7 Steps to Get Back Into IT

I have been out of IT for about three years and would like to get back in. Prior to leaving IT I was a help desk technician with about ten years of experience and my A+ certification. What would you suggest I do?

Over the past few months I have been asked this question a number of times and relating to virtually all areas of IT, including programming, testing, data center operations, project management, business analysis, website design and, as illustrated in the question above, help desk support. I’ll be answering this/these questions here using the above help desk example, but I’ll be answering the question in a way that will be relevant to virtually all professionals within IT.

As you may expect, three years out of the IT industry is a professional lifetime. The job market changes, industry trends emerge and change direction. Vendors phase out products, upgrade current products and introduce new products. Lastly, as the general economy and specific industry change direction so do company goals. As a result of these and other factors, the IT world you left may be very different than the IT world you are trying to reenter. As a result, consider doing the following steps:

Step 1: Research Do your research by considering the following questions: 1. What specific job do you want to find? 2. What are the current technologies used by that job? 3. What are the current trends and challenges in your technical area? 4. What skills related to the job you would like are in demand? 5. What industries/companies are hiring in your area?

Step 2: Personal Skills Assessment Compare your current skills and technical knowledge to the required skills and technologies defined in step 1. In essence, you are doing a gap analysis of the skills you have versus the skills you need.

Step 3: Skill Enhancement Develop and execute a plan to enhance your skill set as needed. I realize this is much easier said than done. Below are some very low cost or free ways you can gain the skills, knowledge and experience to help you move forward. • Download free evaluation copies of the software you want to learn. The evaluation copies are generally limited in some way such as automatically turning off after thirty days, not allowing you to save key types of data, limited stored data size, watermarks placed on graphics, and/or other limitations. From your perspective, however, who cares, you have full access to the application’s functionality for your educational purposes. • You can find instructional YouTube videos for almost every topic. They are free and many of them are quite good. • Volunteer at a local charity (or company) that uses the technology you want to learn. The deal is that you will work for free (part or full time as your schedule allows) and they will help you learn the product/technology and give you a professional reference if you do a good job. • Your local government may have job retraining funds you can use and/or free training classes that you can take.

The trick for you here is to think outside-the-box of ways to have the skills you need and ideally a current job reference that you can use as part of your job search.

Step 4: Update your resume This may sound like an obvious step, but don’t overlook the power of a well written resume and the roadblocks caused by a poor one. Seek the help of a professional resume writer and/or help from a friend in a management role who could give you suggestions based on the resumes he/she sees as part of his/her daily work.

Step 5: Build your professional brand and brand awareness The bottom line here is to make sure the world knows that your skills are up to date and ready to get back into IT. The following activities can help you move this process along: • Attend local (and often free) technology meetings. This activity alone has three advantages. They are making new contacts, gaining new knowledge, giving you something to talk about in interviews, and picking up tips on potential job opportunities. • Become active in LinkedIn groups specifically related to the latest technologies in your area of newfound expertise. This may help people find you and your participation will continue to increase your technical knowledge in the area.

Step 6: Do information interviews Find people in your field at companies where you would like to work and ask to meet them over coffee or in their office to • Gain knowledge related to the technologies you are learning • People they can connect you to • Companies that they think may be hiring.

You don’t (and shouldn’t) them to hire you during an information interview, it will hurt your credibility with the person you are speaking with. Don’t worry about losing an opportunity if there is one at their firm. They know you are looking for a job and they will simply tell you about it if they are interested in you.

Step 7: Be relentless Getting back into IT, particularly in this economic environment is not easy. Look hard and trust in your ability to find a job and do it well. In closing, please note that many of the steps can actually be done simultaneously, rather than sequentially. I have presented then in a sequential manner to help provide structure to the overall process.

Lastly, to those who emailed me on this topic, good luck and best wishes on your job search.

If you have any questions about your career in IT, please email me at eric@ManagerMechanics.com or find me on Twitter at @EricPBloom.

Until next time, work hard, work smart, and continue to grow.

Read more of Eric Bloom's Your IT Career blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Eric on Twitter at @EricPBloom. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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