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The IT Career Builder's Toolkit, Chapter 11: Breaking into IT

Chapter Description

IT jobs seem to be disappearing at an alarming rate. New graduates trying to get into the IT field appear to be faced with an alarming shortage of available positions. Matthew Moran, however, shows that this isn't necessarily the case, as it's still possible to work in IT outside of the IT department. Find out how in this chapter.

Other Avenues into IT

As with most career moves, every turn has options. Part of the challenge facing many professionals is the idea that a wrong decision will have lasting repercussions on their career. I want to alleviate this fear.

Seldom will any single career move make or break you. As indicated in Part I of this book, "An Introduction to Career Building," the idea of a career is based on long-term objectives and planning. Plans can change, and even long-term objectives can be altered without negatively impacting your career.

The fear of changing those objectives and plans is exactly what causes many individuals to effectively freeze in their tracks. They fail to make effective moves, afraid that taking that new position might be the "wrong" move. But a job is always just that: a job.

Typically, if you weigh your decision using the factors of compensation, opportunity, insurance, training, commute, travel, and so on, it is unlikely that you will move to a position that is dramatically worse than your current situation. Even if it turns out that you do not enjoy the work, you can simply begin looking for the next opportunity. In most cases, there is a redeeming lesson or skill to take from every situation. That is the way careers and life work out.

I am not advocating leaving your current job just to try something new. If your current position affords you adequate compensation, a learning environment, access to mentors and peers who are actively advancing in their own careers, and any number of other intangible benefits, I advocate trying to advance within the organization.

If you are a person who is trying to break into IT, advancing within your own organization requires you to make contacts in your company's IT department.

Ask for What You Want

I must give you another piece of advice: Ask for what you want. This is one of the most underutilized ways to help advance your career. For some reason, we feel hesitant to make our desires known.

However, if you are hoping to get into IT at your company, your chances improve considerably if the manager of that department knows this. I know that sounds obvious. But I meet person after person who fails to introduce himself to his company's IT managers and explain his desired career goals.

Part of this reason might be a feeling of inferiority when considering the seasoned professionals who work there. However, personal promotion is a key factor in how rapidly you rise in your career. In marketing vernacular, personal promotion is referred to as reach and frequency. Simply put, get your name, accomplishments, and good attitude in front of as many people as possible.

Ask for Advice

The owner of a small marketing company once told me the most noticed/desirable words for people to hear are "you" and "free." One strokes our pride, and the other strikes a pragmatic financial chord.

Don't be afraid to ask for what you want, but just as important is the ability to ask for advice. When you approach an IT manager, ask him what you might do to break into the field. More specifically, ask him how you can break into his department.

Let the IT manager know up front that you are asking for his advice. More importantly, take it. If this person provides you with a profile of what he would like to see in an employee, do what you can to model that profile. Asking advice pays dividends in a few ways:

  • It serves notice that you are serious about your career—You want to know from the top how to succeed in this endeavor. From this perspective, it paints good public relations. As a business owner, I was always impressed when someone would approach me for advice on my line of work. I considered it a compliment and considered the individual wise for seeking it.

  • You'll probably receive some good advice—Don't overlook this. If you are asking advice just to paint a good picture, but your attitude is one of disdain for the actual advice received, it will show up somewhere else. Most people in management have actually produced to get where they are. Their advice is valuable and should be heeded.

Don't make the mistake of assuming that the managerial tasks are simpler than the hands-on technology work. I'm here to tell you that the opposite is true. You should aspire to learn from effective managers, even if you believe your technical skills far surpass theirs.

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