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Whatever happened to entry-level as I remembered it?

By BrainXpansion ·
I graduated November 2004 from a well-known and established private university. I worked four long years in order to obtain my Bachelor of Science degree in (IT) Information Technology. I was exposed to theory, concept, and procedure in a myriad of fields in the IT sector. Not to "hip" on programming, but I realize I should know at least two languages. The difficulty I am having is landing that "entry-level" position. Sure! The ads in the newspaper state entry-level, but when you read them, they ask for 3-5 years experience. Are there no entry-level IT jobs out there that are actually entry-level as I remembered what entry-level used to be? You know, a "green horn," "Wet behind the ears," and a "newbee."

For example: I went to an interview the other day for IT Help Desk. Some questions they asked me consisted of VPN's, Active Directory, DNS, and even if a node was down on a WAN from Texas to my location, how could I tell what was wrong? I knew what these things where, but to answer them with fixes, I was baffled. I have never been in an IT position before, so I how do I make that transition in order to obtain the hands-on experience? I would like to build Websites, but I only have a basic understanding from school. I have no peers in my circle of friends involved with IT, so it is difficult for me to turn to someone who is knowledgeable. None of my friends understand the things I talk about. All I have are my books, but sometimes even when you read, you reach sticky points in all the techno-babble.

Another thing, my wife says I am too old, they want younger men. I am 42 and interested in making my families life better. I am not afraid of hard work. I am a people person, I have integrity, and I am an amiable guy willing to learn.

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Near everybody has a stint at helpdesk

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to 1st line helpdesk agent

if they go the operations route.
Support was a big part(over 50%) of my first two jobs in IT, before that I was one of the supported. I think all developers should do some time there it's gives you a good appreciation for the sorts of problems developers without that experience tend to consider unimportant in their job and therefore cause, instead of cope with / prevent.

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Helpdesk positions

by cake In reply to Near everybody has a stin ...

I used to work in Customer Service for Anthem and went back to get my Associates Degree in CS. I had several people tell me when I first started looking that they liked my personality and thought I was a real go-getter but still didn't have enough experience.

I went back to my Advisor and spoke to her about my experience and they actually had a work study program. I got my foot in the door at a local business as a 2nd level support person where I got some great experience in both hardware and software and found I had a nack for working with software.

That ended and after about 18 months - still just shy of the 2 years most places want you to have when applying for an IT job. It was still hard to land my first job with a company where I could really dig in to the job and get benefits, vacation, etc.

What I recommend is this -
1. See if your institution has a placement program. Many times they have a career office where they can work with local businesses that are looking for college students for internships, and other entry-level positions.

2. I agree with Tony's comments on using your past experience to put a spin on what you can offer to a company. I used my customer service experience to help land my helpdesk job. One of the things that I love about IT is that you don't always have to have the answers right away. As long as you can find an answer or give an action plan to resolve the issue, this is what they are looking for.

3. Don't be afraid to network. Look in your area for a Windows User Group and attend their meetings and functions. Create business cards and pass them out. It is a great way to get a feel for different companies and people will remember you from the event.

4. When applying for a position, research the company and try to cater your responses to how you can be an asset to the company for what they are in business for. Most companies have a website - look them over, use a demo of their software if they have it available on line(that is a plus too and they know you mean business).

Hope this helps too!

Good Luck and keep your chin up! It can take awhile to land that first job, but once you do, the sky is the limit.

I had a rough start myself and now have been working in the industry for 7+ years now. Keep your perseverance, it will pay off.

