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IT career advice for graduates

If you’re pursuing an IT career, our experts have some words of wisdom. Their advice for graduates focuses on job selection and technical knowledge.

Despite recent economic troubles, many IT careers are still in high demand. But that doesn’t mean that starting and succeeding in an IT career is a cakewalk. IT career advice from seasoned professionals can still help.

With college graduation season in full swing, members of our Server Virtualization Advisory Board share their IT career advice for graduates:

Rob McShinsky
Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center
Get a job related to your degree . Your parents will thank you. Your first IT job may not be a perfect fit, but your potential employer knows this -- and also understands that you may not have extended longevity with the company. (I would not recommend bringing up this point, since it is mutually understood.)

Your goal in your first few jobs is to be engaged in your work and make positive impressions with your skill, work ethic and personality. Gaining positive personal connections with managers, co-workers, human resources directors, etc. will assist your career more than your actual education will. (That’s assuming you maintain your skill sets, which will need to be evolving continually. And you thought you were done with school!)

C.J. Metz
First American
My advice to new grads would be to make sure you have a well-rounded approach when applying for jobs in the IT field.  While it’s good to be an expert in the field you are working in, more and more the focus is on how to best integrate multiple technologies together.  If you want to get ahead, make sure that you have a good understanding of how you can leverage multiple software and hardware platforms to develop a better solution to your problems.

If you want to become a more well-rounded IT pro, there are many resources available to you. You can find just about anything you could want to know through a simple Internet search. Or you can take a more structured approach and enroll in instructor-led certification courses. Whatever route you choose to take, there is no right or wrong path. Just make sure you are always open to learning.

Shannon Snowden
New Age Technologies
My advice for new grads is to understand that the IT world is changing significantly, and that some of the biggest changes are happening in the virtualization world. It’s imperative to get as much experience as you can as quickly as you can, so you can use that as a foundation for understanding how private and public clouds work.

By the time you have the experience to go along with the degree, you’ll likely be interfacing with a much more cloud-centric infrastructure than grads were just a few years ago. Clouds are still in their relative infancy, so now is a good time to start a virtualization career -- so you can grow along with the clouds, instead of trying to catch up when the technologies become much more complex. There are many layers of specialty in a cloud environment, so start discovering which layer looks like a good fit for you.

Dave Sobel
Evolve Technologies
There are tremendous opportunities in IT now.  Despite the problems in many industries, we never seem to have enough capable engineers. My first recommendation is to embrace a little bit of a do-it yourself mantra. There are lots of ways to get your hands on software to try to build your own network, systems, servers, and configurations. Oftentimes, a little bit of motivation goes a long way.

Reading and understanding the industry is important too, so make sure to start watching news sites and learning what is going on. Finally, embrace customer service and communication skills. Technical skills can be more easily taught than these, and being strong at dealing with customers will serve you incredibly well!

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Good tips. I go back to the university that I graduated from each year to talk to senior computer science students. My advice to graduates going into IT would be to not sell yourself short; technology workers are in high demand, and even at entry level, it's entirely possible to land yourself a great job. 
On the other hand, they need to be careful that they don’t sell themselves too high, either. I’ve seen a lot of candidates that were recent grads that really just priced themselves out of a job. They key is to understand the local market.
I would add that graduates find mentors they respect and keep on learning throughout their careers. The field is shifting and it takes effort to keep up with it.