Geeksquad, and more local PC/AV shops that can start you off with something, and if you've demonstrated a bit of PC/Network talent, than a contracting gig as a Tier 1 helpdesk at any company that'll hire you, is a solid deal, and probably much better than Geeksquadish type gigs. The important thing is to 1) Make sure you got bread on the table to pay bills and eat, and 2) Make sure your contracts can help you grow as an up and coming IT professional. If the opportunity comes along for something new (servers, OSS, programming), sink your teeth into and learn. That might help you land the next contract you'll need.

    After a while in the entry level field, you'll need to start considering further education. Certifications are always a winner - MCSE, Comptia, Cisco - those are the ones i'd look at. They aren't easy, but worth it in terms of fleshing out a resume, and increasing your earning potential. Some jobs may require those certifications before you can even start - some PC repair shops require at a minimum, an A+, mostly for insurance purposes (and it proves you know a little).


    Edit: What should you be doing? If I were you, i'd start pounding pavement. Apply to Geeksquad, or whoever will hire you. Find every temp agency in the phonebook, and start calling. You'll need an up to date resume, and no matter how insignificant, put down everything IT related you've ever done. Start putting it out there to them, and tell them you're seeking entry level work. Some of the bigger agency's I worked with in my early career were Mantech, Manpower Professional, Aerotek, call them up, and even if they don't have an open contract, give them your resume, and then stay in touch with periodic phone calls.

    If you find yourself with down time, find an up to date (not all are) A+/N+ book, and start cracking the books. Set a test date, pony up some cash, and take some tests. A certification could make or break landing some contracts, flat out. Not to mention, it makes you way more attractive to a contracting agency, because that means they can bill you for money to a client - a little concept called business acumen. Whle it may not land you serious $$, it'll keep you gainfully employed, which is our goal here. Good luck man.

    3lwap0 on
    I think Pringles original intention was to make tennis balls... but on the day the rubber was supposed to show up a truckload of potatoes came. Pringles is a laid-back company, so they just said, "Fuck it, cut em up!".
  • Jimmy KingJimmy King Registered User regular
    edited August 2009
    Your first job is probably going to be entry level help desk on the phones. If you're lucky, you might get to do hands on stuff.

    As has been mentioned, get in contact with the various recruiters. For large, nationwide ones my recommendations are TekSystems and Apex Systems. I personally would avoid Robert Half. They are by far the shadiest and least organized firm I have ever attempted to work with in an industry (recruiting, not IT) which tends to be a bit shady by nature (These are not technical people, they are sales people. They are trying to sell you on the job as much as sell you to the job and will treat you as such).

    Get some hands on experience. What is it you are looking to do long term, exactly? Be a developer? Then start writing your own programs for fun right now. Sys admin? Set up a server or two at your house, then shell out some money for a dedicated server for VPS in a data center and set up a publicly accessible server of some sort such as a web server. When I was starting out, it was possible I was going to go either way, so I started renting a dedicated Linux server. I configured everything, Apache, Bind, Postfix, etc. and began to use it for a small IRC network where I host an IRCD and their website and provided DNS for awhile. I also use it for my own software development projects as an SVN server and to host any web based apps that I develop.

    Are you willing to move? There may be better areas for you. I bitch about the job market here in Richmond, Va quite a bit, but it is great for entry level IT work, or was back when I was doing that. There are a lot of large companies here with fairly large help desks for internal PC/network support, plus staff for hands on desktop support all the way up through real sys admins and developers. Many of those companies are nearly constantly hiring because they use contractors who are kept on for 1 to 2 years (depending on the company and the whims of management at the time) and so are constantly rotating through entry level employees. These are large companies like Capital One, Bank of America (unless they've outsourced again, they try every few years and bring it back in house with local contractors), Qimonda (previously part of Infineon and my favorite place to work of the big corps. I have been at), First Union, etc. These places hire anyone with a hint of PC knowledge for their level 1 support (or did when I was doing it) and will jump at the chance to hire someone who actually has a clue and the ability to understand what they are doing beyond just reading off of a script. Corporate help desks actually want good employees, unlike a lot of public facing support. They want someone who can get the other employees back up and running quickly so that they aren't paying those people to sit around doing nothing.

    If moving is a possibility, I can also hook you up with good, relatively non-shady recruiters in the Richmond area.

    Jimmy King on
  • ErandusErandus Registered User
    edited August 2009
    I have had positive experience working with people from Modis as well. I used to work for Robert Half, and I cannot recommend them with a clear conscience. I don't feel they had my best interests in mind. They did have a marginally acceptable insurance plan, at least, which you don't get from all contracting services.

    Erandus on
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
  • ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    edited August 2009
    underdonk wrote: »
    PirateJon wrote: »
    1) bad timing. the job market is tight as hell, I've heard 50-100 qualified applicants per position. I've seen PhD's applying for helpdesk stuff. I'm not trying to discourage you, just let you know what's up and reassure you it's not just you.

