Best strategy for getting an IT job

rob7278rob7278 Member Posts: 57 ■■□□□□□□□□
As someone who is fairly new to IT, I am by no means an authority. Additionally, I still haven't figured out the most effective strategy for getting the best, highest paying IT job. But I did struggle with the same questions I see others asking day after day - is a college degree better for getting an IT job or are certifications? What certifications do employers look for the most? etc.
What I have come to realize is, these questions are similar to asking - which is the best present under the Christmas tree? the biggest one or the smallest one. The answer is - you don't have enough information to determine the answer. What if the smallest present is a Rolex and the biggest present is a box of shipping peanuts.
Which do employers value more - a college degree or certifications? depends - perhaps the hiring manager has every certification you can think of and thinks the people that spent 4 years and tens of thousands of dollars on a degree are idiots, or maybe the hiring manager has a 4 yr degree and thinks the people that only have certs are a bunch of brain dumpers - every situation is different.
Some people will claim that job experience is the most important. If you were a hiring manager would you hire: applicant A with 5yrs help desk experience - but pretty much all they ever did was reset passwords or applicant B with 9 months IT experience that was expected to troubleshoot issues through Level 3 tech support, set up VPN accounts, create new user accounts in ADUC, support Blackberry's, set up email accounts in Exchange, configure network access and distribution lists, etc.
My point is - a certification, a computer science degree and even IT job experience is just the packaging - the knowledge that we gain is the real value.
Is the A+ certification a waste of time? if you don't know much about the components inside the case and how they interact - no ; if you have built dozens of computers - yes
If you try skipping the "easy, useless" certifications when you don't have strong fundamental computer knowledge, this is going to cause you great frustration and will probably unintentionally (or intentionally) cause you to spend more time memorizing (aka brain dumping) than actually learning. Besides getting an MCSE without any IT experience is still only going to get you a help desk, maybe a desktop support job and by the time you are ready to advance to a System Administrator job you will have probably forgot 90% of what you learned to earn the MCSE.
So what is the answer? In my opinion - learn how to create a really good resume, learn to interview really well, read a book on how to provide great customer service and when you get in front of a hiring manager stress to them that IT is your passion and if they give you a chance you will work your butt off to be one of the best employees they have ever hired - all of which has nothing to do with IT. In my opinion, it's once you get your foot in the door that you can start to focus on which certs are going to help you take your IT career to the next level.

Comments

  • AkaricloudAkaricloud Member Posts: 938
    I agree for the most part but there are a lot of companies that will only let you get so far without a degree.

    My personal opinion is go for both. I've been working as a Desktop Support Technician for a 4-year university while finishing my degree and working towards certs.

    A good resume only works if you have something decent show on it. With all the people looking for jobs right now why would an employer choose someone with no credentials and just a resume?
  • techlady007techlady007 Member Posts: 24 ■□□□□□□□□□
    I would say go for both also. Eventhough there are so many people that do not have a 4 year degree, but they have killer experience so they end up landing good gigs. Honestly, it all depends on what the hiring manager is looking for.
  • it_consultantit_consultant Member Posts: 1,903
    Look through the boards and find several threads from people with degrees who cannot find a job with no A+ or experience. I think one was named "Help I am beginning to think my BS:IT is worthless".

    Forget all the crap your teachers and parents crammed into your head about college, it is inapplicable in the IT field. Degrees are not useless in all scenarios, but getting into entry level IT on the strength of a university degree alone is tricky.
  • mikej412mikej412 Member Posts: 10,090
    Different companies and jobs may look for or require different things -- so you should maximize your opportunities by maximizing your experience, education, and certifications. And then you still need your people skills -- and a bit of luck.

    If you're a college student getting an education, you can pick up a certification or two during the breaks and summer -- when you're not doing your paid summer internship gaining real world work experience.

    If you've been working in IT for 20 years and were just laid off, you may need to grab an easy certification or two to get your resume pulled from a pile and have a real person look at your resume and appreciate your experience.

