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How Do I Gain Hands-On Experience in IT?

Posted August 6, 2008

Topics: Certification

There exist a variety of ways for you to attain the valuable experience you need to get your IT career started. Unfortunately, many of these involve significant self-sacrifice and perhaps some volunteer time. Rest assured however, that your time and effort will pay off eventually.

Many employers will actually view your volunteer efforts in a positive light because they will recognize the fact that you had the foresight to secure a position to get experience, and that you were prepared to undergo some self-sacrifice to do so. Nothing says dedication more than giving up your own time (and income potential) to further your experience and knowledge.

If you are interested in gaining some volunteer experience, there are a variety of options available. Co-ops, internships, job shadowing, volunteer work and summer employment represent just a few of the ways to begin.

Cooperative Education And Internships

Many colleges and universities offer co-op and internship programs. These programs are formed by a partnership with a learning agency and a company or business. Typically, these supervised work experience programs allow students to earn a combination of academic credit and some well-deserved money.

Sometimes these co-ops  are undertaken purely for the experience. The main advantage of these programs is that they allow students to get work experience before graduation meaning that they are better prepared to enter the work force. Further, it is not uncommon for the companies involved in such programs to offer jobs to students after graduation.

The benefit to the employer is that they get a new employee without having to go through the interview process and one who has experience working in their company. These programs are exceptional for allowing exposure to a career field giving those involved the chance to develop marketable skills.

When preparing for a career in IT, it may be a good idea to call universities, colleges and training centers and ask them if they offer co-op or internship programs. With a little research you may be able to find a program that will provide you not only with training but also with relevant work experience; these inquiries can in some cases can lead to a permanent, full-time position.

Volunteer Work And Job Shadowing

Perhaps the last thing you would want to hear after spending time and money obtaining a degree or technical certification is that you might have to work for free. It may not be necessary; however, if you were unable to find a co-op, internship or even a summer job that gave you relevant technical experience, then volunteer work may be a viable option.

In the right place, volunteer work provides a way of amassing marketable skills, gaining confidence in your ability to do the job and perhaps making professional contacts that can help you find a job when your volunteer period completes. It allows you to work in a variety of settings to see exactly what they are like without making a long-term commitment to any single job or company.

Volunteer work, while being able to familiarize you with the actual work environment, cannot give you a fully accurate picture of the job in question. It is unlikely that a volunteer will be given enough responsibility to feel the pressures and rewards of a full time position. Even so, just the opportunity to be in the environment is worth any sacrifices you have to make. Being around the technology and the people who work with it can only serve to enhance your IT knowledge and experience.

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