Dear Lifehacker, I'm a mid-twenties IT professional who works at an Australian IT startup, and I have really enjoyed my time there. I've been involved in everything from designing hardware, reviewing and recommending server farm infrastructure, developing automated deployment scripts, software support, training and -- well, it's a software startup, you get your hands dirty with everything at the end of the day. But now it's time to take the next step.
Lately I've been looking at IT jobs online for roughly $20-30K more a year than my current salary, dealing with just one aspect of the many that I deal with weekly. Most require industry certifications (which I don't feel I have time for right now), or a few more years in the industry than I currently have.
Beyond building an online presence, by blogging or community interaction, what other steps can I take to demonstrate that I'm able to take on one of these roles? Thanks, Jack Of All Trades, Wants to Master One
Staircase picture from Shutterstock
So here's my first thought: it is relatively rare to get a $30,000 pay rise from a single job change. It's particularly unlikely to happen when you're applying cold for a role (as opposed to being sought out by a recruiter or former colleague). You need to think in smaller steps. You can always try applying for positions that appeal and making your case, but that outcome is likely to be dispiriting and if you do it repeatedly, you may sully your reputation with recruiters.
The basic truth of the matter is that roles which require you to concentrate in a specific area and want a certification are not that likely to waive the need for that certification. You're an unknown quantity to a new employer; given the choice, picking the guy who has done the course in Technology X is generally going to be more appealing than choosing the guy who claims experience in the area but hasn't been through that step.
If you want to get into those positions but don't have the time or energy for certification, your best bet is to take a slightly less senior role than those you're currently aspiring to, but within the same organisation. It's much easier to demonstrate your capabilities on the spot than to convey them in a single interview (even assuming you get that far).
One of the most constant refrains in the IT industry is that technology workers need business experience and knowledge. From that perspective, having worked in a startup is a very sellable skill; you've seen not just how to use technology but the impact it has. So apply for new roles and explain that you're keen to develop your skills in specific areas, having been in a broad-based position. As someone used to say about shampoo: it won't happen overnight, but it will happen.
That's my take. If readers have different perspectives, we'd love to hear them in the comments.
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