Ready for a Change? Here's How You Can Get Into IT — With Zero Experience
Whether you're working a dead-end job or transitioning out of the military, everybody has different reasons to make the jump into the IT industry. And the timing couldn't be better. The industry is facing a massive shortage of workers; plus, it offers great pay, amazing benefits, and lots of employment opportunities.
If you don't have much experience but are looking to join this thriving industry, don't worry — you're not the first. Here are seven tips for getting your foot in the door of the IT industry.
1. Re-examine and Apply Your Past Experience to the IT Industry
When you first make the decision to pursue a new career in IT, it's important to take a hard look at your prior experience. It might seem like you have none of the skills listed on job postings, but "soft skills" can be surprisingly important and many skills are transferable into IT roles.
For example, if you're looking to start in a help desk position (a common entry-level IT role), things like communication, customer service, familiarity with Microsoft Office, and other common skills can be a huge boost to your resume. By carefully thinking about your past roles through the lens of the role you'd like to get, you may find a treasure trove of relevant experience.
Many veteran’s find that their skills from serving help them in IT careers. The training and experience military personnel receive fit perfectly with the needs and demands of a career in technology. Plus, there are plenty of funding and career programs for veteran’s, like WIOA or VET TEC, to help you transition into an IT career.
You'll need to create a new resume with relevant experience listed and tailored specifically for the kinds of roles you're trying to land. Employers are highly likely to take a look at your LinkedIn page during the application process. Using your new resume, you should revise your profile to make sure the two match up. You should also take time to write a new cover letter that explains your prior experience, how it'll be useful in your new role, and why you're interested in changing industries. This will help answer a lot of questions if your resume piques their interest.
2. Earn Industry Certifications
Getting certified may be the fastest way to break into information technology. While a tech degree can take 1-4 years, certifications can be studied for and earned in just a few weeks. There are many comparisons between getting a degree or earning certifications, but a degree isn’t necessary for entering the IT workforce.
By getting certified, you'll show potential employers that you have the skills they need. This can go a long way towards making up for a lack of experience. For some roles, the right certifications will put you higher in the stack than applicants with limited experience and no certifications. Best of all, certifications can help open up more entry-level opportunities instead of just taking the first IT job that comes your way.
What IT certifications are good for entry-level learners?
CompTIA A+ is a vendor neutral certification that proves a general knowledge across multiple areas of IT. It verifies that you have a base level knowledge of networking, hardware, cloud, mobile devices, and troubleshooting. It can give you the knowledge base you need to help land your first help desk role.
CompTIA Security+ is a great place to start if you know you’re interested in the cybersecurity field. It’s a vendor neutral certification and verifies that you know how to implement best security practices. The objectives cover several key concepts in IT security, including networks, data and host security, threats and vulnerabilities, compliance, access and identity control, and cryptography.
CompTIA Network+ is another vendor neutral certification for beginners. The objectives for this certification cover networking concepts, troubleshooting, infrastructure, operations, and security.
ITIL® Foundation is a certification on a service management framework. It will certify your understanding of the processes that help IT staff delivery quality service.
All of these certifications — found in ACI Learning’s entry-level Computer User Support program — can lay the foundation for roles in networking and cybersecurity later in your career.
How do you get certified?
You will first need to study the objectives for the certification exam you want to take. You can choose between self-studying or choose from multiple training options such as certification prep programs, in-person training, virtual instructor led training, or online on-demand training. For most individuals with little to no experience, the best option is to take a course taught by an expert with real-world experience so you can ask questions and really understand the topic in depth.
Once you’ve studied the exam objectives, you’ll want to purchase an exam voucher from the certification vendor store and schedule a date to take your exam. This process can vary depending on the certification vendor. Some ask you to take the exam from a test taking center such as Pearson Vue and other will allow you to sit the exam online from home. Review these tips to help you prepare for your exam day.
3. Your Degree in Another Field May Be a Huge Asset
You may be tearing your hair out with regret, wondering why you used all that time in college on a degree that isn't helping you with your quest for a lifelong career. But don't be too hard on yourself. Many employers are more inclined to offer you a job simply because you were able to accomplish the feat of earning a degree.
