Ask LH: How Can I Switch From Teaching To IT?

Hi Lifehacker, I'm a recent mature-age graduate who has worked in many different fields but not the field I've studied (IT). Therefore I have no work experience in the field except for the university projects and assignments that I did. I currently work in a different field altogether (teaching) which was also part of my double degree, but there are minimal chances of getting a full-time job there. How do I get my foot in the door for IT jobs if I have no commercial experience? Thanks, Teach To Their Own

Dear TTTO,

So you went down the tacked-on "Dip Ed" route, eh? I did the exact same thing with my journalism degree. Despite having zero passion for the education sector, I ended up falling into a casual teaching rut simply because it was easier to find work. By the time I got my first freelance writing gig I'd been out of university for more than five years. That was back in 2006 and I've been a full-time journalist ever since. As with most industries, the trick was getting my foot in the door — after that, it's been mostly plain sailing.

With that said, having a proven track record tends to be more important in IT than in journalism, which isn't really something you can fake on a resume. Your best bet is to list the software you are proficient in, along with any key strengths or skills that carry across from other professions you've worked in.

One good way to boost your credentials is to earn more certifications. While certs aren't a substitute for real-world experience, they may help to get you a look in and will also ensure you're suitably qualified for certain positions. The value of certifications goes up with the difficulty and experience required to get them, but low level certifications shouldn't be discounted out of hand; especially when you’re starting near the bottom.

You may also want to consider a few years of teaching IT at the TAFE level. Think about it. You already have the necessary qualifications on both ends, so this shouldn't be too difficult to tee up. Having "IT lecturer" on your resume certainly isn't going to hurt your chances of employment, and you'll be able to build up relevant skills while teaching.

Seeing as you have minimal IT experience, it's absolutely essential that you nail your cover letter or introductory email. This is your first chance to persuade an employer that you might be worth hiring and will probably do more to convince them than the actual resume. You can find plenty more job application tips via our Resume tag.

On a final note, don't let rejection get you down! Job hunting can be an exhausting and demoralising experience where there doesn't seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel. But persistence usually pays off. Good luck!

If any IT readers have additional advice to share, let TTTO know in the comments section below.


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    When I first wrote my resume out of TAFE I put on it that I had no experience, all my friends from the course were getting entry level jobs and I was not even getting to the interview stage,.

    I asked them what they were writing on their resumes that was different to mine, they put the study time as experience, i.e 1 year TAFE = 1 year experience, I changed it and got a few interviews immediately and never got asked about the experience at all. (and got a job).

    Connections connections connections.
    I'm working full time in IT without any qualifications (currently studying at the same time). I got my jobs because I knew the right people, and showed that I'm willing and capable.

    While I was doing IT work experience, there was a mature aged guy there doing the same thing. No pay, just getting experience. This was a computer repair shop so it might be harder to get into somewhere bigger. Places that take on trainees would probably like some free labour if you can offer it. Talk to the IT guys at the schools you are at for contacts.

    This is a HUGE problem in the ICT sector. In my personal opinion I think TAFE's should offer placements of some kind. at schools or Computer shops ,etc. You could be really good at what you do but if you have zero experience you aren't going to get a job. I think it's one of the most common questions on Lifehacker "If have all these quals and certs, i'm good at what I do but no one is giving me a go!"

    It can be extremely frustrating going on job sites everyday to see the same thing... entry level positions 2 years min experience required... fuuuuu. That's not "entry level!" So what do you do? unfortunately you may have to volunteer somewhere as the article suggests, this can be extremely hard because obviously you don't get paid and you usually have to take a casual job in a completely unrelated field like retail or hospitality just to make ends meet. This can also be a hindrance because you have to work interviews around your casual job ,etc and if you keep telling your boss i can't work this day or that day you'll eventually just stop getting shifts....

    I should also point out that to teach in a tafe you need a cert IV in training and assessment (TAE) it's fairly easy to get and doesn't take that long. However you will only be able to teach not cert stuff. For example you can't just teach a cisco class because you have a TAE and a CCNA. You actually have to take and pass the ccna instructors exam, which is a lot harder than it sounds as you can only get 1 or 2 questions wrong. Not only that it's only offered at very few places and costs a fair amount of money.

    Job agencies (like the ones you are required to goto whilst being on newstart ,etc) aren't much help in this situation either :( they are only concerned with getting you ANY job they can. Even though you try to explain to them you've spent the last 4 years studying and accumulating qualifications only for them to put you up for a job in a pub... it's kind of depressing. and tbh I'm only $100 better off each week than i was on newstart. I know people will say hey you're better off doing that then on the dole ,etc. Which is true, however I left my mundane retail job in order to study and pursue my passion in the ICT sector and now to kind be back where i started really bums me out as it's not what I wanted to do with my life.

    Just know that there are many people in similar positions as you and find it hard to just get their foot in the door. As one reader said it's usually not what you know it's who you know. so good luck mate.

    Apologies for the long life story rant, if any of you are in a similar situations, or have been in the past please comment here and tell your story of how it did or didn't end up working out for you.

      my TAFE unofficially did placements.

      one of our lecturers had a contact in a nearby highschool and came to me and 2 of my classmates who were the most serious in our studies (or it could have been coz we were the oldest compared to other students) and gave us the contact. was a good. but yeah, unfortunately its also a bit of 'who you know, not, what you know' which is also how i got my full time job. my wife worked as an Admin for an IT mananger, so i got to know him during her time there and then when he found out i was studying IT, he offered me to come and have work experience which led to a job.

    I was in a slightly similar situation with you. I was out of IT work for a long time and trying to find work in IT support. I guess this will be depending on what IT work you wanted to do,but when I was looking for the IT job I set up some windows server and exchange server on an old PC boxes (you can get a trial version) at home to play around with, so I can say that I'm familiar with those current technology.

    And just so happen, the interviewer asked me about my home network setup, so I told her about the servers and the setup I have. Even though I didn't feel I did well at the interview, I got the job.

    You would be great at writing instruction manuals - if there is any scope for bringing that into the mix.

    You say I.T. but it's so broad, what area do you want to get into?
    Programmer: Start a bitbucket/git and get working on your own projects and working on open source. Even a small amount of code in here shows you are willing and able. Also include Uni projects in here. Go to hackathons
    Networks: Get network (Cisco cert) build your own networks at home, use industry tools so you can put them on your resume. Go to hackathons
    BA: Go to meet ups, read best practice books, get involved in open source projects as tester/QA/BA/anything, Go to hackathons

    You need experience and you need it in the area you want to be in. Also there is a big difference between tafe and uni level I.T.

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