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First few years are always tough

by Rolf Gitt In reply to Earlier position

I remember the first few years I was trying to get work experience back in 1982. I recall interviews where they would say "if you can fix this problem, I'll hire you". Trouble was nobody had ANY knowledge of the technology (as an example: there was an automated display system that was showing interference - likely an electrical issue more than an IT issue!) - anyway, I could not solve the problem, so their response was "oh well"!
If you have a family, working as a volunteer can be a tough choice. Going back to school to get a higher degree (M.Sc.) can also be tough financially, especially after the 4-year grind of getting the B.Sc.
What worked for me back in '82, and which hopefully exists in some form where you live, was a "career kickstart program" - the one I was in lined up employers willing to provide experience to newbees in exchange for paying them a relatively low salary. In additon, the employer only paid 50% of my salary, with the rest coming from Goverment. The employer got a dirt cheap worker, and I got the experience I so desperately needed.
I made crappy money for 2 years, but then got into a better paying position, and haven't looked back since then.
Another approach you could try, is if you have a hobby or skill, and try to get into It indirectly. I remember calling every drum manuacturer in my city (since I'm a drummer) hoping to get in the IT shops of drum manufacturers based on my knowledge of drums (i.e. at least I could contribute SOME knowledge on SOME topic!). It wasn't really successful for me since most responded with "we don't even have a calculator around here, never mind a computer". But I think you get the concept...try thinking in that regard as well to find employment.
Best of luck in your search for IT employment. I'm sure you'll find something in the end....

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Ability to do the job

by Joe.Canuck@beer .ca In reply to First few years are alway ...

I agree with your points. The fact is, the ONLY thing that matters to the company hiring you is the ability to do the job. And the only way to demostrate you can do the job is a track record. I don't have a degree, just tons of industry experience and vendor certifications. I beat out several people with newly minted degrees because I had a demonstrated track record and ability to do the job. None of the IT jobs posted here require a degree, they all say "degree + 2 years experience, or Diploma + 3 years experience, or No formal education and 5+ years experience". The experience is more valuable than the degree, I would suggest people forgo the formal education and instead spend that time and money doing as much volunteer and entry level work as possible, in the end it's worth more. Degrees don't fix things, people do.

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Keep a positive outlook

by msrossinmn In reply to Ability to do the job

There is a lot of good advice in these postings. This is a hard market to make a change in. Moving from your previous background to IT was not an overnight decision. It shows that you evaluated where you were, and where you want to be. That shows that you can make tough decisions. You can play on that because in IT, you have to make tough decisions based on time, priorities and resources. Your otherwise lack of technical "on-the-job" skills, or proficiency is what they are questioning. Find a way to get some "hands-on" time and take that argument away from them. Play up your sound judgement, your willingness to change things for the better will put a positive spin on things.

I too made a similar change in **, stepping out from Telco into WAN/LAN. I went to night school at UW-Milw. for a start. You may want to Google for clubs, organization local to you that can help you along the way. You have to cast a wide net to catch the right position when making the change. Good Luck to you!

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Thank you!

by BrainXpansion In reply to Keep a positive outlook

When I am feeling like I may have wasted my time going to college, it is people like you that make me push on with your positive comments and suggestions. Thank you!


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How about the obvious...?

by icubub In reply to Thank you!

I've been skimming the advice, but I haven't seen anyone state the obvious...

Why doesn't the school help you find a job? Every college has a career office, where the goal is to help you find a job. Some colleges even offer these services to alumni whenever they have been let go, or are looking to change positions.

The reason... they want the alumni to be in good successful jobs, where they might be able to give back to the university. Simply put, they want you to do well, so you will give back to the alma mater.

Check with your university. Find out what they can do to help you with lining up companies, the interview process, whatever. Look back and see what kind of companies have interviewed people with your degree in the past. Colleges keep good records of all the people who have come out to interview on campus. Contact some of these companies, ask them about any available positions. "I've noticed you have hired people with my degree from this university before, I was wondering if you might have any positions matching my degree, or if I might be able to talk with one of your IT managers about positions with your company".

The main thing is make the university work for you. You've paid a lot of money to earn that degree, get them to help you out!

Another thing many people don't think about is using the alumni association to look up people from earlier graduating classes, and contact them about positions as well. The main thing is to network, and you'll find something eventually. But don't just count on the online job boards, or the want ads in the paper. And headhunters are looking for those with years and years expereince, because they are the ones that will bring in the most commission, not the entry-level position.

Hope this helps!!!!!