    This sounds like a huge exaggeration of how "bad" things are. Things aren't great, but things aren't bad. At my place of employment, we recently had a new management team come in and clean house. They got rid of a lot of the dead weight from IT. Every one of the people they booted was able to find employment within two to three weeks in the same area... and we're not in an area that is a hot-bed for the IT industry by any means. Bottom line, if you are willing to move where the work is, you will be able to find something quite easily.

    This is the type of post where I generally say, "Congratulations on getting your degree. Now go get some certifications and experience, as they actually mean something in IT." That's really not far from the truth. A college degree, which is a good thing to have, isn't going to count for a whole lot in the technical areas of the IT field unless you're academics or research (and both of those usually require advanced degrees). Start doing the certification dance (they will get your foot in the door) and get some good experience under your belt (it will keep your foot in the door).

    Good luck!
    The reason they found jobs in 2-3 weeks is because your area isn't a hotbed of the IT industry. I'm in Seattle right now, and with the layoffs at Microsoft and other companies, it absolutely is that bad.

    Thanatos on
  • JasconiusJasconius sword criminal mad onlineRegistered User regular
    edited August 2009
    I will second Robert Half Tech. I've worked on contracts through them before and they treat you reasonably well, and yeah, they do actually keep track of you and are on the lookout for you. Which is nice, since it sucks to check Monster every day.

    Jasconius on
  • ErandusErandus Registered User
    edited August 2009
    Jasconius wrote: »
    I will second Robert Half Tech. I've worked on contracts through them before and they treat you reasonably well, and yeah, they do actually keep track of you and are on the lookout for you. Which is nice, since it sucks to check Monster every day.

    I ah... I'm not exactly sure anyone officialy first'd them. I would obviously work for them if it was RHI or no job at all, but if my choice was RHI and any other company, I would probably work for any other company.

    Erandus on
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
  • JasconiusJasconius sword criminal mad onlineRegistered User regular
    edited August 2009
    Grok mentioned them. And that was the entire point. Between no company and RHI, go with RHI.

    I don't think anyone would dispute that. I would never work for RHI as my main job, but if it's all you have, or you need supplemental income, it's pretty decent.

    Jasconius on
  • 3lwap03lwap0 Registered User regular
    edited August 2009
    Jimmy King wrote: »
    Your first job is probably going to be entry level help desk on the phones. If you're lucky, you might get to do hands on stuff.

    As has been mentioned, get in contact with the various recruiters. For large, nationwide ones my recommendations are TekSystems and Apex Systems.

    Shit, I forgot a bout TekSystems. They were one of the better ones I worked for - they always did right by me. If you're in the south, I can recommend some good recruiters down there.

    And, to emphasize some good points Jimmy made, recruiters are salesmen. They will take the flimsiest resume, and submit it for a ton of positions, hoping that one of them scoops you up. They don't get paid until you get hired, so it's in their interests to get you into someone's door, preferably fast. The downside is that recruiters are the corporate version of used cars salesmen. Until you get hired, and are collecting a paycheck, you can't really trust them at their word. The resume you gave them, that they submit, is bundled with 10-20 other resume's. So any assurances that "Oh, they'll totally hire you." isn't worth the paper it may or may not be written on. This is why you make sure your resume is with every IT staffing/contracting company you can find.

    Some of the shadier IT staffing/contracting firms will even use supplied references for professional verification, and then solicit them for further contracting work, which is pretty fucking sleazy. So make sure you watch your ass when you step into the staffing/contracting world.

    3lwap0 on
    I think Pringles original intention was to make tennis balls... but on the day the rubber was supposed to show up a truckload of potatoes came. Pringles is a laid-back company, so they just said, "Fuck it, cut em up!".
  • guarguar Registered User regular
    edited August 2009
    Thanks for the tips and advice everyone. If I'm to pursue a couple certifications, something like A+ would be a good first step? What are some good resources for studying for them?
    Erandus wrote: »
    What's your degree in? And what sort of jobs are you applying for? Helpdesk & break/fix? Sys admin? Coding?

    My major was computer science, which doesn't stand for much. We had a heavy emphasis on Java, though I'm not inclined to go that route. I'm not exactly the best at optimizing my code. What I'd prefer, and the type of positions I usually apply for, are DBA or system admin. I took a course in each and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I just finished a simple PHP/MySQL project, with loads of help from the tech forum, probably about a month ago.

    And I do have Linux experience, though very limited. We worked a little with Red Hat in the system admin course, and I did a short research study my last semester involving MPI and a set of EEE netbooks (which use Xandros).

    guar on
  • PirateJonPirateJon Registered User regular
    edited August 2009
    guar wrote: »
    What I'd prefer, and the type of positions I usually apply for, are DBA or system admin. I took a course in each and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

    Dude, no wonder you're not getting called back. You have wildly over-estimated how important those classes were. You are applying for business critical positions and have zero experience. I would round file your resume too.

    If you can find a jr DBA or sysadmin, great you may be able to get in somewhere as you'll be cheap, but every place I've worked prefers to promote helpdesk people to those positions as you have a known quality. That said, with an Oracle or SQL cert and a college degree some contractor / consultant agency will hire you. I'd hate to be their client, but I've seen it more than once.

