Breaking Barriers: How to Launch Your IT Career

Six tips to evaluate job opportunities, overcome challenges, and launch your career in technology.

Achieving a career in the IT field can be rewarding. Tech offers multiple career landscapes, constantly evolving and emerging with new technologies and skills every day. If you're an aspiring IT professional, read on to learn valuable tips for breaking barriers and launching your career in tech.

  1. Figure out what you want to do

A tech career may pay well. However, before you take hasty actions to pursue a job solely for its salary, trend, or lucrativeness, consider several components, including your enjoyed interests. Start guiding your career path by exploring the below:

  • Identify enjoyed hobbies and interests
  • Categorize desired job titles and industries
  • Examine current job descriptions
  • Listen to podcasts; join or watch webinars
    • Identify what relates to you or catches your attention
  • Follow trade professionals on LinkedIn
    • Request informational session interviews for their perspectives and understand their day-to-day in their job or field
  • As you gain more career insight and direction, focus on a few career paths to take deeper dive

After identifying the career path you'd like to follow, consider the associated cost. Applying for a job requires having experience, education, or certification to get you an entry-level position. Now, let's look at gaining knowledge and experience.

  1. Gain knowledge and experience

Most schooling, certification, and professionally taught courses cost money. However, you can read pertinent articles and books; join online groups for discussions at minimal or zero cost. Do a project on your time if you have a career passion but aren't ready for a full-time job. Develop a database, code a game, repair and rebuild PCs, intern, and volunteer to help a nonprofit or small business with their digital marketing, SEO, and website. Real-life project experience can come at little to no cost, and it's beneficial in many ways. Volunteer work and projects can amplify your candidacy for that dream job. Include these experiences in your resume and be prepared to highlight how it benefits your future employer during the interview.

  1. Evaluate job opportunities and companies

It's essential to evaluate job opportunities beyond the associated salary. People constantly leave high-paying jobs for reasons they never contemplated. Consider what's off the table and what's negotiable. Do you desire job growth potential? Are the team and culture a good fit? You'll be working together day in and out. What about the manager or leadership; will you have access to the tools and resources necessary to do your job well? Don't wait until it's too late to identify your non-negotiable components of a job opportunity. Prepare questions for the interview to help decide whether it's a good match. You're interviewing them just as much as they are you; ensure to have these types of discussions!

Example questions that you can ask during your interview include the following:  

  • Is this a new role, or am I back-filling someone?
  • If back-filling, why are they no longer in this position?
  • Does the company help pay for required certifications and associated annual fees?
  • What do you love about your role and the company?
  • What are some of your or the team's challenges?
  • Does the team or this role work across other areas; what does that look like?
  • Does this position offer opportunity for growth?

Inquiring and taking a vested interest in knowing more about the position shows that you're in it for the long term.

  1. Stand out as the memorable interviewee

The Great Resignation has left businesses in difficult situations and hiring managers stuck in a haystack (stack of resumes) searching for a needle (matching candidate). It takes added effort to stand out in a pile of mundane resumes, and it's not just about checking all the boxes and passing screening tests. Hiring managers are looking for the right candidate for the long hall, and if you're not devoted to standing out, why would they invest in you? It's also expensive to replace talent, and some of the top reasons individuals quit are due to being unhappy, the job wasn't what they thought, or lack of a good team or company culture.

So, what can help you stand out from other candidates? Start with your differentiators to gain a competitive advantage, including:

  • Being prepared for the interview with a firm grasp of your differentiators
  • Clearly presenting the benefits and value you bring to the team or organization
  • Showing excitement about the position by asking good questions to learn more about the job, team, growth opportunities, etc.

Furthermore, research activities, announcements, philanthropy, or other team or company posted events on their social media. Choose a couple of events that are of interest and relatable to discuss. Show the value you add with the ability to support future events. Proactivity learning about the company or team signifies you're serious about becoming an active and valuable employee.

  1. Ask about company benefits

Interviews go both ways. Make a positive impression by asking good questions in an interview that show you did your homework, are interested in the role and company, and want to find a career, not a short-term job. Don't just focus on salary, as many organizations offer a range of benefits and perks you may have never considered.

Is growth potential, the team, manager, organization, and culture essential or a good fit? Will you have access to the tools or resources to help you do your job well and provide the support and guidance to thrive? Recognize what about the job opportunity motivates you. Set time aside to identify the non-negotiable benefits of a job opportunity, including the following:

  • Company programs, discounts, and resources offered to support growth and career development
  • Technical training
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Assistance with certifications and annual fees
  • Opportunities to attend conferences
  • Teambuilding, workshops, or other events
  • 401(k) or stock program details
  • How are bonuses calculated and distributed?
  • PTO, paid holidays, and sick time
  • Furloughs or company shutdowns
  • Work flexibility, i.e., remote, in office, or a combination
  • Are there team or company committees, ERGs, or anything else similar where you can have the opportunity to get involved and give back to the company in a different way?
  • What do you love about the company?
  • What are some of your or the team's favorite perks or benefits?

Don't sell yourself short to get your foot in the door. Proactively ask about benefits that matter to you. The questions you ask can communicate you're interested in the job, the company, and making a positive impact.

  1. Question and evaluate the job description’s expectations, responsibilities, and technologies

The information technology job markets, including cybersecurity, are wide open from a candidate's perspective, given the recent Great Resignation and ongoing Great Re-Imagination many organizations are going through. However, before you prematurely dive in, let's emphasize the importance of understanding the job description elements, including the expectations, responsibilities, technologies, etc. To help you better envision what's to come and make the best decision for your future, clarify the position and learn more about organizational processes, structure, and resources by asking WHAT, WHY, and HOW type questions around the following:

  • Primary function of the team and secondary functions supported
  • Other teams or divisions' interaction
  • Day-to-day walkthrough
  • First 30, 60, 90 days, i.e., performance reviews, KPIs, cadence meetings, etc.
  • Prevalent technologies and others leveraged
  • Team's use of technologies within the last and next 6-12 months
  • Team, department, and company leaders
  • Senior leadership goals and communication to the organization
  • Onboarding process, i.e., resources, training, COVID protocols, etc.
  • Growth opportunities
  • Goal setting and performance management
  • Team and organizational communication tools and forms
  • Tools used to help employees stay on track with measuring and meeting goals

Overall, it seems like a lot, but the investment upfront is well worth it. Your consideration will provide the insight you need to decide whether it's a mutual match for you and the employer. Furthermore, you're critically hitting on and communicating your interest level and desire to succeed and add value. Proactively inquiring indicates you're invested in the job's core elements that make-or-break new employees. And it's a sigh of relief for hiring managers concerned with losing and replacing another employee.

Now that you know how to stop what's hindering you from adequately evaluating your fit for a given position, leverage our guidelines to help you break through barriers to attain a favorably matching tech career for the long term. Your investment in the core elements of the job and team will undoubtedly be a relief for hiring managers interested in hiring the right team members who want to make a difference. Now make it yours!

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