Technology builds on previous blocks of information, which is a great metaphor for the solid foundation you need to build for the rest of your career. You can be the big fish techie guru in your hometown or one of the 50 best people at taking care of a Microsoft office environment, depending on where you want to take your career.
“I think it’s a pretty awesome field to get into because there are so many places you can go,” said Logan Murphy, a technology consultant and developer who helps new IT pros navigate the landscape of their early careers.
“At a good IT job, the process goes ‘I’m going to do A, B, C and D, and if those don’t work, we’ll get on Google and see what we do next,” Murphy said. “It empowers you to make your own decisions and sets you up well to overachieve.”
You’ll notice a lot of entry-level technology jobs blur the language when it comes to title and job requirements, so when you’re hunting for jobs on sites like Indeed or Monster, look for entry-level, customer service and Tier 1 jobs that ask for familiarity with the Microsoft Office suite, Windows 10 and troubleshooting basic network issues.
TechTalent powered by CompTIA can help to eliminate the noise and connect you to the right job opportunities.
Some job listings seek one person to run an entire IT department, while others will be hiring for IT outsourcing companies, where you’ll get a variety of on-the-job experience fixing IT issues for the clients your company serves. No matter how they’re listed, entry-level IT jobs have a lot of similarities.
“‘Please have CompTIA A+ and be willing to work weird hours handling weird issues.’ That’s what every Tier 1 IT job is,” Murphy said.
Speaking of the schedule, keep an eye out for the hours required — some entry-level jobs will ask you to work odd hours, like 4 p.m. to midnight — and make sure the salary matches your skill level. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook lists salaries and job growth predictions for IT jobs, so check to see if the computer support specialist job you’re applying for comes close to the $51,470 median annual wage offered around the country.
TechTalent’s Job Pulse provides salary data so you can go into negotiations informed about salaries in your field.
Murphy’s rule to live by: Ignore IT listings that offer less than $12 an hour.
Enhance Your Resume
Make an IT-specific resume with all the experience you can muster, even if you’re right out of school and your last job was babysitting a bearded dragon. If you’re clever about it, the times you’ve fixed friends’ computers or hooked up Bluetooth speakers to a Google TV can count as work-related experience.
“Don’t overtly lie about what you’re good at,” Murphy said. “Just say, for example, ‘I’ve worked with Windows the whole time I’ve been a student.’”
TechTalent can help you translate your skills into the language employers use so they clearly understand how you would benefit their team.
If you’re still feeling underqualified, verify your skills with a certification or a class. “Take your CompTIA A+ first so you can say, ‘Here’s why Windows works’ and ‘Here’s why a computer works.’” Murphy said. “That little bit of knowledge is enough for most people in IT to say, ‘This person can put one foot in front of the other, and I’m going to try this person out.’”
If you’re looking for entry-level work and find a great job listing that asks for three to four years of experience, apply anyway.
“In a lot of cases, you can do what they’re asking for with a CompTIA A+ certification. They don’t need someone who has a ton of experience,” Murphy said. “They need you to have the knowledge to translate what they’re saying into a good Google search.”
When it comes to writing a cover letter, fill it with personality and stories about how you work and play with technology.
“Recruiters have read thousands of times, ‘Great at troubleshooting’ and ‘Super good at Microsoft Word.’ Put your personality into your cover letter,” Murphy said. “Provide examples of what you’ve done, challenges presented as part of a project and how you were integral at helping.”
Include any certifications you’re studying for, and real-life stories about fixing things — even if it’s just glaring at the printer and restarting it until it works again.
“Sometimes that’s how you’re going to troubleshoot printers on the actual job,” Murphy said, laughing.
If you get a job interview, dress up, arrive on time and be prepared to talk about yourself and what you know about technology. It’ll be good practice for your first year on the job.
“Take a look at the hardware you see on your way to the interview, and when you’re in the meeting, talk about how your skills and certifications are relevant to the company’s environment,” Murphy said.
Prep before the interview by thinking of times you’ve fixed things — a broken printer, a locked cell phone, a router with no Wi-Fi — and figure out ways to relate those projects to your skills and certifications. When they ask how you use your skills, you’ll be prepared.
“A lot of the interview process is just being comfortable being who you are,” Murphy said.
Once you’ve got the job, use your first IT job like a smorgasbord of IT offerings. In your first year, get a taste of networking, cloud, security, mobility, project management, design and development.
“There’s so much to do around computers,” Murphy said. “You might come in and think you like desktops, but then — never mind — you find out you like copywriting. Who knows what you’ll latch on to.”
Learn more about how TechTalent helps CompTIA AITP members land their dream job.