The IT industry is one of the best industries to gain work experience in. This is largely due to the accessibility and affordability of modern computers. Computers play a massive role in society and many societies would cease to function without them. IT is involved in just about any industry you can think of. Combine this with the many IT specialisations that exist, this gives budding IT workers almost limitless options when searching for a career path to pursue. If you are just starting out in IT, here are a few tips to help you transition from student to employment (even if you are changing careers).
A small disclaimer: the following tips for getting IT work experience are designed to be non-abstract, practical ways to gain experience – they are things that I have personally seen good results with. I will try to never give advice that isn’t practical – there is already a sea of puffery and nonsensical abstract wordplay posing as advice on the Internet these days.
One of the most difficult skills some IT people have to overcome is – you guessed it, social. While the images portrayed in shows like The IT Crowd (almost a rite of passage for people in IT), with Roy and Moss working out of some dingy basement are clearly exaggerated, social skills can still be lacking for many of our IT brethren. More often than not (in my experience), once I managed to overcome this obstacle more opportunities suddenly started appearing. This is not just limited to honing our conversation skills either. While conversation skills are important for everyone, you should also be actively participating in anything and everything – online and off. Don’t just be a passive observer. Observation skills are also important, but there needs to be a balance. If you have no social footprint online, the hurdles for getting practical work experience – let alone employed – will be much more difficult. Obviously, you should also use common sense and practice good ‘digital hygiene’ and security practices (such as 2FA) when creating online accounts and participating in online discussions. Participating in online communities can also help you find the niche that most interests you (posting videos to /r/YoutubeHaiku doesn’t count!).
If you are learning to code, two great places to participate and contribute are GitHub and GitLab. GitHub has a topic dedicated to beginners - GitHub beginner friendly topic – contributing to these issues is a great way to get practical work experience. If you actively participate in resolving GitHub issues you can put a link to your GitHub profile on your resume. Beyond simply resolving GitHub issues, putting projects you create onto GitHub is also great exposure to display programming experience to potential employers. If you are new to GitHub and are not familiar with the process of ‘pulling’, ‘pushing’ and ‘committing’ to GitHub repositories – or even if you don’t know what a repository is, check out this link. The GitHub guides are fantastic if you are unfamiliar with the whole process. You can further develop your skills by creating from scratch – this will involve a lot of learning if you are just starting out, but it is well worth it!
Once you’ve started developing you can start sharing! In my experience, LinkedIn and Reddit are decent places to share your projects. LinkedIn is still the go-to for many professionals and although I’ve had mixed results, most have been positive. LinkedIn does have its downsides – many ‘wantrepreneurs’ and self-help gurus, but if you amass a collection of like-minded connections the downsides are manageable. Reddit is much easier to navigate and target potentially like-minded communities because of Reddit’s structure and ‘subreddits’. On Reddit you can find just about any niche related to technology, though you may find some that don’t exist (it’s rare, but it happens!). My experience on Reddit seems to indicate the smaller communities value quality content and are less likely to devolve into low quality puns and movie / TV show references. Twitter and other short-form social media are also options, though I personally don’t bother much with Twitter.
Once you have some experience under your belt, put it all on your resume!
If you begin implementing the advice outlined above you will be in a better position than a lot of people looking for work. In summary, start with the following to improve your chances of employers discovering you:
- Don’t be a passive observer with everything – participate!
- Begin resolving basic (beginner-friendly) issues on GitHub
- Put yourself out there on social media and share what you create
- Don't forget to put all your experience on your resume!
Do you struggle with the putting these into action? Reach out to us here and we can help you out.