Your First Job in IT

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It can seem daunting to try and get your first job in the IT sector. With the essential information and a good strategy, this process can be made simpler and easier and it will not be long before you are on your way to a rewarding and satisfying IT career.

Jeremy Dargie, the Director of ITonlinelearning, has many years of experience in the recruitment industry and knows first-hand what recruiters are looking for when hiring IT staff. Here we will take a look at some of the things that you need to know in order to successfully gain your first job in IT.

Gaining first time employment in IT is not always easy. Many times people get frustrated when applying for numerous positions in IT and not progressing even far enough to be called in for an interview. However, there are usually very valid reasons behind this and these can be overcome.

What work will you be doing in your first IT job?

The most common entry level positions in IT are IT Support, 1st Line Support and Helpdesk roles. In these roles you will be generally be working as a part of an IT team which supports the company’s workforce. It is also sometimes the case that you could work for a company that supports external clients and their IT Support needs. These roles entail assisting users with their IT issues and you will need to be able to solve hardware, software, operating system, network and access problems. You will be required to troubleshoot the technical issues and support users in a professional environment.

Even in these entry level roles, you will need to have a high level of knowledge and be able to work in an effective and professional manner. This is one of the many reasons to pursue your IT studies through a reputable learning institution – to ensure that you start your IT career on a solid foundation.

What recruiters are looking for on your CV

Recruitment is a very costly and time consuming event for organisations so they are obviously always on the look-out for ways in which to streamline and reduce the process. As much as a quarter of the offered annual salary for a position can be spent on the hiring process; it is therefore in the best interest of the company to ensure that the endeavour is worthwhile and that time is not wasted on candidates who are not suitable for the position.

Experience Is Not Necessity

When recruiting for entry level positions, the recruiters and hiring organisation will not be as focused on experience as they would be for more advanced job roles. Although experience will almost always be an added advantage, it is not usually a necessity when applying for your first job in IT. It is important, however, to remember that a candidate who is able to start performing productively in their role from the onset, will be favoured over the rest.

Improve Your Theoretical Knowledge

To be able to be a productive member of an IT team from the onset, it is necessary to have as much theoretical knowledge as possible. The way to achieve this is through dedicated studies via a reputable learning institution that offers officially accredited IT courses. More and more organisations are choosing to spend their IT training budgets on mid- to upper-level IT staff that have already proven themselves within the company. It is a very expensive decision to spend months training an entry-level team member only to discover that they are not right for the position after all.

Investing in high quality training will not only prove that you are equipped with the required theoretical knowledge, but it will also demonstrate an eagerness to learn and to improve your skills and knowledge. This will set you apart from those candidates without any recognised certifications and qualifications.

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How to make your CV stand out

Although job adverts usually provide a reasonable amount of information regarding what is required for the position, there are some things that may not be in black and white, yet still focused on in the minds of those who will be making the decision on which candidate to hire for the role. Often these are the same, or similar, regardless of the organisation. Some of the common traits that are looked for when recruiting staff for an IT team are:

• The ability to work well within a team environment
• Professionalism and good communication skills
• Good level of problem-solving and troubleshooting abilities
• Good listening skills
• Easy to manage
• Passionate about the IT industry
• Eager to learn about new technologies

Given that your CV is the gateway to securing an interview, it is important to convey these traits to the person who will be reading it.

Think Like A Recruiter

When compiling your CV it is helpful to try and place yourself in the position of the recruiter and supply the information that they will be most likely to look for in a candidate. It is vitally important to ensure that your CV is well written, well structured and easy to read. When confronted with large amounts of candidates for an available position, the recruiters will often scan read a CV to see if it “checks any of their boxes” in order to determine if that candidate is potentially viable. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that your CV is not only easy to read but clearly highlights the most important features.

Invest In Your Introduction

Given that you are applying for your first IT job in an entry-level position, experience will not be a highlighted factor. This means that your introduction paragraph will be more important and it is the perfect place to demonstrate your passion for IT, excellent communication skills and any studying that you have done. Be positive and sincere and try to add a degree of uniqueness to your CV by not simply filling in a template like a form. It is also good practice to try and align the information supplied in your CV with what the potential employer has stated they are looking for in a new IT team member.

IT is a career and employers are not looking for staff whose passion lies elsewhere. It is imperative to demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm about the IT industry and that you view it as a long-term career prospect. This will instil confidence in the recruiter that you will be willing to learn and grow within the organisation.

A section which is often overlooked when writing a CV is the section that can tell a potential employer a lot about you as a person. In this section you should list your achievements and your interests and hobbies. At the very beginning of an IT career, your achievements may not necessarily be related to the IT field (although they could be achievements earned during your studies) but these are still relevant as they help a recruiter to ascertain that you are likely to prove to be a valuable employee. Hobbies and interests will give the recruiter a wider view of you in a personal capacity and this is also a good place to demonstrate your interest in IT. It is, however, important to carefully consider what you list as your hobbies. Stating that you party and watch TV will not create a good initial impression on any recruiter or potential employer.

The Magic Ingredient

It is a fact that the IT industry is one that is constantly changing. Advancements in technology mean that it is an ever-evolving field and thus it is important to be truly passionate about IT. In order to have a successful IT career it is essential to be willing and enthusiastic about keeping your skills up to date and following the changes in technology.

There is very little guesswork in the IT environment and this means that it is essential to gain the theoretical knowledge required to perform your role in an effective and efficient manner. Given the many specialisations that are required in IT teams, there is no doubt that it is a profession that requires the correct and appropriate knowledge from those who wish to pursue it. To ensure that you give your career the best chance at success, you need to invest in your career in the form of the necessary qualifications and certifications.

You Don’t Need a Degree

The good news is that beginning a career in IT does not take a university degree or several years of study. It is also not as costly as one might assume. It is quite realistic to gain the certifications that you need within just a few months and with options to suit all budgets. Although you may already feel an affinity towards a certain area within the IT field, it is also quite possible to begin your career with a few foundation level qualifications and then decide on a specialised area of interest once you have a working knowledge and more in-depth experience of the industry.

Foundation Level Certifications

The ideal IT Technician courses from which to launch your new IT career would be:

CompTIA A+ : You will learn about hardware, software, components, operating systems and how to troubleshoot and support users in a professional manner.

CompTIA Network+: You will gain a solid foundation level knowledge of networking which is highly beneficial in all IT environments.

Certifications Provide Validation

Gaining these internationally recognised certifications will send a very strong, positive message to potential employers. They will show that not only are you interested in a career in IT, but also that you are serious about a long-term future in the industry. These certifications will also validate to recruiters that you have the knowledge and skills necessary to perform the role in a productive and appropriate manner with a solid theoretical basis. This makes you very appealing to organisations as you will be considered a far lower employment risk than someone without the qualifications to demonstrate their abilities. The importance and benefits of official certifications cannot be emphasised enough when looking for your first job in IT.

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