Preparing for an IT Support role – my advice for a student

 

Working in a face to face teaching environment I am often asked for my own opinions, tips and advice on a variety of matters both within the realms of IT support and beyond. Today I was approached by a student asking for advice on preparing not only for a current position being advertised in the department but IT Support in general.

This was not the first time I was asked for my advice on this matter but in this case the level of appreciation I received from the student for a few words of advice was such that I felt compelled to recount my advice in this post.

Broaden your horizon

  • As a first job I advise against being too specific on the kind of job you want and don’t want to do, especially in today’s job climate
  • If you were interested in Computer Networking don’t dismiss a Helpdesk position as this will open up new doors for you, introduce you to new people to learn from, etc

Research the jobs you’re interested in

  • Study person specifications and identify common essential requirements amongst them. Helpdesk positions, for example, will have skills, experience and knowledge of software packages as essential requirements common between them
  • Once you’ve identified a few of these try and get some exposure to these skills and experiences. Experiment with the software and tools in your own time. For example you could easily get hold of a copy of Windows Server 2003 simply by buying one of the many books from Microsoft Press on the MCSE/MCSA training series

Treat application forms/cover letters as assignments

  • Cover each and every essential requirements of the job you’re applying for just as you would in an assignment
  • Think carefully and phrase your sentences appropriately, elaborating on your coverage of the essential requirements and give examples to back up what you say

Consider voluntary work

  • Maybe your local library could do with some help (customer service skills), or maybe your local computer repair shop (hardware support) could do with an extra body which doesn’t come with a required pay packet
  • Volunteering will most definitely make a better impression to potential employers than sitting idle at home. Even if you have been job hunting for the last year and a half, that gap in your CV will make employers ask what you were doing during that time

Prepare for interviews

  • Make the most of presentations and group discussions within your course – this will give you confidence in speaking up in front of a panel. When asked a question such as “Tell me a bit about yourself” or something like “how can you add value to this role?”, you are essentially presenting yourself, selling your skills and experience to the other person
  • Also look at the ‘QnA sessions’ during an interview as a conversation – don’t just ‘answer’ a question outright, instead talk about it as if you were in a discussion, elaborating on your thoughts and experiences on the matter
  • If you are unsuccessful after the interview stage, ask for feedback and take some time to reflect on how the interview went, write down the questions you were asked and think how you could’ve answered it differentl
  • Don’t beat yourself up after a less than decent interview but treat it as a learning experience – you’ll get better with practice

Keep up with news and developments in the tech world.

  • TechRepublic, for example, is a good source to keep abreast of developments and signing up for their email lists will not only give you useful tips and advice on software and technology but will also give you a feel of the many tech roles and careers within the tech field
  • Online articles and whitepapers are good sources too while blogs maintained by professionals in the field will give you first hand accounts of life in the tech world, learning from their experiences with software and technology

 

Grow your network

I finished off by recommending LinkedIn as a tool to manage your connections, explaining how important it was to keep in touch with fellow students, build a rapport with tutors and to meet new people within and outside university as a way of growing your network to help improve your chances of being exposed to more jobs both advertised and ‘hidden’.

 

Of course each of the above headings can be further expanded with a lot more to cover besides the above. Feel free to add your won tips or thoughts on the subject in the comments section.

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