    If you're stuck in the same old job and watching your coworkers beat you out for promotions because of their college degrees and new fangled certifications, it may be time to retire, become a financial planner selling long term annuities to nursing home residents, or spend some money and look at something like WGU to add the same advantages to your resume (degree and certifications) that all your new bosses have had.
    :mike: Cisco Certifications -- Collect the Entire Set!
  • rob7278rob7278 Member Posts: 57 ■■□□□□□□□□
    Akaricloud wrote: »
    A good resume only works if you have something decent show on it. With all the people looking for jobs right now why would an employer choose someone with no credentials and just a resume?

    Sorry - I didn't finish my thought or at least didn't clearly explain the point I was trying to make, thanks Akaricloud.
    Of course you have to have something IT relevant on your resume - whether it's a degree or a handful of certs or working part time for Geek Squad or all the above. Start with and fill in the basics - but study topics that you find interesting. Additionally since people that are just starting out in IT are destined for a help desk job and a huge percentage of calls that come in are going to be Microsoft Office related - predominately Outlook not working correctly (email issues, shared calendar issues, etc). Reading Ms Office books or taking Office courses will probably be more valuable than MCSA/MCSE courses (I realize that MCSA/E is going to get someone a better shot of even getting a call on their resume - but lets face it, from the Help Desk you aren't going to be doing much with servers.
  • AkaricloudAkaricloud Member Posts: 938
    Yeah, you make a good point.

    I think ideally people need to work on both the work experience and knowledge sides of it at the same time. You need to get your foot in the door early so that when you do finally finish a degree or some major certifications then you'll be ready and able to move to a better position.
  • ehndeehnde Member Posts: 1,103
    mikej412 wrote: »
    become a financial planner selling long term annuities to nursing home residents.

    You pulled that one out of thin air...icon_lol.gif
    Climb a mountain, tell no one.
  • NetworkingStudentNetworkingStudent Member Posts: 1,407 ■■■■■■■■□□
    rob7278 wrote: »
    As someone who is fairly new to IT, I am by no means an authority. Additionally, I still haven't figured out the most effective strategy for getting the best, highest paying IT job. But I did struggle with the same questions I see others asking day after day - is a college degree better for getting an IT job or are certifications? What certifications do employers look for the most? etc.
    What I have come to realize is, these questions are similar to asking - which is the best present under the Christmas tree? the biggest one or the smallest one. The answer is - you don't have enough information to determine the answer. What if the smallest present is a Rolex and the biggest present is a box of shipping peanuts.
    Which do employers value more - a college degree or certifications? depends - perhaps the hiring manager has every certification you can think of and thinks the people that spent 4 years and tens of thousands of dollars on a degree are idiots, or maybe the hiring manager has a 4 yr degree and thinks the people that only have certs are a bunch of brain dumpers - every situation is different.
    Some people will claim that job experience is the most important. If you were a hiring manager would you hire: applicant A with 5yrs help desk experience - but pretty much all they ever did was reset passwords or applicant B with 9 months IT experience that was expected to troubleshoot issues through Level 3 tech support, set up VPN accounts, create new user accounts in ADUC, support Blackberry's, set up email accounts in Exchange, configure network access and distribution lists, etc.
    My point is - a certification, a computer science degree and even IT job experience is just the packaging - the knowledge that we gain is the real value.
    Is the A+ certification a waste of time? if you don't know much about the components inside the case and how they interact - no ; if you have built dozens of computers - yes
    If you try skipping the "easy, useless" certifications when you don't have strong fundamental computer knowledge, this is going to cause you great frustration and will probably unintentionally (or intentionally) cause you to spend more time memorizing (aka brain dumping) than actually learning. Besides getting an MCSE without any IT experience is still only going to get you a help desk, maybe a desktop support job and by the time you are ready to advance to a System Administrator job you will have probably forgot 90% of what you learned to earn the MCSE.
    So what is the answer? In my opinion - learn how to create a really good resume, learn to interview really well, read a book on how to provide great customer service and when you get in front of a hiring manager stress to them that IT is your passion and if they give you a chance you will work your butt off to be one of the best employees they have ever hired - all of which has nothing to do with IT. In my opinion, it's once you get your foot in the door that you can start to focus on which certs are going to help you take your IT career to the next level.

    Any ideas on how to get a help desk job in MN?
    I just graduated in dec 2010 and not having any experience, except volunteering seems to be holding me back.

    I have my comp tia certifications

    A+, Security+, and Network+... (and yes some poeple like that I have these certifications. My last job interveiw said the main reason they selected me was becasue I had my A+ certification.)

