Information technology (IT) is a profitable, exciting, and in-demand career choice. As such, however, it is also quite competitive – lots of people are vying for the same computer networking and software development jobs. How can you compete, especially if you are new to the field?
The good news is that there are four things you can do now—this year, this month, this week, even today—to build your IT portfolio and skyrocket your career prospects.
You Can Gain IT Experience Today
Below, we will focus on how you can gain practical IT experience and grow your professional network through job shadowing, personal projects, entry-level employment, and networking.
Job shadowing is a fun and easy way to learn more about your future career while gaining valuable experience. You will be able to observe a professional as they go about their work routine, and you may even receive specific training.
Job shadowing is especially valuable if you are unsure of your career choice or if you would like to specialize but you have not decided which specialty is right for you. You can “taste” what each job is like before you commit yourself to it.
Job shadowing looks good on a resume, too. Include it in your “Experience” section or create a dedicated section for multiple shadows.
Additionally, job shadowing can, in some cases, lead to an offer of an internship. This, in turn, might lead to a job offer.
Personal IT projects like building your own computer, setting up someone’s network, or coding an app for a friend’s business are a great way to gain experience, skills, knowledge, and items to fill your portfolio. As you go along, you will no doubt need to seek out more information – how-to articles, video tutorials, etc. In this way, you will continue to learn and keep pace with the latest trends with little perceived effort.
You can work pro bono or as a small business or side hustle.
You can include these projects on your resume under a heading like “Projects.” Even if you do not yet have work experience, this will prove to potential employers that you have a passion for the field, you are self-motivated in learning about it, and you can already do some of the tasks they will require of you.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and information technology jobs are expected to grow 15 percent by 2031, a much faster growth rate than jobs in general. This means that entry-level positions may be open to you. You can use these to gain experience in the field. They may also serve as a gateway to promotion to higher-paying jobs with increased responsibility.
If you’re already in the workforce but looking to pivot to an IT career, consider asking to fill the IT position at your current company. Even if IT does not become your full-time role, you can cite the experience with IT tasks on your resume.
Networking is not limited to computers – professionals need to make connections, too.
One of the most basic ways to network is to converse and establish positive relationships with others already in your professional or academic sphere. You might also consider attending networking events, seminars, or industry conferences to meet others in your field.
The next step is staying in contact with your professional network. The challenge of keeping in touch with people who are geographically distant or whom you do not see every day is alleviated by yet another network – the professional social network LinkedIn.
If you have not already done so, set up your LinkedIn profile and reach out to the people in your network. Complete your profile with the experiences and portfolio items discussed above. If you are looking for your next IT job, enable the #OpenToWork setting. You will get a special frame around your photo, making it easier for recruiters to find you. You can also notify your network. After all, that is what they are there for, and you never know where a recommendation or a lead could be waiting.
Even if you are new the to labor market, there are things you can do today to build a powerful IT career portfolio.
- Shadow a professional to find out what the day-to-day work is really like.
- Engage in personal projects such as coding or building your own computer to gain experience and learn valuable skills.
- Apply for entry-level IT jobs or seek IT-related tasks at your current job.
- Attend networking and industry events, connect with tech professionals on LinkedIn, and talk to them in person.
You do not have to wait to get your IT career off the ground – choose one or more of these tips and get started now. Your future self will thank you.