senior who will have a degree in IT...currently trying to get experience...feel like giving up

I will be graduating in May 2019 with a degree from LSU in Information Technology. I’ve been trying to apply to jobs to get some real technical experience but I have had no luck.

I’ve gotten interviews for IT help desk type jobs but no callbacks. I don’t understand how someone GAINS technical experience when it seems like no company wants to hire you because you have none.

I am currently studying for the A+ certification and should take the exam by December/January, which I mention in all the interviews I’ve been too, but I guess it doesn’t make a difference.

Most of the jobs I’ve applied to in Baton Rouge that are “entry level” all had the requirements of 2-5 years of experience, which I knew I didn’t have but I still applied anyway. I guess I can’t be too surprised that I wasn’t picked for a job or even called back for an interview. I just really feel like I majored in the wrong thing and I’m very discouraged at the moment.

Any advice it would be appreciated

Does your department/school/University have any sort of career counseling or placement services? If so, go see them. Have you talked with any of your IT professors? They often have connections and can help you.

What’s your specialty, or what do you like in IT? Infrastructure? Security? Systems? Pick one of those, or a sub-branch of one of those then get certified. An A+ is ok if you want to do help desk or technician work, but I’d get a CCNA/CCNP/CCIE if you like infrastructure, or MCSE and VMWare cert, along with one or more of the big SAN companies if you like systems, or your CISSIP if you are into security (myself, I’d go the security route and specialize…that’s the really big money and the exploding part of IT, IMHO anyway). I’m an infrastructure engineer but I’m old school, so I’m sort of a jack of all trades. That works too, but if you vertically specialize I think you’ll do better getting your foot in the door…and, trust me on this, your certs mean more initially than your degree. Later down the road, when you are a higher level engineer looking to run a team or a department, THEN your degree will become more meaningful. You might want to even consider another BS degree, or get a masters (I’m getting my 3rd BS degree in cyber fairly soon, as it’s something that interests me). For now, my advice is figure out what you like in IT, and cert up.

Hope it helps. It should be a good choice for you wrt jobs. Oh, one other thing…be prepared to move or move around. It’s not like the old days of IT that I enjoyed, but there is still a lot of jumping from one job to the next, once you build your rep. And don’t always go with the money…companies that have good training budgets and education credits are really what you want to look into early on.

ETA: And keep the faith. The jobs are out there, and you are in a field that is increasingly becoming key to every other one out there. Just don’t be surprised that expert systems and AI are going to also be making inroads wrt jobs. You just need to be agile and flexible, and basically wait for old fogies like me to creak off to retirement.

I’d be surprised if the IT department at LSU didn’t have recruiters coming in. If you’re not aware of this, check with the department chairman’s office.

I graduated 30 years ago with a degree in Computer Sciences from a major university. Recruiters showed up constantly to interview upcoming graduates. These visits were managed by someone in the chairman’s office. Students had to make sure the department knew they wanted to be included in the recruitment process, make sure the department had the proper paperwork, and then sign up for the interviews in which they were interested.

Maybe things have changed in 30 years, but it wouldn’t hurt to check.

I have an interest in computer networks. I figured since I am just starting out that I would get the A+ and then study for the Network+ after that.

I considered getting a Master’s in Business or Analytics since my school doesn’t offer a master’s in IT.

Thank you for your advice!

Many companies use staffing agencies to fill entry level IT positions. You might consider signing up with one or more of these agencies. It would be a contractor position with lower pay and no benefits but it’s a good way to gain experience and get a foot in the door.

Keep in mind that the original intent of a lot of professional certifications was to validate someone’s experience. E.g., think of the A+ as something hiring authorities can use to verify that people who claim to have 12 months working help desk tickets actually did work help desk for 12 months. You can study for the test, sure, and that’s become the norm, but if you’ve been doing the job for a while you shouldn’t need to study, at least in theory. I remember one of the questions on the first test I took was about what to do if a user reported that their computer wouldn’t boot and it said “NTLDR not found”; the answer was “pop open the CD tray.” It’s one of those things, if you study for the test NTLDR not found can be any number of very serious issues and you could quickly overthink that question, but in practice, 99.9% of the time it was that someone had left a music CD in the CD tray and the computer was trying to boot from it. Everyone who worked help desk in a Windows environment at the time would have experienced that.

In practice, I think the tests keep getting harder to remain relevant, but my point is that showing up with an A+ cert and no experience isn’t a whole lot better than showing up with no cert and no experience.

My advice would be to do what you can to show that you love IT as a hobby. In the software world, we tell aspiring developers to code for fun, or to contribute to open source projects. We expect something of a portfolio, even for someone who’s never been paid to code. The networking equivalent would be having an overcomplicated home network, a history of building your own computers, maybe volunteering somewhere doing basic IT work.

IT is the only field I know of where we expect applicants to come to the table already knowing how to do the job, and yes, it’s bullshit. But there’s a lot of competition, and you’re expected to be able to learn on your own because things change so fast and being able to research and troubleshoot on the fly is about 70% of the job.

Best of luck, I assure you you’ll find a job eventually.

I don’t have much advice for the immediate, but I recommend getting your certifications, get a little bit of security experience under your belt and then move to the DC area. Cybersecurity and IT security people are in high demand and get paid top dollar.

The common route is to get in as help desk or service technician and work your way up from there as you gain experience and contacts/reputation.

As a 20 year IT veteran who’s worked at several companies, this is something I perceive as an industry-wide issue.

