How to Get into IT: Keep Calm, Set Goals and Connect with Others

Starting at a new job can be a little stressful, no doubt, but take comfort knowing that everyone was once in your shoes. James McCracken shares his advice from changing careers into IT.

James McCracken Career Change to ITStarting at a new job can be a little stressful, no doubt, but starting at your first professional IT job (ever!) can seem downright intimidating. Sure, you’ve worked before, but now you’re in that first job in the field you’ve chosen and prepared for, and you may wonder if you’re really ready.

Take comfort knowing that everyone in your field was once in the exact same place you are in right now. Entering your desired field is your chance to shine and build on what you’ve learned. After all, you wouldn’t have been hired if the company didn’t think you could do the job. You’ve got what it takes, and it’s time to prove it.

Network engineer and subject matter expert James McCracken recently went through this same situation. After owning and operating his own successful business for six years, he made a career change to IT from marketing. McCracken went back to the classroom to train for a job in IT, earned many IT certifications — including CompTIA Project+ — and entered the IT field for the first time after that.

Now that he’s on the other side of this experience, he has some advice to pass along to the (hopefully not-for-long) occupationally anxious! He recently shared his tips on Twitter, as part of a Tweet chat with the CompTIA charity Creating IT Futures. Here’s what he had to share on how to prepare for your first IT job.

17 Tips for Changing Careers Into IT

  1. Don’t step. JUMP outside of your comfort zone!
  2. Don’t sweat the first test. Instead, focus on improving.
  3. Don’t compare yourself to others. The only person you have to compete with is yourself.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your classmates. Peer learning is an essential skill for today’s tech workforce.
  5. Be willing to step outside your comfort zone as an opportunity to learn from others.
  6. Know your 30-second introduction by heart and be able to give it at a moment’s notice.
  7. When interviewing, consider how potential managers and other company leaders might serve as mentors and role models.
  8. Have a 60-day career plan ready to discuss during interviews. Discover how potential managers and coworkers might play a role.
  9. Don’t be afraid to connect and build connections with your classmates. Building a professional network begins on the first day of class.
  10. While technical skills are essentials, mastery of professional skills like communication and active listening that are just as important.
  11. Five critical soft skills for any IT professional are communication, collaboration, critical observation, problem solving and leadership.
  12. Great interviews begin with research. Don’t waste the interviewer’s time with questions that can be readily answered on the company website.
  13. Professional organizations are a great way to network and meet potential employers.
  14. Networking events are another great way to learn about potential employers and future coworkers. And they can be less pressure than interviewing!
  15. Great interviews are a conversation that is the result of planning. Prepare your questions ahead of time.
  16. After your first week of class, don’t be afraid to set goals for yourself. It will help you to plan and ask for help ahead of time.
  17. LinkedIn is an essential career tool. Get a head start on establishing an online presence by setting up your account.

McCracken made a mid-career switch and has reaped the benefits from it. His marketing background gave him the soft professional skills he needs to succeed in IT every day.

“There’s still a perception that you can’t go into IT if you don’t have a technical background, and that perception couldn’t be further from the truth,” he said. “There is so much opportunity in IT for people like me.”

No matter your current career or future aspirations, it’s never too late to start a career in IT. So many skills from different areas are applicable in technology. If you are like McCracken and are ready for career change, check out the career change section of our website for inspiration, advice and step-by-step guides.

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