5 Ways to Gain Experience for Entry Level IT Positions

Photo courtesy of Flickr: bpsusf

Today I want to talk about entry level IT jobs and how you can break into the exciting world of Information Technology without having any previous "real world job experience". It is not always an easy path, but with the right tools, knowledge, and mindset, you can land that starting gig that will launch your dream career. Read on to find out how.

Let's face it in today's tough economy and job market, there is no such thing as an "entry level" position you may see jobs labeled that way on popular career websites or in the Sunday paper, but there are several factors that make this job description somewhat of a white lie.

For starters, because the IT job market is so tight in certain areas (there are boom and growth areas where this is not always the case), you will be facing stiff competition for experienced IT pros who find it necessary to apply for entry level IT jobs it is just an unfortunate fact of life.

Another problem is that employers looking to find a cheap programmer or network admin will label the job as "entry level" with the hopes of luring in applicants that would accept lower pay. Once you land the gig, however, you find that the level of knowledge and work your new employer expects is far from "no experience required".

Because of these and other issues, you should really shape yourself and create ways to get experience without having to actually be paid for it. Below is a brief list of five methods you can use to show that you have the skills to pay those bills!

College Internships

One of the easiest and most used ways newbie IT job seekers use to get experience is to take on an internship. Many degrees even require you have to have a semester or two of an internship, but if not, you can always call up local tech companies and offer your services. Unfortunately, not all internships are paid (some are, and some actually pay pretty well). If that is the case, you may have to lean on mom and pop for a little extra cash while you rack up the experience, or use your student loan as a cushion. In the end, the begging and groveling will pay off in dividends. Your guidance/career counselor can help you find an internship program that is right for you, or you could use a website like Internships.com to seek one out.

Charitable Causes

Donating your services to charitable causes is not only a great way to build your skills and develop real world experience; it is also a nice thing to do and looks really impressive on a resume. How much of a jerk can you be if you built a website for a local dog rescue, right?

Again, you probably won't get paid for your time, but the line on your resume and the built-up karma is priceless.

To find worthy charitable causes, search the paper, call up local churches, hit the Yellow Pages, or check out sites like VolunteerMatch.org.

Write and They Shall Come

A lot of programmers, and IT professionals from practically every field, eventually turn to writing in a blog, journal, or even publishing a book at some point. In addition to lining their pockets with gold, getting published adds prestige to your resume and makes you look like an authority in your chosen field.

You can steal a page from this book (see what I did there?) and start your own tech blog or submit articles for publication to tech magazines and e-zines. Heck, you can even try to write for the tech section of your local newspaper. You'll be surprised how many doors open and how many e-mails you will receive from eager employers once your writing starts appearing for the world to see.

College Placement Departments

This is a no-brainer after all, what is the purpose of a college placement department if not to find you a job after you have graduated (or even before). A lot of employers post jobs with colleges in hopes of finding cheap workers.

Be aware that the competition may be stiff and you might find yourself battling it out in a bloody grudge war with some of your old classmates.

Start Your Own Business

Finally, there is nothing that says you cannot start your own business. Aside from gaining a lot of experience that way, who knows, you may become a big shot like Bill Gates. Just be sure that you are up-front with potential clients, and expect to do a job or two for free to build up your portfolio. And remember, these are building blocks that will hopefully one day pay off in the form of a giant Lego mansion.

These are just a few of the ways you can get one of those entry level IT jobs you keep hearing so much about. There are other great resources as well, such as this piece, offering advice on targeting small firms for entry level jobs.

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