Article The First Rung: Entering the World of IT

Discussion in 'Articles, Reviews and Interviews' started by Arroryn, Sep 17, 2007.

  1. Arroryn

    Arroryn we're all dooooooomed Moderator

    The First Rung: Entering the World of IT

    Certification and Experience the Chicken and the Egg

    There are a myriad of Certifications out there for the discerning IT learner and they all have their own applications, uses, and joys when you study.

    As a new starter in IT, I will be making the assumption in this article that you will be aiming for the Helpdesk level of work - First Line support. Rest assured, this is not the be all and end all of an IT career; other areas such as programming and web design will have entry-level certifications and criteria. I will try to provide examples where possible, but am working on the assumption that most people reading this will end up in IT support.

    And in First Line Support, no, you don't really need qualifications to get the job. Or experience. The point is, you are going for an entry level job, and by definition, an entry level job is for someone who is at the very beginning of their IT career.

    Getting certified still interests me; what should I go for?

    There are staple certifications in IT, much as you see staple foods in a diet.

    There are some people out there who are persuaded to go for certifications because of glitzy marketing and peer pressure. These certifications are the fast food of the IT world; too much at once can lead to indigestion, a swollen head and a lack of gainful employment.

    CompTIA are a well-known organisation providing vendor-neutral examinations. As an entry-level tech in any area of IT, CompTIA are likely to have an exam that caters for your needs.

    The A+ and the Network+, both from CompTIA, are part of the staple diet for the discerning helpdesk technician, and you should consider these at the start of your career.

    If you are still enthused after finishing these, then the MCDST (Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician) should be the next item on your menu.

    You may hear people advise you to certify for ‘glitzier’ certifications; these may include the CCNA, CCNP, MCSA or MCSE. These certifications are bandied around on the back of the myth that they are a magic carpet to high wages and fast cars. They quite categorically are not. These certifications are intended for technicians with at least a few years of solid IT experience in the workplace. And as I will show later, gaining these certifications so early on in your career could be more of a hindrance than a help to getting your foot in the door.

    Get your staple ingredients sorted, and make sure you are comfortable with them. There’s plenty of time for dessert later.

    I’ll go for the A+, N+ and MCDST then… what studying route do you recommend?

    95% of the people I have spoken to will recommend self-studying as a tried and tested successful method for gaining solid IT certification.

    I’m applying for entry level jobs, but I get turned down as they say I don't have enough experience!

    Then you’re not applying for entry level jobs!

    This job is an ideal example.

    The points you are looking for here that full training will be provided, but you need to be IT literate. If you weren’t IT literate, I’d change your choice of career now without passing go and without collecting £200.

    The main mistake people make when they are hunting for that elusive first role is that, because they have no experience in IT, they cross themselves out as having no experience at all. And, unless you were born yesterday, that is simply not true.

    A service desk role is something that a surprising amount of people are more than experienced in, and qualified to apply for. These are some of the things I’d look for in a service technician:

    - Polite telephone manner
    - Able to structure their own workload
    - Recognise issues that require escalation
    - Self motivated
    - Punctual
    - Well presented
    - Methodical/logical approach to problem solving

    Not one of these things require you to have even touched a computer – but they are all elements that are almost certain to have been a part of your previous employment. Try to think what you have done that emphasises your customer service attitude; as the way you deal with your customers, and the way they feel after the ‘transaction’ is complete, is half the battle of the IT service technician.

    Have you ever answered a phone regularly in previous employment? Spoken to and managed suppliers? Done troubleshooting or customer support? All of these are valid customer service abilities. Even being able to offload a lorry quickly can be turned to service orientation – working quickly and accurately under pressure. Natch.

    Finally, don’t disregard any experience you have had helping family, friends, or people in your neighbourhood. ‘Moonlighting’ doesn’t look great on a CV, so I don’t’ suggest you put it there – but being conversant about handling basic software and hardware will stand you in good stead, and is a solid foundation for building your knowledge.

    Think carefully about your previous employment before writing off your lack of experience.

    If you think you cannot find a job, try to widen your search area.

    Although job search sites are well-renowned, a lot of people forget the power of the local newspaper. Pick up the local free papers and keep your eye out for any openings – there are some companies out there that, believe it or not, are still not confident enough or knowledgeable enough to advertise through the internet. You could be the member of their team to bring them into the 21st Century!

    I still think I want more experience. How can I get it, without getting a job!

    If you still want to ‘whet your whistle’, then volunteering in the community is probably the thing for you. Aside from being rewarding, and gaining that valuable experience, it will look great on your CV.

    Try these sites for starters, to see if there’s a programme or organisation in your area you can volunteer for. And if you can’t find one, why not see if you can start a study group in your area?

    I don’t have experience, but I already have A+, N+, CCNA, MCDST, MCSA and I’m studying the MCSE. I did most of it using ‘dumps and boot camps. I’m applying for my first IT job, but no one will take me on. Why?

    Because you’ve got certification obesity at an early age.

    Your first IT job is a steep learning curve. You will not make that curve any easier to follow by gorging yourself on certification.

    Employers have a good idea of what they expect from an entry level technician; someone with a CCNP and MCSE can simply not be categorised as entry level. They may think you are too expensive to hire – they may wonder why on earth you are applying for the job. Realistically, they probably won’t even invite you for an interview, as you will have ‘priced yourself out of the market’.

    : this article was written based on my experiences online on boards, through changing my own career, and through my experience learning both on my own and with a training provider. It is not a definitive guide, though I do hope it will be a useful tool – making the climb in IT is no mean feat. But with the right determination and preparation, it will be just as fun and rewarding as most geeks you know claim it to be!

    I hope it helps both new and established members of Certforums in finding their way in the IT world :
    Certifications: A+, N+, MCDST, 70-410, 70-411
    WIP: Modern Languages BA
  2. tripwire45
    Honorary Member

    tripwire45 Zettabyte Poster

    Great article, Arroryn. Keep 'em coming. :D
    Certifications: A+ and Network+
  3. Bluerinse
    Honorary Member

    Bluerinse Exabyte Poster

    I agree, well said Arro, that sums the whole thing up very nicely indeed 8)
    Certifications: C&G Electronics - MCSA (W2K) MCSE (W2K)
  4. greenbrucelee
    Highly Decorated Member Award

    greenbrucelee Zettabyte Poster

    Good article, well written and very concise.

    Good advice given Thanks :D
    Certifications: A+, N+, MCDST, Security+, 70-270
    WIP: 70-620 or 70-680?
    Honorary Member

    UCHEEKYMONKEY R.I.P - gone but never forgotten. Gold Member

    Well done Arroryn on a clear concise article with references to other threads on the forum!:thumbleft :rocks
    It 's a 5 star thread :smilescol
    Certifications: Comptia A+
    WIP: Comptia N+
  6. Late Starter

    Late Starter New Member

    Thank you for an informative and very useful article.

    I am just taking my 1st steps towards a new career in IT and gaining my 1st job and / or experience was an area of concern for me. I'll be sure to let you know how things go along the way.

    Thank you for your guidance
    Certifications: None
    WIP: Self Studying for A+
  7. oztrailrider

    oztrailrider Nibble Poster

    Great article, I think it explains things nicely.
    Certifications: MCP (70-270)
    WIP: A+
  8. samsdad

    samsdad Bit Poster

    Very usefull info there m8 Thanks for taking the time to do that.
    WIP: A+ and Househusband.

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