One of the most powerful ways to create connections and kick-start your I.T. career is through interning. Many I.T. and management information systems (MIS) training programs require this; however, you do not need to wait for a school to place you to begin internning.
Interning may allow you to work in a given discipline long before you have your degree and even prior to receiving any training. In addition, if you go out and find your own internship, you might be able to find one that is geographically advantageous to you.
I had an employee who has gone on to become a senior-level consultant. He approached me while in school and asked if he could intern. This unpaid internship turned into a part-time job with me a month or so later. Soon after, I hired him full time. After my company was purchased by a client and he worked there for a couple years, he went to another employer, quickly becoming a senior developer.
Ask for What You Want
I must give you another piece of advice: Ask for what you want. This is one of the most underutilized ways to help advance your career. For some reason, we feel hesitant to make our desires known.
However, if you are hoping to get into I.T. at your company, your chances improve considerably if the manager of that department knows this. I know that sounds obvious. But I meet person after person who fails to introduce himself to his company’s I.T. managers and explain his desired career goals.
Part of this reason might be a feeling of inferiority when considering the seasoned professionals who work there. However, personal promotion is a key factor in how rapidly you rise in your career. In marketing vernacular, personal promotion is referred to as reach and frequency. Simply put, get your name, accomplishments, and good attitude in front of as many people as possible.
Ask for Advice
The owner of a small marketing company once told me the most noticed/desirable words for people to hear are you and free. One strokes our pride, and the other strikes a pragmatic financial chord.
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want, but just as important is the ability to ask for advice. When you approach an I.T. manager, ask him what you might do to break into the field. More specifically, ask him how you can break into his department.
Let the I.T. manager know up front that you are asking for his advice. More important, take it. If this person provides you with a profile of what he would like to see in an employee, do what you can to model that profile. Asking advice pays dividends in a few ways:
- It serves notice that you are serious about your career—You want to know from the top how to succeed in this endeavor. From this perspective, it paints good public relations. As a business owner, I was always impressed when someone would approach me for advice on my line of work. I considered it a compliment and considered the individual wise for seeking it.
- You’ll probably receive some good advice—Don’t overlook this. If you are asking advice just to paint a good picture, but your attitude is one of disdain for the actual advice received, it will show up somewhere else. Most people in management have actually produced to get where they are. Their advice is valuable and should be heeded.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that the managerial tasks are simpler than the hands-on technology work. I’m here to tell you that the opposite is true. You should aspire to learn from effective managers, even if you believe your technical skills far surpass theirs.
Beware Your Online Persona
I cover this topic more fully in Chapter 17, “Your Career and Social Media,” and Chapter 26, “A Professional Blog.” But it is worth mentioning here.
Even your e-mail address should be professional. Vanity e-mail addresses or those that imply immaturity in an attempt to be clever should be avoided. In addition, fully expect any prospective employer to do some research on you. If you are in the habit of posting information that an employer could find objectionable, just be aware that it could hinder your ability to get hired.