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12 tips to help college grads land their first IT job

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff | June 24, 2014
Technology and HR pros, as well as IT recruiters, share their advice on how recent graduates and those still in college can best position themselves for a technology career.

"Coming directly out of college, I am hiring for intellect and attitude rather than expertise," says Patrick McGuinness, CIO, Global Risk and Compliance, GE Capital. "I want to see that you understand your context and that you are educated about GE Capital -- what we do and how we use technology in innovative ways for our clients."

So in addition to technical skills, or aptitude, grads looking for a hiring advantage, or who want to get on the management track, should have solid research, communication and listening skills.

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," says Sigelman. "Internships help job seekers develop and demonstrate the specific skills employers are demanding, and serve as key stepping stones to full-time employment," he explains.

"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. Moreover, in the past 12 months IT internships were the second-most demanded, with employers seeking interns who already possess expertise in multiple IT skills such as JAVA, C++, and Python," Sigelman says. "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," says Mary Dobransky, dean of the College of Science and Technology at Bellevue University. "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."

"Look for programs [or internships that offer] hands-on training," adds Anjul Bhambhri, vice president of Big Data at IBM. "The best way to learn and prepare for a job in IT is to train in real-world scenarios using the systems employed in the business world today," she says. "So it's important that soon-to-be graduates take steps to gain hands-on training before applying for a position. For example, San Jose State University offers an Advanced Certificate in Business Analytics from the Lucas Graduate School of Business. The program incorporates IBM software and project-based collaboration with IBM big data and analytics clients."

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," says Rutt. "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. (You can see a great example of an intern from Khan Academy's work here.)"


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