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How to Find a Job in IT With No IT Work Experience

How to Find a Job in IT With No IT Work Experience
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How can somebody who's not currently employed in IT with a degree outside the IT umbrella, break into IT employment? Answer: Jump into anything entry-level you can find – probably tech support or help desk, where warm bodies are always in demand – then pick some hot hiring areas, study like mad, get certified, and jump back into the IT job market for real.

Our correspondent this week has an MBA, along with several years of work experience in customer service in his home country of Nigeria, but alas, no real experience in IT. Okey recently started working as a phone support technician, however, this position doesn't offer him any hands-on opportunities with technology.

His dream job is to work as an IT security specialist, some day being able to move into a consulting role where he can work for himself and open an IT security consultancy agency of his own. Currently, Okey has completed the CompTIA A+ and Network+ certifications but is looking to earn the Security+ credential and ultimately, the CISSP. But first, he wants to get some hands-on experience with technology and find a job in IT.

Dear Okey:

You are in something of a difficult situation, with an MBA and a bachelor's in business, and wanting to work in IT. While that training has some elements in common with IT, it's not enough of an overlap to let you into a graduate program that requires an IT background (computer science, computer engineering, or the like) as you have already learned. Unfortunately, that same kind of dissociation also applies to finding work in IT with your background as well; you might otherwise be qualified for something above entry level, but your lack of direct, relevant, hands-on experience with technology makes it unlikely that an employer will want to take the chance of hiring you into a mid-level job without such experience.

To that end, I would recommend that you do your best to find any kind of entry-level IT job you can land, and at the same time start working your way into project management as a specialty. Certainly, you can and probably should tackle Microsoft's 70-178: Managing Projects with MS Project 2010 exam. Longer term, though, I would also urge you to take a course on, study for, pursue and earn the Project Management Institute's Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. It is a highly-regarded credential and often tied to better-paying and more responsible positions in job and salary surveys. 

You also indicate interest in the MCSE and CISSP. These are both great credentials and should also help to boost your career possibilities and prospects. I'd recommend tackling the project exams first, then an MCSE of some kind (with your background, you might find the database credentials interesting, especially the Business Intelligence MCSE). 

Because the CISSP requires four to five years of on-the-job IT security experience, there's no point in starting work on this credential until you start getting some experience in the information security arena anyway. But definitely keep this cert on your radar.

If you can stomach the idea of staying with your current role for a while longer as you complete the 70-178 exam and work your way through the PMP certification, you'll be able to look for a better job. It will take you 12 to15 months to complete these two certs, so you'll also be gaining additional on-the-job experienced and longevity at the same time in addition to your new certifications. Then you can start planning out and pursuing additional certs while building your job experience base at the same time. Over time, you'll be able to work on the information security side of things, which touches all aspects of IT nowadays.

Stick with your plan, and work toward your objectives, and I believe you'll have every right to expect ongoing career satisfaction and success. To that end, let me wish you the best of luck with your career and certification planning.

Ed Tittel

Ed is a 30-year-plus veteran of the computing industry, who has worked as a programmer, a technical manager, a classroom instructor, a network consultant and a technical evangelist for companies that include Burroughs, Schlumberger, Novell, IBM/Tivoli and NetQoS. He has written for numerous publications, including Tom's IT Pro, and is the author of more than 140 computing books on information security, web markup languages and development tools, and Windows operating systems.

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