Guest post by MCP community member Matt Griffin, Technology Analyst @ Apparatus – originally posted on Born to Learn.
I’ve had many people ask about my jump from school into working full-time in IT so I’d like to give you 5 tips from my experience that will help you make the transition.
Work while in school. If this isn’t possible do hands on work in your spare time. Its college, I know you have spare time. I’ll start with the disclaimer that I am not a normal college student. I worked two degree-related jobs at the same time I was in school alongside studying. By doing this, I was able to hone in on the exact thing I wanted to do in IT. I realized web development was not for me as I enjoy the Managed Service aspect with client/servers a lot more. I could not be happier with the result, having taken that route through school. Over the years I learned the best thing you can do to achieve good grades in school (other than studying) is working with it hands-on, and when you are paid to work with it hands-on, it becomes a lot more enjoyable.
Network, network, network! For goodness sake, network! Now you will hear constantly while in school that the most important thing to do is network. They recommend that you go to career fairs and talk with recruiters; I personally can’t say anything specific about that because I never attended a career fair, but I do know a recruiter at my current company who hits career fairs very hard to find new students that are eager to work. The way I focused on networking was being involved at work, and I’ll be honest I didn’t do a very good job networking until my last year of school when I went to a Microsoft TechEd event on a grant from my Nina Mason Pulliam Scholarship. After I went to Tech Ed I got involved with The Krewe and met tons of great people who were invaluable assets not just as friends but as resources who help me if I run into a problem at work and have no idea what’s going on.
Get certified! Even if it is something minor it’ll show motivation. One thing that I thought was pointless at first was certifications. While I worked at University College Technology Services at IUPUI I had the opportunity to become certified by having a couple hours a week dedicated to study and they offered to pay for the exam. I’ll admit I never took this super seriously until a pay raise was involved because I figured I would just end up with a certificate that says I can do my job. Well that is exactly what it is and I never realized the value in that until I became certified and realized how many doors it opens in your employability. Once I passed my first exam, I was hooked. It became like a drug and I wanted to keep getting certifications. In fact, within the last two years I’ve passed 11 exams and I already have the next few exams I want to take lined up and just need to dedicate time to studying.
Make sure your resume is sound! Get advice from multiple people and take that advice. I did take writing my resume very seriously throughout college because I knew that was everyone’s first impression of me, so I always took feedback on my resume and improved it accordingly. I actually have to thank my current job to a class I took while in school for Career Enrichment. The class helped build resumes, work on interview skills and required I do a mock interview at a local company.
Be prepared to be interviewed at all times. In that Career Enrichment class, we also had to do a mock interview and I was lucky enough that in my mock interview I had enough experience and apparently good enough interview skills that I was asked to come in for an actual interview. A couple weeks later I became an Apparatus employee. I’ve thought about this experience many times and I guess my major take away from this is that you need to always be prepared to be in a real job interview even if it is just for a grade at the time. I don’t mean wear a suit everywhere but you need to be presentable and most importantly an advocate for yourself.