Starting a high-tech career: Part 3
© Douglas E. Welch 1997
You can start preparing for your high-tech career by helping those
around you. In some cases this might be a paid position at the
college computer lab, as an intern for some large corporation
of simply as a computer consultant to friends and relatives. The
experience you gain is far more important than how or where you
Get it in writing
As you work for people it is important to let them know what you
are trying to do with your career. If they are happy with your
work, ask them to write a letter of recommendation for you. Most
people will be happy to do this and a nice collection of such
letters can be very useful when applying for that first job.
Document the training, development and projects you have been
involved in, even if they were only done by yourself as a learning
experience. It is impressive when you can show your desire to
learn about new systems. Perhaps you developed a volunteer database
for the local museum or ran a web site for a group of your hobbyist
friends. You might even be active in the local computer user group.
You should write up detailed descriptions of these projects and
even keep various programs at hand so that you can show them to
interviewers. I once sent 2 HyperCard stacks I had created (this
was many years ago) with my resume. During the interview, these
stacks became a major topic of conversation and they helped clinch
the job for me. Neither of these programs had been created for
a company for pay. They where simply projects I had wanted to
do for myself.
While it is important to never misrepresent your skills in an interview, it is just as important
to discuss as many "real world" examples of your work as possible.
Especially if you are just starting out in your career.
User Groups and Training
Another great place to gain experience and information is by becoming
an active member of a local user group. These groups are organized
around operating systems, particular brands or models of hardware,
software packages or even, the Internet. The presentations at
the meetings can expose you to new systems and software and the
general conversation can lead to even greater knowledge at the
elbow of someone who has already seen a lot of the computer world.
In some cases you can volunteer to be a computer assistant for
the club. Often, user groups create lists of members and their
experience level so that new members can call on them for assistance.
This is yet another way of gaining some free experience that can
be used to impress an interviewer. In some cases if might even
lead to a job itself.
Another avenue to consider is free vendor training. While these
classes can range from 1/2 day sales pitches to useful information,
they are another way to expose yourself to the variety of hardware
and software you might be lacking. Ignore the hard sell and you
might be able to glean some useful information and even a few
Next week, we wrap up this topic by discussing what happens after
you get that first job.
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 email@example.com or http://home.earthlink.net/~dewelch/