How do you land an IT job? Show, don't tell

Your skills, that is, and as a tech pro finds out, courage, gumption, and good friends help too

If there's one piece of advice I'd give to those going into IT, it's this: Crow all you want, but prove you can do the work by doing it. Yes, it may seem obvious. But I'll bet way too many of us have worked for or with someone who talked the talk but didn't walk the walk -- and we still think back on them with contempt or frustration.

I suppose you can say I'm a seasoned IT pro who's been in the business long enough and survived a sufficient number of economic ups and downs that I had to to find creative ways to land a job. As they say, there's a time and place for everything. Nobody likes someone who flaunts their skills endlessly, but sometimes you have to market yourself in order to get your foot in the door.

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Going out on a limb

One one occasion, the company had closed, and I hadn't been able to land an IT job. I was told I was overqualified, or the position had already been filled. Frustrated, I decided to take the matter into my own hands. I remembered a tip from a friend and went out to see if any companies needed an IT pro but either hadn't published any job openings or didn't know they could benefit from one.

I gathered up my courage, took a chance, and walked into a fairly new PC vendor/service outlet with the following proposal for the owner: "I'm sure you have a machine in the back that nobody can fix -- every shop has one. How about a deal? If I can fix it, you give me a job. If not, I leave." Anyone who's spent time in PC repair knows that every shop has at least one machine on the racks that the technicians refer to with an inappropriate name because no one can figure out what's wrong with it.

The owner was amused, but took me seriously and said they'd been having trouble with one machine in particular with and were almost ready to call the customer and tell them it couldn't be fixed. I looked it over, recognized the problem as an obscure issue I'd seen years before, and replaced one part. I got lucky -- it took me about five minutes to diagnose and solve a puzzle that none of their technicians had seen before.

The owner kept his end of the bargain and created a job for me as a senior technician and network technician. In all, I spent five years there.

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