I learned recently that everybody starts somewhere and helping those interested in starting somewhere seems to me to be something those of us who’ve been doing this for a while should be a little more than interested in.
Sure there is a need for the experience of IT, rebuilding Windows systems (or the OS of your choice) for family and friends will get you started and maybe taking some classes at the community college to get an idea of what all the funky acronyms mean (and finding out that they are all different when you know them) might be something to consider as well. But what does the new to IT talent need to understand to be comfortable in this business? This post is going to try and point some of that out, maybe some of the things I wish I would have known when I started out too, just for good measure.
Be careful what you wish for
In any new career path there are bells and whistles that you see from the outside that get you very interested in what might be going on. Sure there may be some IT pros making gobs of money and doing all kinds of fun things, but you need to be realistic about your own expectations. Sure you need to get paid, everyone has to eat, but be careful about the amount of work you tackle for the money coming in. If you set your own rate, be fair but not too cheap. Sure you can get a lot of potential clients with a low rate, but you need to evaluate them just like they evaluate you. Making sure the customers are worth your time is a good idea.
Find things you like
Maybe there is a technology that you just like to work with, regardless of how much you use it at a particular organization. If this is the case, continue to do what you can to learn the technology. Maybe these things become a hobby, but having something that keeps you motivated to keep learning is a great way to start.
For me, at least lately, Windows NT Permissions and Privileges are that thing… this week. Next week it will likely be something different.
Most of the IT Pros I know live, eat, and breathe some portion of their career. A particular area they excel in or just plain like is something they cannot get enough of. I am not sure I have found that specific of an area (other than technology in general). Maybe being a generalist isn’t quite as bad as it seems, but having some piece of tech that you find fun is always good.
Ask for help if you need it
You cannot know everything there is to know about technology. Sure you can know a lot about a few technologies. If you encounter something that you don’t quite understand or need clarification, ASK! With all of the communication tools available on the Internet, finding someone who can help you is really not as hard as you might think. Twitter and Linked in are great places to start.
The trouble is knowing when to step back and understand that your brain is not going to produce the knowledge that you don’t have. I am not trying to imply that these things cannot be learned, but this comes from studying, mentoring, trial and error (of which, hopefully there will be a good amount).
One other thing
Another thing that seems to help me learn things, teaching others. Sure it takes practice and can be a bit of work, but having the guts to help others is a step in the right direction. Maybe there are people in the room who have more knowledge than you might, but there is something about getting up in front of the room is good for both sides. The person on the stage wins just for being up there. Not to mention there are tons of networking opportunities with those who attend your session(s).
The bottom line is to experiment with technologies and try to learn something new and interesting to you. It will pay off likely in more ways than one.