    PirateJon on
    all perfectionists are mediocre in their own eyes
  • ErandusErandus Registered User
    edited August 2009
    guar wrote: »
    My major was computer science, which doesn't stand for much. We had a heavy emphasis on Java, though I'm not inclined to go that route. I'm not exactly the best at optimizing my code. What I'd prefer, and the type of positions I usually apply for, are DBA or system admin.

    "Computer Science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes." --Edsger Dijkstra

    This is one of my favorite quotes ever. I took a bunch of comp sci classes, I currently work as a sys admin, and I can easily say that my MCSE training was infinitely more useful to me in this line of work than my comp sci education.

    If you're going DBA or Sys Admin routes, make sure you tailor your resume to really pump up those portions. The comp sci degree in general will lend itself more to the DBA work, but it should certainly help with either. If you're really interested in a quick bandaid on your sys admin credentials, I would suggest looking into Microsoft's workstation & server OS courses. You don't "need" a full blown MCSE to land a sys admin position, regardless what the job listing states they require. You can get an MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional) by completing any single course under the MCSE package, and that would look excellent on a resume as well as push your qualifications in line with or above some ISP call center monkey.

    Erandus on
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
  • GanluanGanluan Registered User regular
    edited August 2009
    Maybe it's just me, but my Computer Systems Engineering degree (which was like a mix of CS and some EE) was directly relevant to my job, which is developing enterprise software applications. Maybe it's because this was a few years ago now, but I went directly into a developer position. There are still a lot of openings in this area for competent developers as well.

    I consistently see people coming in for interviews without degrees (but with certifications) that cannot answer even the most basic questions about design fundamentals.

    It sounds like you're veering away from what you studied a bit - being a DBA or Sys Admin requires certain knowledge that is not normally provided in a CS degree, especially if you are working with enterprise-level systems. They are also fields that a certification can really help you with, unlike software development. I would find out what nearby jobs tend to use (whether it's MySQL, MSSQL, Oracle, etc) and either get an entry-level cert or bust your ass with a real side project you can provide to employers.

    Ganluan on
  • ErandusErandus Registered User
    edited August 2009
    A computer degree is relevant to an app developer position. It's just not to a sys admin. Universities really don't teach the sorts of things that help desk & sys admin require. Some are starting to catch up with the times a little.

    Erandus on
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
  • GanluanGanluan Registered User regular
    edited August 2009
    Erandus wrote: »
    A computer degree is relevant to an app developer position. It's just not to a sys admin. Universities really don't teach the sorts of things that help desk & sys admin require. Some are starting to catch up with the times a little.

    Yes, I agreed with you in the second half of my post :P

    Ganluan on
  • DeebaserDeebaser on my way to work in a suit and a tie Ahhhh...come on fucking guyRegistered User regular
    edited August 2009
    guar wrote: »
    Thanks for the tips and advice everyone. If I'm to pursue a couple certifications, something like A+ would be a good first step? What are some good resources for studying for them?
    Erandus wrote: »
    What's your degree in? And what sort of jobs are you applying for? Helpdesk & break/fix? Sys admin? Coding?

    My major was computer science, which doesn't stand for much. We had a heavy emphasis on Java, though I'm not inclined to go that route. I'm not exactly the best at optimizing my code. What I'd prefer, and the type of positions I usually apply for, are DBA or system admin. I took a course in each and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I just finished a simple PHP/MySQL project, with loads of help from the tech forum, probably about a month ago.

    And I do have Linux experience, though very limited. We worked a little with Red Hat in the system admin course, and I did a short research study my last semester involving MPI and a set of EEE netbooks (which use Xandros).

    Lower your sights. Not that many companies are going to hire a DBA fresh out of college. Try your hand at reporting analyst or data analyst or a more entry level role where you will get experience, but you aren't on the job training in an area where you can essentially cripple the company.

    You should have the sufficient skills to write/understand/modify queries. It will also give you some practical experience with addressing actual buisiness data problems and documentation.

    Deebaser on
  • DeebaserDeebaser on my way to work in a suit and a tie Ahhhh...come on fucking guyRegistered User regular
    edited August 2009
    PirateJon wrote: »
    guar wrote: »
    What I'd prefer, and the type of positions I usually apply for, are DBA or system admin. I took a course in each and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

    Dude, no wonder you're not getting called back. You have wildly over-estimated how important those classes were. You are applying for business critical positions and have zero experience. I would round file your resume too.

    If you can find a jr DBA or sysadmin, great you may be able to get in somewhere as you'll be cheap, but every place I've worked prefers to promote helpdesk people to those positions as you have a known quality. That said, with an Oracle or SQL cert and a college degree some contractor / consultant agency will hire you. I'd hate to be their client, but I've seen it more than once.

    Wow. I could have just limed this post instead of responding. Those aren't entry level positions. Hell, personally i don't even think DBA Associate is an entry level position.

    If you don't have a proven track record of success, stay the fuck away from my servers. If someone on my team tries to run a query and my tables have been dropped by the 'new guy' I will murder your fucking face.

    Deebaser on
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