How to Break into an Entry-Level IT Job with No Experience
If you want to start a new career in IT, it can feel like you face a catch-22: You need experience to get a job, but you need a job to get experience. Job postings, even for “entry-level” positions, will often list several years’ experience among their requirements.
So if you are just getting started, how can you get your foot in the door? The good news is that it is certainly possible. In this post, we’ll explain how you can break into entry-level IT jobs with no experience.
Do Your Homework
Getting started in IT without experience begins with doing some research.
You should familiarize yourself with three broad areas:
The IT Industry: Get to know the kinds of businesses and activities included in IT. Part of your goal here is to orient yourself and be able to talk intelligently about the industry you are hoping to enter. Another goal should be to start to identify the particular areas within IT that you think would be a good fit for your skills and interests.
Terminology: Every industry has its own lingo. You should make note of unfamiliar terms and acronyms and make sure you know what they mean — including ‘IT.’ This is foundational knowledge that everything else you learn will rely upon. It also gives you credibility when it comes time to talk with potential employers.
Career paths: You should have at least a general sense of what career paths in the IT sector look like so you can be strategic about your next steps.
One great resource to explore is accounts from others who have gone before you. Not only can these be a rich source of advice, but they can even give you a bit of inspiration.
Build Your Skills
Okay, you’ve gotten yourself oriented to the industry and have some ideas about areas in IT you’d like to pursue. Now what?
The next task is to consider the skills you need in order to be qualified for entry-level positions in IT. Keep in mind that job skills for IT come in two varieties: technical skills and general skills.
Technical skills are those areas of knowledge specific to the IT world. There are certain foundational areas of which you’ll need at least a basic understanding. These include:
Operating systems (like Microsoft Windows, Linux, and macOS)
Networking (including hardware, setup, and troubleshooting)
Data security (knowledge of best practices for safeguarding customer and company data)
General Skills are important for jobs in many different industries and don’t depend upon specialized training or knowledge. These include skills like:
Communication (both in written and oral forms)
One thing you may notice as you look at these lists is that you already possess one or more of the general skills listed. You may not have networking experience, but you may have worked in a position before where you had to work directly with customers to help solve their problems. When it comes to being qualified for an entry-level position in IT, experience in these general skills is a solid asset.
As for the technical skills, you will want to dive into learning everything you can in these areas to prepare yourself to apply for entry-level positions. There are plenty of online resources that can help you do so.
Get a Certification
Even better than just learning about things like networking and data security is being able to prove to a potential employer that you have the knowledge and skills needed for an entry-level position. This is why getting a certification is a smart move.
Certifications are awarded after you pass an examination covering a certain domain of knowledge and abilities. Think of it as something similar to a college degree but in a much more focused form. There are a number of certifications available in IT that will greatly enhance your credibility with a potential employer, signaling that you have the skills they need to fill their position.
One of the most widely recognized is the CompTIA A+. This certification covers the foundational areas for the IT industry, including those mentioned above (operating systems, networking, and data security). It also covers customer support (making sure you know how to troubleshoot and resolve technical problems) and IT operations (the knowledge needed to support a business’s IT infrastructure). No matter which career path you choose in IT, this certification is a strategic investment - and preparation for the CompTIA A+ exam can help.
Prepare for a Job Search
As you are working on acquiring the skills and certifications you need to be competitive for entry-level jobs, you should also get ready to apply for positions. Here are key places to invest:
Start by working on your resume. For one thing, you will need one to send to potential employers. Beyond that practical necessity, however, the process of creating your resume will be a helpful exercise in thinking through the value you represent to your future boss.
Remember the general skills mentioned above? Give careful thought to how your past experiences might be relevant to an entry-level position in IT. This is your opportunity to show that you do have experience that makes you an attractive candidate.
For instance, maybe you worked in marketing and have a knack for communication. This is an asset for many entry-level IT jobs that involve customer interaction. Maybe you studied philosophy in college; talk about how you love problem solving. With a little creativity, you can find relevant experience that sets you apart, whatever your background.
LinkedIn is a powerful networking tool and a primary place to find jobs and connect with potential employers. Forty-nine million people use it to look for jobs, and six of them are hired on the site every minute. Take the time to set up a professional-looking profile that showcases your qualifications. You can use the material you already developed for your resume.
One of your greatest assets may be your connections. According to research, up to 80% of hires come through professional and personal connections, and many positions are never posted publicly.
Now that you have your professional profile up on LinkedIn, take advantage of the site’s tools for reaching out to people you know and let them know that you are starting a career in IT. You never know who might know someone (or be someone!) looking to fill an entry-level position.
Find an Entry-Level IT Job
Once you have gotten oriented to the world of IT, acquired some necessary skills along with a certification, and prepared yourself for the job market, it’s time to begin to find and apply for positions. You can search for open positions on job sites like Indeed and Monster or sites specific to the tech industry like Dice. LinkedIn, again, is also a great source.
By this point in the process, you should have some ideas about the kinds of positions you’re looking for, but what if you’re feeling unsure?
One common entry point for the IT industry is in IT operations. You’ll see titles here like Computer Support Specialist or Help Desk Technician. These kinds of roles involve maintaining an organization’s IT equipment and troubleshooting technical issues for employees or customers. The median pay is a respectable $57,910 a year, according to the BLS.
What if the entry-level job posting asks for one or two years of experience? Keep in mind that the qualifications listed for a job are what the hiring manager would ideally like to have in a candidate. It does not mean, however, that the person eventually hired will have all of them. If you are confident that you have the skills necessary to do the job, go for it. Just make sure in your cover letter to emphasize how the experiences you do have are part of what makes you a great candidate.
Support for Your Journey
You can break into an entry-level IT job with no experience. As you’ve seen, though, there is plenty of hard work involved. You can make the process easier by walking through it with a trusted, expert guide.
CompTIA Tech Career Academy’s IT-Ready Technical Support program is designed to train you in the skills and knowledge you need for an entry-level IT position and support you through the job-search process. Instead of navigating the path on your own, you’ll have expert support every step of the way. Plus, if you successfully complete the program, you’ll enter the job market with the CompTIA A+ certification to show employers you’re ready to do the job.If you’re ready to make the next move towards your career in IT, see what the program has to offer.