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Do not over look goverment jobs

by kjwynne In reply to Keep a positive outlook

When I graduate from college in 2001 the technology bubble had popped and I quickly found myself competing against applicants with 10, 15, or 20 years of experience. In most cases, these more experienced applicants were being rewarded with the jobs. Realizing that I may be with out a job in the industry that I had just spent years studying, I quickly turned to the federal government job pools. Many government agencies, in my case the DoD, are willing to hire and train applicants with little or no experience. This may be an avenue for you to start your career. Working for the government (federal) has many benefits and with the new pay grades the pay is really good. Just make sure that you are in the IT pay scale not the general pay scale. A good place to start is:

Further more, do not feel discourage about the time spent to get your degree. I firmly believe that your degree will pay off. It is true that experience is important to show a track record. However, it has been my experience that the theory you have been taught will allow you to have a fundamental understanding of many facets of this industry. In a few years, you will be an applicant with 3 to 5 years of experience and a degree!

If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact me or reply to this post. Good luck with your search.

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I never reply to these, but his is personal

by jagostisi In reply to Keep a positive outlook

I was once in the exact same situation you're in now, or I was thirty years ago. As yourself, IT was a career change for me and I trained to enter a new field. I won't bore you with my background and experience, but suffice to say it's varied. I?ve continuously had IT responsibility, but for a number of years, I also ran a very highly respected IT training institute that produced over 10,000 graduates. With that in mind, I can tell you there have always been entry level jobs. Likewise, many employers have always wanted three to five years experience at an entry level salary, although they seldom get it. That problem is the employer?s as much as it is yours. In my experience, few interviewers/employers rarely know what they really need. Many of the responses here are offering good advice. In light of your age I would agree that you?re far more likely to be successful in your job search if you focus on smaller companies, particularly where IT supports the business rather than ?is? the business. Yes, age discrimination is illegal but it?s also rampant, especially in IT. Be observant when on an interview. If you don?t see people in your age range don?t expect or hope for a job offer. What?s most important is that you maintain a positive attitude. Without it you?ll sabotage every interview as you walk in the door. Also maintain confidence in your ability without being cocky or acting like a know it all. Self confidence is something you wear on your sleeve; if an interviewer doesn?t see it, you?ll seldom get a job offer. With respect to those technical questions you can?t answer, I say this. I?ve never met anyone in the field, coming out of school, or walking on the street for that matter, who didn?t know more about at least one thing than I do. Technical questions should be designed to test the depth and breathe of your knowledge; personally, I?ve always used these questions to try to determine whether an applicant was a student as well as a practitioner. Understand that every position has a technical threshold that must be satisfied, if you don?t meet it you?re rejected immediately. That does not necessarily mean you have be an expert. Are you as ?expert? in IT as you?ll ever be or hope to be? Certainly not at this stage. Beyond that it?s the intangibles that make the difference in the selection of an applicant. A job interview is a sales pitch. Pick up a good book on interview technique. It will identify those intangibles and explain how to sell them. You would be surprised at how many companies don?t realize that those intangibles are as important to them, and sometimes more important than present technical knowledge. Most people changing careers have skills and experience that are universally applicable. What are yours? Identify them and don?t be afraid to emphasize them (note, I didn?t say to grossly exaggerate). Lastly, you went to school (or back to school) for a reason. Has that changed? You?ve had the determination to complete your degree. You put in the time and the effort and I commend you for it; I did it myself and, as I said earlier, I saw 10,000 other people do it. Are you any less determined to start a career in IT? Don?t be. And don?t just accept rejection. After a rejection letter, don?t be afraid to call back and ask why. You?ll be surprised at the number of honest answers that you get. Learn from each rejection and put it to work for you on the next interview.

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Excellent Reply

by Aaron A Baker In reply to I never reply to these, b ...

Dear Sir;
Just had to take a minute to state that I couldn't agree with you more.
This is the kind of article that should also be sent out to some of the people hiring these days. Might give them a better idea of what to look for and what questions to ask. Very astute of you to notice this lack on both sides of the issue.
But, I digress. My intent was only to tell you that I thought your article excellent well done, succinct and hit the nail right on the head.
Aaron A Baker

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