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

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It pays to have good friends -- and solid skills

I'd been in IT about a decade when another turn of bad luck saw another employer cutting back. Soon the company I worked for relocated to another state, and I was one of the unemployed. I didn't want to move, so I went searching through the want ads.

My roommate, who also worked in IT, lost his job around the same time. Having a pragmatic point of view, we weren't too picky about which of us got a job. Our goal was to get at least one of us employed so that the bills would get paid. But we didn't want to outright compete with each other, either -- at least not at first.

One day when we were hitting the pavement looking for work, my roommate went into a company to apply for a PC repair job and take their aptitude test. I went with him and waited in the parking lot. An hour later, he came out and said, "They want to talk to you."

I went inside, not knowing exactly what to expect, and was greeted by the owner who said, "Your roommate says you're the man to talk to when it comes to firewalls and security." I took the test and aced it, and the company created a network security position for me on the spot. I ended up working there for years afterward.

This was a classic example of "show me what you can do," because some of the questions on the test covered obscure, rarely encountered problems. It wasn't designed to see who was or wasn't capable of working there, but to give the owner an understanding of the technical skill level of the applicant. The fact that I was able to answer the obscure questions caught his attention. And my roommate had definitely helped by identifying that I might be a good fit for the company.

Soon after, I was able to return the favor and found my roommate a job working for one of my company's customers. The client needed to replace an in-house technician, and I knew he had the skills for the job.

The trick is to be truthful and bold. If you know how to do something, back it up by proving you can. If you don't, say so but also emphasize how you're willing to learn -- then prove that, too.

Send your own IT tale of managing IT, personal bloopers, supporting users, or dealing with bureaucratic nonsense to offtherecord@infoworld.com. If we publish it, you'll receive a $50 American Express gift cheque.

This story, "How do you land an IT job? Show, don't tell," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more crazy-but-true stories in the anonymous Off the Record blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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