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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.

"As a recruiter, reviewing an applicant's website or portfolio is a great way for me to get a better understanding of who they are," explains Brian Long, talent advocate, The Nerdery, a developer-driven interactive production company. "Create a blog where you can write about things you are learning or trying, your thoughts on the newest JavaScript framework, or the process you went through for a class project."

"Build a digital presence on industry-specific websites, such as GitHub, Quora [or] Stack Overflow," suggests Pertew. "GitHub will allow you to show off the projects you have already worked on and Quora and Stack Overflow can help you exhibit your knowledge by answering other's questions (and asking your own)," he explains. "Recruiters are looking beyond the resume for knowledge, and will often look to GitHub or Quora for potential applicants."

"Demonstrate [your knowledge] by citing examples of how you've jumped in, tackled tasks and been successful," says Michael Waclawiczek, vice president of marketing and operations for distributed database startup NuoDB. "At software startups, a can-do attitude is a quintessential and necessary talent," he explains. Similarly, "demonstrate your ability to lead and take calculated risks. With concrete examples from your personal or professional life, show your strong desire to succeed" -- and how you are will go the extra mile to do so.

Finally, 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: Find a mentor or become part of a tech community. "Create a strong network of affiliations, including classmates, faculty and professionals in your discipline," says Dobransky. "Attend meetings held by professional organizations, such as AITP, IEEE and ISACA. These meetings are a terrific way to network with people in your field and learn about potential positions," she says. Then, when looking or applying for tech jobs, "prepare a concise message that describes the type of position you are looking for, and take every opportunity to share your message with your contacts."

"Take advantage of your student alumni network, professors, career center, volunteer opportunities and other community affiliations," agrees Josie Perez, senior vice president, Human Resources, Narus, a cybersecurity solution provider. "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."

"Even if your professors aren't cofounders of a tech company like I am, they are often connected to employers looking for grads," says Giovanni Vigna, a professor at University of California, Santa Barbara, and the cofounder and CTO of Lastline, which develops software that protects against malware.


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