How To Start A Career In IT With No Experience
I use to work in Engineering for over 14 years before I’ve decided to change my career. When I did the switch, I didn’t expect to get the job fairly quick. I knew that it might take months for me to find one finally. I was surprised when I’ve got a phone call. Some nice lady was asking me if I am still looking for a job and have a few minutes spare for a telephone interview.
Now, nearly two years after, I can give you some tips, what I would do if I were in the same situation once more. It may not fully apply to You (I am in the UK), but I think the principles are quite the same for anyone looking for an entry job. I will split them into a few sections, to make it more comfortable for reading.
WHAT YOU DON’T HAVE:
- Work Experience – it’s challenging to get Experience when you are not employed in IT to gain this “experience”.
- Knowledge – You may have it, but it’s not proven, and nobody knows about it.
- Connections – As they say: “it’s not WHAT You know, but WHO You know”.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE
- Transferable “soft” skills – those are so-called “interpersonal” skills like attitude, communication, work ethic, teamwork, networking, positivity, time management, motivation, problem-solving, critical thinking, and conflict resolution. You will need them when working in IT every day.
- Transferable “hard” skills – those are the teachable skills and easy to quantify like an academic degree or course certification.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED
- Passion for IT – For me, working in IT was a childhood dream since I had my first Commodore Amiga 600 computer. Now, I have to warn You about something. In the job market, You will have to compete with Geeks (people who are living and breathing in computer technology). If you want to move to IT, then I’ll give you straightforward advice: if this is just for money, don’t even try to. You can do it, of course, but it will be hard for you.
- Love for learning – Amount of things you will have to learn will scare you to death. There is non stop learning curve. If I am out on the client’s site for a month when I’m finally back in the office, I need a few days to catch up with everything.
- Patience – you will have to deal with people, whether you like or not. Many of them will not know what’s the difference between Windows 7 and Windows 10. They are users, they use, not solve. You are, on the other hand, the one they need to explain things when things go wrong, and they will.
- Be good at problem-solving – your main job is to solve problems: why email is not working, why they cannot log in, or many other things that can happen. If you cannot do it, then learn. Force yourself into thinking that it’s for the greater good and look for answers. On Google, on YouTube, asking questions on forums.
- Attitude – it’s the key to success. You need to be everything but the kitchen sink at the beginning, later you will have the power to specialise yourself in the chosen direction. You are not “a specialist”; you are the jack of all trades.
- Time management – you will deal with ticketing management software for creating and managing tickets for you, your colleagues and clients. You should know at least some names like Kayako, Ivanti, Solarwinds. No need to know all of them as each company make their own choices, and they are not that complicated to familiarise yourself. You can always drop those names on any interview if you had the chance to use them.
Since I’ve finished school in my early twenties, everybody always told me that, if I want to get the job in IT, I have to go to university, but in 2020 that does not matter anymore. Of course, this doesn’t apply to every position in IT, but for entry-level IT Support/Helpdesk, where 99% of people start, it doesn’t. Of course, if you have one, then it’s excellent, but for most of the time, it doesn’t matter much.
In 2015 I finally started Open Univerity to get my degree in IT and Business. Soon I got excited with having to be able to talk to likeminded people. On one of the monthly gatherings, we had to create a simple game. Of course, I already knew how to, as I do programing when I’m bored. Now you know why I’ve mentioned about love for IT? I’ve gathered six people with me, and we created a game with the best logic. Of course, there wore a few other groups with much better graphics or sound, but we had four levels. None other group had more than one.
At the end of this monthly meeting, my tutor came to me, and we had this conversation about what am I doing here and why I started the Uni. “Because that’s how you get the job in IT.” I’ve answered. He looked at me and said: “In your situation, you will spend at least your next five years, and when you finish, you will be in the same position like someone else who finished CompTIA or Microsoft course in two months. Get a certificate and start looking for a job.” Then, I realised that he was absolutely correct. I was in the late thirties, but I didn’t know any better then. That’s why I am writing this on my blog to help you in making the decision. I’m not encouraging you not to do your degree, but if you are at the end of your twenties and still have none, then it’s easier to get the IT experience first. If you didn’t get a degree before that, it’s no rush to get one. In the future, you may need one because of your job; you can always do it. It might be hard or not; it all depends if you love the subjects you are studying.
WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO
- To gain Experience – you will have to use the tools IT Support uses. To do that you will have to get the theory at least. Look at free courses on Youtube or discounted courses on Udemy about Active Domain – adding, removing, deleting, disabling users, adding, moving them to different security groups, adding security group to folders. Microsoft Office 365 – user management, emails, licencing. Microsoft Outlook – fixing problems with emails, recreating profiles, creating new accounts/profiles. Microsoft Exchange – creating/removing user mailbox. Picking up phones and talking to customers – it’s something not many might know, but it’s well worth to know. At first, you will be intimidated, because you are talking to strangers. It will pass with time. Learn how to approach a customer and his problem. If you can create a virtual environment with free six months Windows Server trial and one or two Windows 10 machines on your network, this would be great, but that’s for more advanced.
- To prove your Knowledge – check job boards, for what kind of certifications employers are currently looking in your area. It could be CompTIA, Microsoft, Cisco and others. It all depends on where you are. CompTIA is broad, manufacturer-independent, with A+ as an entry-level certification where Microsoft is certifying its software products. Cisco’s focus is on networks. In IT Support, you will learn to move between all of them, but for now, focus on just one.
- To gain Connections – Create a CV profile, if you don’t know how to, ask others or (as you will hear it all the time) find on YouTube. If you completely don’t know how or won’t do, pay someone to do it for you. Freebie is good, but sometimes it’s worth to pay to get it done professionally. Create your LinkedIn profile. Same rules apply. Start sending your CV, every time you get a reply, get their email or name and lookup on LinkedIn. Once found, send them an invitation with something like: “Thank you for replying to my application, whether it is successful or not, I’d love to keep in touch via LinkedIn.” Most of the recruiters will accept as it makes their life more comfortable. Many send LinkedIn messages about the job way before posting the job on the websites. They can check you up much faster.
Whatever you do, you must be persistent. It will take time, but you cannot give up, just because no one is answering or everyone is rejecting you. Someone will, but it’s up to you not to waste time waiting. Do you remember, when I said about constant learning? Now is the time. Get those certifications done, and they will not hurt you, they will only help. Also, working towards them, you will gain invaluable knowledge.
Use Your soft skills, show recruiter/employer your value. They don’t know you, and they cannot confirm what you know. I’ve told you already what you need to do IT Support, show them that. Many times, they want someone who wants to learn, is dependable and honest. You can always learn on the job as we all do. Every day is different, and no tickets are the same. That’s why this job requires you to be an independent problem solver. Be open about your lack of work experience, but also show them that you have/nearly have some qualifications to do the job. It’s not always about how many certs you have, but how you deal with customers. It’s called marketing yourself, something you will need to learn if you want to be in this competitive industry.
Of course, this is not all you have to or must do; use your imagination. There are many ways to get there, but if you have those few traces, I believe that you have an excellent chance for success. It goes down to the same rules every time. You have to improve yourself and your skills continuously. It’s Your job and nobody else’s.