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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.

"Whether the hiring manager is an alum or the hiring company is their former employer, your computer science professors are more hip to the IT job scene than you think," Vigna says.

"Connect to them on LinkedIn and keep their email addresses. They will be a resource for years, and who knows, perhaps they'll invite you to speak to future classes about launching a successful career in IT, or will refer a candidate to you, years from now," Vigna says.

"Find a mentor," says Jesper Helt, chief human resources officer, CommVault, a provider of enterprise backup and recovery, data management, data deduplication, data protection, archiving and eDiscovery software. "Having a mentor who is knowledgeable in the field of study you wish to pursue is imperative. This allows you insights into what your future roles will entail and help you grasp the concepts of the materials in a new light, beyond the walls of the classroom," he says.

"Mentors include professors, advisors and even other students with experience in the field," Helt says. "They are there to inspire you and bring out your confidence in the subject matter, are aware of new trends and future predictions and in the job hunt are a more important resource than just a resume."

8. Participate in local industry events, like hackathons and coding competitions. "We search for talent at tech-related events and competitions like hackathons," says Dorie Blesoff, chief people officer, kCura, which develops Web-based e-discovery applications. "It's a chance for students to demonstrate their skills while networking with peers and potential employers. Recently we hosted the National Day of Civic Hacking at our office, which aimed to solve local organizations' challenges with technology," she says.

"There are also great organizations like the Illinois Technology Association, which convenes Midwestern college students each year for a programming skills tournament, giving students an opportunity to engage with great tech companies," Blesoff says.

"For engineers, participation in coding competitions is also a good way to make your programming skills stand out," says Mike Jennings, senior director of IT at LinkedIn. "Highlight them on your LinkedIn profile [blog, or website] with clear and concise descriptions. Consider competing on sites such as TopCoder."

9. Tailor your resume to each position -- and 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 that college coursework demonstrates your skills)," says Jennifer Doran, consultant program manager TEKsystems, an IT staffing firm.

"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," Doran says. "Too often I see resumes with a skills summary section that's simply keywords with no details about those skills within the candidate's job descriptions."


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