Getting hired in IT: How to stand out

The unemployment rate is high so there is plenty of competition for IT jobs. What can you do to stand out from the pack?

If you're like many other IT professionals, you may feel like you're a little fish in a big ocean.

You are.

With so many people seeking jobs today, you cannot afford to be just another John or Jane Doe who's looking for a job in IT. You've got to stand out. Here are some things you can apply immediately to help differentiate yourself in your next job interview or when it comes time for a promotion, or just to win over those who matter.

First off, you have to decide that you're going to make some changes.

Getting over this initial "decision hump" is the hardest part. However, once you make this decision -- and then focus -- it's really hard to fail. I've found that relentless persistence is the key differentiator between those who struggle to find even mediocre jobs and those who have awesome careers in IT.

You also must have a well-defined set of personal and career goals and be persistent about attaining them. I cannot stress enough how much a difference it makes to your career to set a goal. If you don't know where you're going, you'll never know how to get there.

I've heard it said that only about 3% of adults have goals and only 1% takes the initiative to write them down and manage them week after week, year after year. It is this 1% of people who get the best jobs and become leaders in their fields. Take your goals with you to your next interview and share them with the people you meet. Intertwine your vision with the answers you give and the discussions you have. It'll be hard for them not to be impressed.

Work on sharpening your communication skills and finding ways to build trust and credibility – these are the things that'll pay off the most in IT.

Finally, put down those technical books and stop worrying about getting yet another certification. Focus on what's really important. Don't take this the wrong way. You absolutely have to keep your business and technical skills sharp – especially in IT. But you have to go beyond that. I've heard a lot of managers and job candidates say that businesses, by and large, don't want hardcore techies or business geniuses but rather people with outstanding personal skills and motivation who can help out the organization in all those "other" ways for the long haul. So work on sharpening your communication skills and finding ways to build trust and credibility – these are the things that'll pay off the most in IT.

Former GE executive Jack Welch said, "Change before you have to." It's that simple. Although the economy hasn't hit IT as hard as other industries, there's still a lot of competition out there. Do you want to be the same old candidate with nothing more to show than a certification, a college degree and some technical know-how? Or do you want to go to your next interview equipped with what it's going to take to not only help you land the job but also become a better person?

Nothing will ensure a new job, but these things will bring you as close as you can get to such a guarantee. If you're a sound candidate and you work on these areas to strike a good balance of technical, business and personal skills, you'll not only get a job but also a great career in IT.

Kevin Beaver, is an information security consultant, keynote speaker and expert witness with Atlanta-based Principle Logic LLC. Kevin specializes in performing independent security assessments. Kevin has authored/co-authored seven books on information security, including Hacking For Dummies and Hacking Wireless Networks For Dummies (Wiley). He's also the creator of the Security on Wheels information security audio books and blog providing security learning for IT professionals on the go. He can be reached at kbeaver@principlelogic.com.

This was first published in January 2010
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