Like most other careers, the IT industry is not necessarily one of the easiest fields to land that first job in. What people do not realize though is what to do once one lands that first job; in other words how to stay afloat in the IT field to allow one to maintain and succeed from an entry level position. It’s a slippery slope that one must practice carefully by balancing a passion for learning new things on the tech side but by also not pushing boundaries and rubbing the new employer the wrong way in order to start a fruitful career.
First and foremost, entering the IT industry can be similar to that of many other job fields in that new employees need to be motivated to learn. While upon being hired there are set skills an IT professional should have, a recent college grad is expected to know everything. One recent IT professional hire Michael Erhart, a software developer says “Ask plenty of questions. Your new colleagues have probably dealt with these or similar problems before and they’re a fantastic resource. If you’re not asking questions, you’re doing it wrong.”
Many fresh IT professionals may think they need to impress their most recent employer, and while it is important to show them the knowledge that has been acquired, it’s more important to have the ability to ask questions. “A lot of new IT people blow through tasks; instead, they need to be careful they’re doing it right,” according to Systems Administrator Chris Graham, Pluralsight. The bottom line in this scenario is that it is more appreciated for a new employee to ask a lot of questions than to break production.
While asking questions, it also is important to show the new employer the motivation to learn. In other words, one good strategy is to be proactive in learning new processes, programs, etc. In particular, it will go a long way to seek out new certifications that will be of value to the employer. This is beyond important as it will strengthen one’s skill set and bring more value to the respective company. Not to mention that this will show the employer the knowledge and proficiency in programs while also understanding the processes and systems rather than faking it on the job.
Beyond the technical aspects, there are other things needed to help maintain the first IT job. One mandatory strategy for this is to gauge the corporate culture. In layman’s terms it is vital to understand and learn what is important to the company whether it’s priorities, how things are done, etc. One way to succeed at this is to take notes on that first IT job and maintain this paperwork, whether it is simple things like fixing emergencies before finishing projects and/or specific procedures.
In particular when it comes to fixing technical problems for co-workers, Network Administrator John Polzin says “Correcting issues on someone’s computer while they are not present is an important strategy. While you know that you can access all the data on a computer without actually logging on to said computer, the users do not. If you need to fix a problem on a computer, wait for the user to return or they may feel like you invaded their privacy.” Furthermore, it is very important to understand when fixing systems of officers high up on the corporate ladder, not to embarrass them by making it seem exceedingly simple.
On a personal level, it is important for new IT employees to establish a rapport with their new co-workers. Whether it’s trying to know more about said employee or trying to truly understand their role and what they do for the company. Just think, the more interested in an employee’s job one is, the more likely they’ll help the employee if they need assistance. It’s all about creating a smooth working relationship.
Most importantly, when building these relationships an employee can never know what that can do long term. Down the road five or 10 years even, an ex-employee could be a hiring manager in a location, and while maintaining that relationship, it could ease the interview process by having that “in” instead of going through a stressful set of interviews and testing.
While entry level jobs are never an easy transition for graduates, following these tips will help tremendously. When it comes down to how to keep that first IT job, there are a number of factors that will help one to maintain and succeed from that first position, thus resulting in a successful career. While many of these tips border on common sense, they are things that newcomers tend to neglect.
Opinion by Simon Mounsey
Research conducted through interviews