Although Ireland is on the road to recovery after the economic downturn, most of us are aware that the jobs sector still has a long way to go. Recent college graduates must bear in mind that after studying for four years and receiving their degree they won’t be guaranteed to land their dream IT job straight away.
So what can they do to boost their chances of landing a position in IT, be it at a software company, in healthcare or manufacturing/engineering?
Read our 12 tips to help increase the odds of landing an entry-level IT job.
1. Know what you are good at – Learn about the different options and career paths available and apply for positions best suited to your interests and talents. Choose early on if you want to specialize in a certain segment, or if you want to be a generalist, If you are interested in management, then consider going the generalist route, since having diversified skills can help you land an entry-level position that will eventually lead you down the management track. It’s also important to express your interest in management within an interview, which can alert the hiring manager that you are ambitious and have the drive to pursue opportunities for advancement.
2. Learn everything you can about the company and position you are applying/interviewing for, before you apply or interview there. Familiarize yourself with the company, have they been featured recently in the press? Are they active on TechCrunch? Find out. Then, in your cover letter or during the interview, highlight some of the exciting things the company is doing and why you would want to be engaged in that work and how you could add to the project with your skills.
4. Hone your “soft” skills. These are nontechnical, interpersonal skills, like effective communication, strong teamwork, leadership, problem solving and negotiation skills. Even if you have proficiencies in a hard- to-find technical skill like Java, those skills alone won’t land you a job in IT. It’s these soft skills that will make you more employable and well- rounded to a potential boss. Identify the skills where you may not be strongest and invest in improving them. The best way to do this is with practice. Network as much as possible and take as many interviewing opportunities as you can.
5. Gain practical experience in your discipline. One of the best ways for college seniors to improve their job prospects is by building relevant experience with an internship. They can help job seekers develop and demonstrate the specific skills employers are demanding, and serve as key stepping stones to full-time employment. This is especially true in IT, where internships constitute 13 percent of all postings calling for IT-related skills, which is greater than all other skill areas besides engineering. For graduates without internship experience, a strong portfolio is another way to demonstrate relevant skills and experience.
Community service projects are another excellent way to achieve real-world know-how, look in your local community for organizations that need help designing a Web page, creating a mobile app, or setting up a network, and volunteer your services.
6. Showcase your work, or at least your knowledge. Set yourself apart with a sample of your work, whether it is from an internship or a class project, create a SlideShare, blog post or YouTube video of what you have done and how it would be relevant to the position you are applying to. Create a blog or use websites, such as GitHub, Quora or Stack Overflow to show off the projects you have already worked on, this will help you exhibit your knowledge by answering other’s questions. Also be sure to have a LinkedIn profile, so prospective employers can easily find you – and you can find and network with prospective employers.
7. Network – Become a member of The Irish Computer Society to create a strong network with others working in IT in Ireland. Attend meetings and courses held by us here, to improve links with other members who could also become potential employers. Also take advantage of your student alumni network, professors, career center, volunteer opportunities and other community affiliations, attend industry events to make connections with people. Even if the connections you make now don’t lead to a job right away, they may be useful in the future.
8. Participate in local industry events, It’s a chance for students to demonstrate their skills while networking with peers and potential employers, participation in coding competitions is also a good way to make your programming skills stand out. Consider competing on sites such as TopCoder and keep an eye on our news section for information on any upcoming tech events in Ireland.
9. Tailor your resume to each position – avoid jargon and simply listing keywords. Develop a resume that reflects the IT professional you want to be by detailing every project you’ve completed or been a part of, regardless of its size or scope (even college coursework demonstrates your skills)
When writing your resume, make sure the content is detail- oriented and focuses on the skills you’ve applied, technologies you’ve worked and, especially important, the results you’ve generated.
10. Don’t just apply to the “big” exciting companies like Google or Facebook, make your search wide-ranging, not only geographically but in the kinds of things you might like to work on. Look for companies solving difficult, interesting problems.
Also bear in mind that over half of all job postings for IT roles are outside of the IT sector, in areas such as manufacturing, healthcare, finance and retail.”
11. Know your interviewer. Prior to an interview, ask with whom you will be meeting and use LinkedIn and the Web to learn as much as you can about them, this shows initiative and provides an opportunity to identify similarities you might share with your interviewer (e.g., attended the same college or played the same sport).
The most positive feedback from hiring managers comes when a candidate is able to make a personal connection, take note of the professional paths of the IT managers with whom you interview. Asking how they got to where they are today is an excellent icebreaker and shows career initiative.
12. Be realistic about salary. Don’t expect that you are going to get €30,000+ because that’s what you saw that job position pays at the high range. The high range is meant for people that have years of experience in the field.