    I have my associates degree in IT

    I volunteer as well in IT at various organizations, but it doesn’t seem like even that is enough

    I joined the ISSA security organization

    I thought about Joing HDI to network with help desk professionals at other companies.

    I'm considering joining Toast MAsters

    PS-Currently, I'm studying for my 70-680 Windows 7 Microsoft exam

    I have been getting interviews, but due to the economy there is always someone out there more qualified.

    I have been looking for jobs that are contact to hire or ull time employment?
    Any tips.. any advice?
    When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened."

    --Alexander Graham Bell,
    American inventor
  • AkaricloudAkaricloud Member Posts: 938
    Just keep trying. Make it a full time job applying for jobs until you get one. Find and apply for 10+ new jobs a day.
  • shipheadshiphead Registered Users Posts: 1 ■□□□□□□□□□
    Akaricloud wrote: »
    Just keep trying. Make it a full time job applying for jobs until you get one. Find and apply for 10+ new jobs a day.

    I'm going to be the negative nancy in this one. If you have to apply for 10 jobs a day for weeks upon end something is wrong. Resume, your experience, or what you have to offer.

    I look at the job market daily as most of you do. When all you see is a want for Sr. this and Sr. requirements for a Jr. it's a little troubling and just wrong. It's not only this side of the computer world that has this problem. icon_neutral.gif
  • erpadminerpadmin Member Posts: 4,165
    shiphead wrote: »
    I'm going to be the negative nancy in this one. If you have to apply for 10 jobs a day for weeks upon end something is wrong. Resume, your experience, or what you have to offer.

    I look at the job market daily as most of you do. When all you see is a want for Sr. this and Sr. requirements for a Jr. it's a little troubling and just wrong. It's not only this side of the computer world that has this problem. icon_neutral.gif

    Welcome to the New Economy.....please enjoy your stay, as you may be here for awhile....

    To clarify that somewhat facetious statement, depending on the job market you are in, you're gonna be competing with folks who have a myriad of experience, certs and degrees.

    I'm going to take a different tact to the certs/experience/degree argument, as I respect where the OP was going with this thread, or trying to go.

    Since I'm a guy who has to depend on "experience," I would have to depend heavily on contacts to land my next gig. My current gig I was qualified for due to technicalities. In NJ, you can substitute 1 year of experience for 30 college credits, based on what one did in the public sector. With that logic, I'm a Ph.D....however, there are folks who have Masters degrees that will be the first ones considered for any management jobs available. I had a "360 interview" to get this job...everyone under the sun interviewed me. It was the first time I was interviewed in that fashion, but that's the trend that I'll be seeing as I shoot for bigger fish in my career. I got the job (I was not nervous because I was not under the gun to leave my last job). However, if I want the next gig, I would be dealing with a different economic climate. There are MBAs that will take $20k less than I currently make to get a job.

    Cablegod had said this best...anyone can be trained to do anything in IT. (Let's be honest...even the most complex configurations can be taught to someone with the right aptitude but zero experience. If you disagree with that, you are only deluding yourself...). I am also proof positive that a college degree/higher end certs was not needed to see six figures (or close to it) working in IT.

    However, as mikej412 stated in this thread, I would not be able to pull that today, IMO without a degree/certs in this current and perhaps future economic environment...which is why my butt is doing WGU as it meets my personal requirements in terms of earning a REAL bachelor's degree, as well as putting a mental gun to my head to achieve a higher-end cert like the MCITP:EA.

    I, personally, will close that circle-of-life that comprises the experience/certs/education argument that (every-now-and-then) engulfs the TE community. I'm able to apply to a real Masters program after I graduate from WGU, and I never again have to worry about selling myself on experience alone.

    Mind you, it doesn't have to be WGU...it can be any regionally accredited college/university that you're comfortable with. However, I wasn't personally interested in spending 4-5 years going to school part-time just so that I can get a BS. It's all about what your time/priorities in life are.
  • MickQMickQ Member Posts: 628 ■■■■□□□□□□
    60 years ago, I'd be sitting discussing nuclear and quantum physics with Richard Feynman, and be doing very very well with a degree.
    30 years ago, I'd be programming PCs, or mainframes with a big bushy beard. I'd be doing very well with a degree.
    Now, if I was starting into the world of work, I'd need at least a 4 year degree to try and get a decent helpdesk job here in Ireland. Oh, and at least a second language (Gaeilge doesn't count).