Instead of focusing on how your degree may have cost you time and money, focus on the ways that your degree can be applied in moving your life forward into an IT career. For example, an IT worker with a literature degree will be more likely to take a creative approach to problem-solving and have superior writing and communication skills. A philosophy major has a deeper understanding of logic and a unique way of approaching challenges. By casting your degree as an asset, you'll stand out from other applicants who only have computer or tech experience.
With the rapid evolution of IT, there is a huge demand for individuals from diverse backgrounds and unique perspectives.
4. Be Open to Starting at the Bottom
It's important to note that you may have to "start over" in IT. You may have been a manager or an advanced professional in your old industry, but remember — you're leaving it for a reason. Be prepared to start with a entry-level position and work your way up. The experience you get working at the bottom of the ladder will be valuable as you grow into a more challenging position.
Don't worry too much though - the earning potential you will have in IT is only limited by the work you put in. On the low-end, you are looking at starting out right around $40K per year in a help desk position. But within five years in the industry and a couple of cybersecurity certifications, you could be looking at around $65K minimum in a Cybersecurity Analyst role. It really depends on your willingness to move forward and the extra learning time you put in to master your craft.
If you want a "head start," considering getting a degree or a few certifications. These credentials have the potential to help you out significantly.
Getting educated about your field of interest shows your commitment to your new industry and helps to give you an advantage over other applicants. It can also prepare you for more advanced positions down the line. With no experience, you still won't be able to jump to the top of the ladder. But with so many open positions all across the IT industry, the right credentials can help you quickly climb to higher-paying and more specialized positions in IT.
5. Don't Forget the Power of Networking
You may be surprised by how powerful your connections can be. When looking to fill a job role, most employers are more interested in hiring somebody based on a recommendation than interviewing a bunch of total strangers. Finding an IT mentor can help guide you in your career and learn from their experience .
Make sure to use social media and everyone in your address book and reach out to anybody you know who's associated with the tech world. Simply putting a post out there letting your connections know that you are looking to get into tech may bring out an opportunity that you never expected.
You can even just ask your friends or connections if they know anybody who's looking to hire for the type of positions you want. The right connection can give you a huge head start over the competition — and might even spark a career passion that lasts the rest of your life.
6. Learn Relevant Tech Skills and Gain Experience
When it comes to technology, there are a million different things to learn that can improve your resume. Anything from understanding Salesforce to knowing how to post on WordPress might be useful to your next employer. Utilizing YouTube and learning from countless free videos is a great way to learn new skills and reinforce old ones. Check out ACI Learning’s YouTube channel for free videos on IT.
Follow your interests and teach yourself about software and hardware in your free time. You'll be able to add these skills to your resume once you're competent at them, and they just might make the difference between getting hired and getting looked over.
A great way to get some hands-on experience is through virtual labs. Practice Labs, an ACI Learning Company, builds, hosts and maintains virtual labs for learners to practice their digital and IT skills within a safe, live-lab environment. This allows you to get experience with real servers without the fear of breaking anything. This can help you gain the experience to feel confident in real-world environments.
7. Look for Crossover Positions
While you might not have any direct experience, there are IT workers in every industry that use networks and computers (practically every industry out there). If you have years of experience in car sales, for example, it might help to look for an IT position at a car dealership. Understanding half of the business can go a long way towards making you a valuable employee right from the start, even if your tech skills aren't top-notch. You'll still have to start at the bottom, but it could be the perfect way to gain your first year or two of IT experience.
All in all, it is not impossible to start a career in IT with no experience — hence the word "start" — but many individuals are still skeptical of making the leap into IT. By arming yourself with the right tools and knowhow you can significantly increase your chances at starting a career in tech that will last a lifetime.
ACI Learning Can Help You Open the Door to an IT Career!
Making a decision like starting a new career is a difficult one and you should have someone to help guide you through this process. That's ACI Learning employs experts in the field to aid you in this transition. Their purpose is to understand your whole situation in order to help you make the right decision. They do this by analyzing your previous experiences, learning about your unique situation, and understanding your personal goals. If IT industry is right for you, they will search for any grants that you may qualify for and set up a personalized IT certification program around your schedule.
Interested in learning more about what a meeting with a Career Training Consultant is like and what you will learn from a one-on-one information session? Contact us to learn more!
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