You can find information technology jobs in every industry, because almost all industries need computer technology, software, and information storage to succeed. If you have the interest and aptitude, a career in IT holds a lot of possibilities.
IT is a compelling career choice because it often allows for flexible working arrangements, tends to have attractive salaries over time, and offers ongoing opportunity to develop your technical skills and knowledge across a range of specialties—for people with the right mindset, skills, and talent.
If you’ve got what it takes to be an IT professional, how do you break into the field? Here are five simple ways to get a foothold and then grow your IT career.
1. Get an education
While most technology careers require on-the-job training, employers look for college graduates—people who have demonstrated they have the basic set of skills necessary to pursue a technology career. Though not all IT jobs require a college degree, you’ll set yourself up for more opportunities for advancement over the long term with a degree. You can complete an associate’s degree in your specific area of interest, whether that’s programming or networking, in as little as 20 months.
The great thing about going to school is that you’ll make contacts, from instructors who have experience in the field to fellow students who will eventually work at companies in different industries. Connect with them all and you’ll end up with an address book full of names and numbers of people who can give you advice, plus professionals who can give you heads up on job openings or provide letters of recommendation. Seek out relationships with people in the field—and make sure you’re as generous with your own time and information as you hope they’ll be with theirs. Networking is a two-way street.
3. Get hands-on experience
Breaking into the IT field will require dedication. Take an online class or start teaching yourself through an online platform to make sure you enjoy the work and have some aptitude for it. Then start looking for ways to put what you’re learning to use. Do you have a business-owner friend who needs tech support? An overworked colleague who would appreciate help with some of their basic tasks (with approval from your boss, of course)? A friend who has a big idea for a new mobile app or simple computer game? Take advantage of any opportunity to learn and practice your growing IT skills.
4. Start small
Employers are looking for candidates who are passionate about the field and who are continually working to expand their skill sets. When you take an internship or accept an entry-level position, you’re demonstrating your interest in information technology and your willingness to learn. The entry-level jobs are the ones where you will learn the most and are most likely to be mentored by more experienced professionals who are taking an interest in you, your talent, and your ambition. Starting small can help you take great strides once you’ve demonstrated your commitment and your talent to your supervisors.
5. Develop business skills along with technical skills
While technical expertise is vital in the IT industry, the ability to relate to your customers and understand how technology addresses their business needs is equally important. It is essential to develop your customer service and communication skills in any business setting, but especially in an IT setting, where you are the liaison between the technology you work with and the people who need to use that technology.
Information technology can be a rewarding career in every way—if you’ve got the chops. Make sure you take the right steps now to launch a successful career.
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Sara Nelson is the Social Media Guru for Stevens-Henager College, overseeing the college’s profiles on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and more. She is also a student in the Master in Business Administration (MBA) program, and she enjoys spending time with her family, listening to good music, and eating freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.