Career Opportunities

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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 gain it.

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 industry contacts.

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 or

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