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Neo
7th June 2011, 11:05 PM
1. It is all about Customer Service Skills

I can not stress this point enough. Having good customer service skills puts one in an excellent position to kick start their IT career. A job in a call centre is an ideal way of getting your foot in the door to start your IT career, and a great part time job while you are at Uni/Tafe. While starting off on a IT help desk would be favourable (e.g. Telstra Bigpond technical support) it does not necessarily have to be an IT help desk. A call centre job in any company will allow you to learn the underlying business and prove yourself, and at the same time gain that vital experience that is so highly sort after in the IT field. Such a job positions you to move up (or sideways into the IT department) from your help desk/call centre role. The same concept applies to admin work - it is just as effective to get your foot in the door. To get these initial jobs, it is vital that you have good customer service skills.

Thankfully, customer service skills (and experience) are not all too hard to come by. Most of us would have had part time work through high school or university. In my case my part time work at a fast food restaurant through school was enough to land me a help desk job at an internet service provider. Never underestimate the ability to sell your customer service skills on something as simple as that.

2. Work on your communication skills (oral and written)

It still amazes me the number of times I'm told "For an IT guy you have really good communication skills" or "Wow, I'm surprised someone in IT can write so well". While it's somewhat stereotypical to assume that just because someone works in IT their communication skills will be poor, it is true to the extent that it is rare to find someone in this field who is an absolute technical genius in conjunction with having truly amazing communication skills. That is not to say that such a person does not exist, but rather, that it is a rare combination to find. As such, if such a person exists, any smart employer would snatch that person up quick.

The ability to explain technical concepts to non-technical people is something of a prerequisite these days for a career in IT. You will see this requirement listed for almost every IT job (just take a look at Seek or any other job search site). While some people find these skills come naturally, others have to work on it. There is a lot of good books on developing these skills if you are so inclined.

3. Network and Socialise

"Yes I know him I worked with him at my last job!" is a phrase I hear a lot in conversation these days. IT appears to be an industry where a few key players will have a significant impact on their respective fields. Likewise it is also an industry where people will tend to work a variety of different roles and hence move around quite a bit. There is a very good chance that you will encounter the people you work with at the start of your career again at a later stage of your career. IT is a field that at times can create the illusion that it is not what you know but who you know. Thus it is important to make yourself known and build a reputation, and make an effort to get to know as many people in your field as possible. Make sure they remember you (for all the right reasons of course!).

Likewise socialising is key. You may be great at your job but it is the ones that seem to get along well with everyone that get ahead quicker. It still amazes me how some people, who may not particularly got along too well with each other at work, can get along so well after work over a drink. For the outgoing people this all comes easy, others need to make an effort. This is an important aspect though, not only for the sake of networking, but also a fundamental key to enjoying your work.

4. Education is important, but experience is vital

If you are interested in IT you are probably already aware of the discussion forum Whirlpool. In the job forum I see so many posts asking about what certifications one should do to kick start a career in IT (Cisco, Microsoft etc.) or what course to do at Uni/Tafe. I have found that some of the most talented people in the IT field have almost zero qualifications and are experts in their field due to their vast experience (a learning by doing kind of approach). Albeit this is indeed quite rare. While I agree that it would be virtually impossible to grow your career in IT these days without Uni/Tafe qualifications and/or vendor certifications the point I want to make is that experience is still key when starting out. There have been recently numerous IT training programs offered by companies charging exorbitant amounts of money guaranteeing you a job in IT at the end of the program. Ironically most of these programs would simply put you into a call centre job afterwards anyway (if you were lucky). Avoid - apply for the call centre job yourself and save the money.

This is not to undermine the importance of education, it is without a doubt very important, and necessary these days to build your career in IT. It is important though to keep in mind the strong value of experience in this industry - after all if I was looking to fill a Desktop support role and had to choose between a person with a PhD in Network Engineering, with a vast array of vendor certifications but zero experience, and a person with a few Microsoft certifications and 5 years experience on a help desk - well, the person with the experience is going to get the job 90% of the time. Get the experience and exposure, and at the same time work hard on your education. Again a part time job in a help desk/call centre environment while you are studying is a great way to achieve this.

5. Diversify your skills at first, specialise later

This tends to occur somewhat naturally. When you start your IT career doing support type roles there is an expectation for you to be able to support an array of different systems, software etc. This generalist approach is important to getting jobs early in your career and is also a great way to learn - after all you want to increase your exposure to as many different things as possible to learn as much as you can. Once you have a solid foundation in IT and the career path seems to be clearing up is when you can start specialising. Hopefully by then you have had a taste of the various aspects of IT, and have decided on what it is you want to become an expert at. "Jack of all trades, master of none" is a phrase that I hear thrown around a bit in this industry. While you don't want that later on in your career, I genuinely believe diversification is beneficial when starting out. Be a sponge, and absorb all the knowledge you can.

Article Source: Online