3 Ways IT Grads Can Become More Competitive Job Candidates

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The IT job market is booming. In January, the U.S. technology sector added 11,200 new jobs. But even though there are so many open positions in the technology industry, recent IT grads shouldn’t assume tech jobs are easy to secure. Every graduate should strive to make themselves a more competitive job candidate to increase their chances of being hired.

Your computer science or information technology degree can really come in handy as you set out on your IT job search. For example, as a degree holder, you may have an easier time networking. This is critical since 85 percent of jobs are filled through networking (in other words, it’s often the easiest way to land your first IT job). You likely met numerous job contacts during your college internships and volunteer experiences. One of these contacts could help you get your foot in the door with a great employer.

But as helpful as a computer science degree is, it may not be enough to get you the job you desire, and it is not a prerequisite to a thriving IT career. Here are a few practical tips for increasing your marketability as a recent IT grad.

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Expand your IT skills with an IT certification.

If you just graduated within the past year or so, the last thing you probably feel like doing is growing your technical skill set. But  IT hiring managers are always on the lookout for self-directed learners who are dedicated to professional development. One way to prove to them that you are committed to growth while increasing your professional value is by earning an IT certification.

Going after IT certifications assures hiring managers that you will be the type of employee who will do whatever it takes to stay ahead of rapidly changing IT trends. Certifications also “lead to broader job choices, greater geographical areas to choose from and top-of-range salaries, per Breaking Into the IT Job Market in 2019.

The type of IT certification you should pursue is often tied to what type of job you want to land. However, if you aren’t yet completely sure what you want to do within the information technology field, consider the CompTIA A+ certification. It equips you with the problem solving know-how necessary to support today’s core technologies and will increase your marketability with a skillset all IT employers will appreciate.

Hone your IT specialization.

In the tech field, there are dozens of job roles someone holding a degree in computer science could step into. That’s why it’s vital to choose and hone an IT specialization.

“High-end, specialized talent is incredibly difficult to find or is simply not on the market at all. This is especially challenging when it comes to finding highly qualified IT consultants…,” stated 6 Common Hiring Problems for Tech and Digital Marketing Roles.

An IT specialization can be cultivated through gaining relevant certifications. Find out exactly what certification to pursue first by using the CompTIA Career Roadmap tool, which can will help you visualize and navigate how to build skills for different career paths in IT.

Strengthen your communication skills.

Communication skills are important to just about any type of professional, but especially to IT pros. Information technology roles, even those that are remote, almost always demand strong communication skills, and tech employers prefer to hire candidates who have developed them.  

Not only should recent IT grads be able to communicate well with information technology staff, but also with coworkers across all departments, including sales, accounting, customer service and human resources. "You have to be able to have a high-level conversation with other programmers and managers, but also be able to talk to the lay person who doesn't understand the technology, but needs to use the system," wrote Bob Moore, a hiring consultant and recruiter for various technology companies in Southern California.

To quickly build your communication skills, you could enroll in a free or cost-effective online course in professional communication. Consider using BizLibrary, a resource that CompTIA AITP members can access for free and includes on-demand courses in soft skills like communication.

If you possess a computer-related degree, an IT certification (or have one in the works), a specialization you are actively cultivating, and strong communication skills, you will likely be a top candidate among your fellow recent IT grads.

Discover a few other ways to become a more competitive job candidate in 4 Things to Do Before You Start Your Tech Job Search.