    Things were great 10 years ago. You could walk into an IT job, even if all you knew was how to plug in a mouse. Now there's a recession still on, so much is outsourced, and so much more has the designing, manufacturing and processes being dictated by the accounting department.
    So, where does that leave our young graduates? School -> college/uni -> industry certs -> get 5 years experience (magically) -> get job in sys admin (before it's up in the wonderful cloud).

    Each company has different ways of doing things, and has their own "wants". The HR people will filter according to those "wants" - eg. 3/4 year degree, masters, MCSE, CCNP, etc.
    Smaller companies will tend to listen and focus more on the person than their papers, in my experience.
    Whilst jobs here are looking for MCSE or MCIPT EA, CCNA, MCITP EMA, VCP4, and Citrix, minimum 2 years experience, and a BSc/BA (4 year) computing related degree. Oh, that's just for a jr sys admin, or small IT manager for about €35-45k. If you want more, you better know AS400, be good at Linux and UNIX, and obviously perl too.

    So Rob, don't be discouraged. Take a little break, get someone else to look over your resume. Make sure it's neat, easy to read, and that there are no spelling or grammatical errors in it. Keep reviewing it every couple of weeks. You'd be surprised at how you can improve it. And one last thing, send it everywhere. The more places you send it to, the better your chances of a call back. Just make sure that the resume is as inviting as possible to the reader.
  • raptur2000raptur2000 Member Posts: 26 ■□□□□□□□□□
    My personal experience has been that certs help a lot, experience is better, and degrees are the cherry on top. Many may not agree, but my certs got my foot in the door on an entry level position (I didn't have the luxury of going to college directly). I have a killer work ethic and interview extremely well. I worked that job for 5 years picked up more major certs and did college online for 3 years. When I applied for jobs that "required" a BS, they usually substituted 1:1 for experience. People will give you a shot if you 1) Know what your talking about and can apply it. 2) Make them fall in love with you as a person.

    Right now I am a Sr. Network Administrator with no college degree. Will I get one eventually, sure because when I want to get to the Executive Level a BS will be a must, but until then it is totally possible to climb the ladder w/o a BS in IT or CS.
  • ehndeehnde Member Posts: 1,103
    Be willing to move.
    Climb a mountain, tell no one.
  • darkerzdarkerz Member Posts: 431 ■■■■□□□□□□
    I've found being vocal to your manager, HR and Sr. people about your aspirations and humbly flaunting some genuine knowledge about lets say Cisco, or having genuine passion, will go faaaaaaar.

    How far?

    I've been in my job for a few months and am going from Helpdesk/Desktop/etc to Operations Center/Network Ops with only a partially done technical degree. (Almost done!)

    How?

    Alright. So the fact I spend 30-40 hours a week labbing, reading, studying, reading here, networking with other wannabie techs, etc. may be hard to do if you have a social life.

    It's about who you know and how you know them if you're internal.

    It's about what you know and how you flaunt it if you're external.
    :twisted:
  • N2ITN2IT Inactive Imported Users Posts: 7,483
    I would say go for both also. Eventhough there are so many people that do not have a 4 year degree, but they have killer experience so they end up landing good gigs. Honestly, it all depends on what the hiring manager is looking for.

    +1

    It's a combination usually, but each employer has their own ideas of what they want to see in a potential employee.
  • kurosaki00kurosaki00 Member Posts: 973
    I think landing your first actual "in" career job is the hardest part.

    I sold phones...
    I worked as tech support...
    Cisco network academy graduate, net+, A+, knowledge in win server 2003, ubuntu...

    And a few years later I landed my current job which is Amazing as a network admin, I work with carriers and multinational connections.
    I'm guessing after I get the experience after this I wont be entry level anymore and will have a better luck If I chose to move to another job.

    I think one should try their best to land the first job, get all certs you can, all knowledge you can, repair computers or install APs for your friend small cafe etc etc
    Do what you can to stand out as much as you can from the other candidates and land that first job.
    meh
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