In the past 20 years, it seems like very few companies are willing to hire entry-level people anymore. EVERY job position seems to want at least 2-5 years of experience, if not more. The modus operandi seems to be that companies want to hire IT pros with experience and slot them directly in with very little training specific to that workplace.

That said, I’ll echo the start in the help desk recommendation. That’s always been a place where good people get a chance to shine, and often move into the infrastructure teams or application teams because people have got to know their worth in the help desk.

I know this sucks, but have you considered a non-paid internship?

You may be able to find paid internships, as well.

(By the way, I am really impressed you are starting to look now, and not in April, 2019.)

Check out some of the local technology meetup groups in your area. For example, in Kansas City, there are a number of local companies that put on small conferences occasionally. I’m talking about 6-10 companies hosting a drinks and hors d’oeuvres get-together. Good place to network and meet people.

You might also check out the LaunchCode organization. I knew several people at my previous company that were LaunchCoders.

Having just gone through a job search myself, I was referred to my new job by a friend I had worked with before, and not by the numerous applications and submissions made through the job search sites. In fact, I was able to interview at two separate companies, both of which were referred to me by friends, so I think the face-to-face networking component is crucial.

If you can get invited to some of the technology meetup groups and start meeting contacts, it might be possible to arrange for a part-time internship. At my previous company, I know of at least one young guy who had such an internship in our IT/security practice, and by young, he was not old enough to drink.

Also, check to see if your area has any business/entrepreneur incubator groups. Your local Chamber of Commerce should be able to point you in the right direction.

I honestly think meeting people who might be able to help guide you is the real key. If someone sees that you are hard-working, industrious, and eager-to-learn, it will give you a huge advantage over just trying to present yourself on paper.

Someone said up-thread that you could try contracting but the pay is lower and without benefits. That is not necessarily the case. Many contracting companies offer benefits. They are typically expensive, especially for family coverage, but many do have benefits.

If you haven’t done so, you might join LinkedIn and start building your “virtual” network and at least start the conversation going with people. If you can, start with classmates who were a year or two ahead of you in your classes, and see what guidance they can give you.

I sincerely wish you the best of luck. As someone else said, you are getting into a good field, but having a specialty area (security, support, networking, etc.) will probably help you get into the first door.

Try volunteering to help with the IT at a charitable organisation. The levels of IT skills in these organisations is quite low (especially if they are small) and they have a lot of easy to solve problems. They greatly appreciate technical help. You can get some good experience solving common problems, as long as you can teach yourself. Write a blog about interesting problems you have come across.

Certification exams are memory tests. But the The actual job of troubleshooting IT problems does not come in the format ‘is the answer A,B.C or D’. It requires detective work, logical reasoning and some diagnostic technique. It takes practice and experience and a lot of tinkering. In a small organisation, you stand a good chance of learning everything that commonly goes wrong and how to fix it quickly. In larger organisations it can be somewhat overwhelming and it takes longer to learn how it is supposed to work and what tends to go wrong and they don’t want to train you.

This might not be helpful but I would probably look to hire myself to get experience if no one else is willing to give me a shot. I don’t know if that’s feasible for this particular skill, but that’s what I and many of the college educated members of my family have done. I think I’m of a little different mindset due to my grandfather and father never working for anyone else but themselves, but if I can’t find a job I want I try to make a business out of what I want to do. That can also involve volunteering, internships, any sort of thing you can do to build a portfolio of projects or references, etc. I know this is more than possible if you were in something like programming/development but not really sure what I would do for your circumstance. Volunteering might be the way to go, IMHO. Also, I know a lot of times it’s about who you know and networking, something that I’m terrible at.

It’s an interesting dilemma. New grads are mad because no one will hire them with no experience. Then they get a few years of experience and hop jobs for more money at a company that didn’t pay to train them. Employers don’t want to hire new grads only to invest the time and money into training them only to have them leave in three years.

Everyone does and should do what’s in their best interests but in technical fields new graduates aren’t worth their salary and resoures it takes to train them especially in fields like IT where apparently it’s comminplace to change jobs every two years before the company can recoup their investment.

That’s my impression anyway.

Aren’t a lot of IT jobs, especially help desk jobs, outsourced to other countries?

And a lot of companies are moving towards “cloud” based infrastructure. Which means the “IT guy” going around fixing stuff is rapidly being displaced by Amazon and Google.

I was at a Meetup a few weeks ago for CTOs and they were talking about how they interview something like 400 “full stack engineers” from places like Russia, Ukraine and Argentina to pick like 2 with the equivalent of MIT educations who will work for peanuts.

Have you considered gaining experience in the military?
Cyber Operations
Information Technology

I was going to suggest a civilian position in the military or the intelligence agencies, since these jobs aren’t going to be outsourced, at least not overseas.

Announcement from tech company:
“We are excited to announce brand new language X version 1.0”
Six months later, HR departments all over will be creating job postings:
“Requires minimum 5 years experience in language X”

When I’m hiring junior tech people with no “official” experience, I will look for anything they’ve done on their own. If they can walk me through a reasonably complete small task/project, and they can show me they had a vision for how it would all work, they designed it, solved problems and ended up with something that basically worked, then it gives me enough insight into their capabilities to make a hiring decision.
1 - someone created a website for a friend for tracking something, it included a little database and front end UI etc. It was tiny, but it was enough for him to demonstrate drive and problem solving, and a basic understanding of technology.

2 - someone created a system connecting a raspberry pi with some external device that was monitoring something about the weather. Again, it was enough to know he could solve problems and move forward to completion.