Career Opportunities

A ComputorEdge Column

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Starting a high-tech career: Part 2

© Douglas E. Welch 1997

Last week we talked about some general guidelines for starting a high-tech career. Now let's talk about how to gain the experience you will need to get that first or second job.

Every computer worker needs to be versed in the "Big 3" operating systems and the software that runs on them. Most of us don't have the ability to go out and purchase a computer of each type. The best way to learn these systems is to start selling yourself today, as a freelance computer consultant/troubleshooter/helper or whatever else you can think to call yourself. Another is to immerse yourself in the world of computer trade magazines.

Teach in order to learn

It has been said that the best way to learn about something is to teach it. This has been true in my career and will be in yours. It may sound a bit backwards, teaching before learning, but, in learning a computer system well enough to teach it, you learn it much more deeply than just a casual user.

Start offering to help family members with their word processing or neighbors with their spreadsheets. If you are still in school, help your classmates or even teachers. You might even be able to land a job working or volunteering in the computer lab. Nothing will teach you a system more quickly than having to help others solve problems. This also gives you exposure to many different types of hardware, software and operating systems. The world becomes your training center and, in some cases, people will be willing to pay you to learn.

Read, read, read

Another great asset in your career preparations is getting into the habit of reading industry publications. These can include consumer publications such as ComputorEdge, PC Magazine, Windows Magazine and others. More important though are the industry specific magazines (trade magazines) that focus on the computer industry itself. These include Infoworld, PC Week, Network World and many, many more.

Most of these magazines are controlled circulation, meaning that they are sent free to qualified members of the industry. Often, your college or local library will have subscriptions to these publications. If not, have your librarian request them. You can also borrow them from someone who already receives them. Make friends with the IS people at your part-time job or even with your parents co-workers.

Reading these magazines is more important than how you gain access to them. They contain timely, in-depth information about the computer industry and automatically give you a step up. You can gain an understanding of systems you may never have seen and help you see where the industry is headed.

Next week I will show how to form your experiences, both paid and unpaid, into an impressive resume for your first interview. Remember, experience is experience, regardless of whether you were paid or not.

Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant in Van Nuys, California. While he cannot answer every letter directly, he welcomes questions and suggestions. Douglas can reached via email at or

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